Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:17–19, ESV).
It’s hard for us to imagine what this scene was like. Leprosy was miserable, highly contagious, and incurable. Lepers were called “unclean” and were quarantined. Alone—for the rest of their lives. At a distance, these ten lepers had desperately shouted to the Lord, “Master, have mercy on us” (17:13b).
And Jesus offered them healing. “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests’” (17:14a). In order for them to be declared clean, they had to be examined by the priests to confirm their leprosy was gone.
Jesus didn’t pronounce healing; He required them to take action. “And as they went they were cleansed” (17:14b). First, they started walking, then they were healed. Imagine how these men must have felt. The constant itch, fear, isolation, and torment of leprosy, then—BAM!—instant healing.
Which leads to the heart of the story. Nine of the ten continued on; just one turned back to Jesus, making this point: Only a fraction of people ever truly thank God for His grace. What a picture of enthusiasm and humility, as the thankful leper praised God with a loud voice and fell at the Lord’s feet. Jesus changed his life, and he was grateful.
“Where are the nine?” Jesus asked rhetorically (17:17b). Ten were healed. Nine were thankless. One was grateful. The distinction was not lost on Christ, and His question gives us piercing insight into how God feels.
By the world’s standards, we each have a life of incredible blessing, and the Lord is aware of the reading on our Gratitude Meters. He knows you, knows what He’s done for you, and has a clear reading of your thankfulness right now. God is very aware of your heart response to His grace.
When you choose an attitude of gratitude toward the Lord, something changes in your life. Jesus drew a distinction between the nine and the one: “your faith has made you well” (17:19b). Thankfulness led to wellness at a deeper level. All were healed physically; only one was healed spiritually.
Faith grows in the soil of thankfulness. In the life of the one, gratitude led to faith, which led to salvation.
So where would you fall in the pack of lepers? Some of us are in need of Jesus’ healing. Others have accepted His gifts without thanking Him. Still, others are overflowing with gratitude, experiencing a wellness of soul that comes only through grateful faith.
This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission.
James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at WalkintheWord.org.