kershinsniktenlepers02Luke 17 Part 2

11. Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

The Lord is now on His way to Jerusalem for the final time, and as He goes He passes through Samaria and Galilee. These two regions were north of Judea, the southern region of Israel. Galilee was where the Lord conducted most of His ministry, and was populated by Jews. Samaria, however, was the land of the half Jews, those who had intermarried with the nations that were transplanted into Israel by the Assyrians after they conquered the northern kingdom. Most Israelites would not travel through the half-Jewish cities of Samaria even though it was the straightest path from Galilee to Jerusalem. Christ had no such policy, however, and accepted the Samaritans as He accepted the other outcasts of that day.Now the Lord had commanded His disciples as He sent them out, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.” (Matthew 10:5) Yet this had to do with Samaritan cities. We are probably familiar with the idea of “China town,” which is an area in some large cities that is entirely taken up by Chinese citizens and businesses. This can also be true of cities, and there are sometimes entire cities of transplanted citizens from one nation in another. What the Lord demanded of His disciples was that they not enter a Samaritan city. Yet He did not command them not to speak to Samaritans or have anything to do with them. That He was willing to do. As for Samaritan cities, the apostles would eventually go to them in the Acts period. This was just not something He wanted them to do while He was then present on earth.

12. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.

Now somewhere in Galilee or Samaria, or perhaps in the border regions of the two, we read that the Lord entered a certain village. While there, he is met by ten men who were lepers. Leprosy was a terrible disease of that day. The laws regarding it and its diagnosis are given in Leviticus 13-14. Although there is a disease that we call “leprosy” today, it is likely that the two are not the same, for the symptoms as described in Leviticus do not match with Hansen’s disease, the illness we now call leprosy. Therefore we would conclude that this disease we read about in Scripture is something that no longer exists. It appears that, in the grace of God, that terrible plague has disappeared.

At any rate, leprosy was a horrible and highly contagious disease, and those who contracted it were doomed both to a terrible death and to remain as outcasts for the rest of their lives. Now these ten men who are suffering from this dire affliction come to the Lord for aid, yet even with Him they dare not stand closer than “afar off.”

13. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

These men, daring come no nearer than afar off, must lift up their voices in hopes of reaching the Lord with their pleas. This they do. They call upon Him as “Jesus, Master.” This was good, for they acknowledged His position. Then, they call upon Him to have mercy upon them. Of course, they were referring to their terrible illness. Though they did not dare to ask it outright, what they really wanted was healing from this awful disease of leprosy.

14. So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

Their cries reach the Lord, and He looks upon them. Then, He commands them to go and to show themselves to the priests. This was in accordance with the law in Leviticus 14:2, which states, “This is the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest.” Of course, these men had not been cleansed yet. Thus, the Lord was calling upon them to do this in faith that the healing would come, since to their own senses they were obviously still afflicted with the leprosy. They had to go, trusting His word that they would have anything to show the priest once they got there.

It is unlikely that the law for the cleansing of a healed leper was very often used, as the disease of leprosy was incurable except through miraculous intervention. The Lord had healed lepers before, but it is doubtful that it was a very common occurrence. Yet now this cleansing ritual will be used for the purpose for which it was given, and God will be glorified by it. We can almost imagine the priests having to look up Leviticus 14 to find what the ritual was for a cleansed leper, in order to perform that which they had probably never performed before!

Now the lepers, taking the Lord at His word, set out to show themselves to the priests. We can imagine these ten pitiful men limping along, perhaps those still less afflicted by the disease helping along those whose cases were more advanced. And then, as they go, they are healed! Notice that they were cleansed as they went, not when they actually reached the priest. Just setting out to do what God told them to do was enough to qualify them as having faith.

15. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,

One of these lepers, upon finding himself healed, cannot contain his excitement. Indeed, we find it hard to believe that all of them were not equally excited. Yet this leper’s excitement pours itself out in gratitude. He returns to the Lord, with a loud voice giving God the glory for the grace that had been shown to him.

Now we do not know how far these lepers got on their journey to see the priests before they were healed. They may have barely gotten on their way even out of the Lord’s sight, or it could be that they were even healed as they arrived at their interview with the priests. We also do not know when the Samaritan man turned back to thank the Lord. Did he turn back immediately upon seeing that he was healed? If so, then no doubt after this he had to resume his journey and go back to show himself to the priest along with the others. Or, as perhaps seems more likely, did he complete his interview with the priests, and as soon as it was over run back as fast as he could to thank the Lord? This could be, for it does not say here that he “immediately” turned back, but just when he saw he was healed, which may have been after its confirmation by the priest.

We also do not know why the other nine did not join him in returning. If they were still on the way to the priests, it could be that they did not want to deviate from their course in case the Lord might be angry and rescind the healing. But if the interview was actually over, as I suspect it might have been, there could have been a hundred and one other reasons they did not go back to the Lord. One likely one is that they could not wait to go and tell their families and those dear to them. There must have been any number of things that they had wanted to do, that they had dreamed about doing a thousand times, oh, if only they were healed! And now they could do them. These things must have dominated their minds, and pushed out any thoughts of returning with gratitude to the gracious One Who had brought about their healing in the first place. Yet not for this one man! He can think of nothing but returning with thanksgiving to the One Who was so merciful to him.

16. And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

This man comes to the Lord Jesus and falls down on his face at His feet. He truly had a thankful heart for what the Lord had done for him. Indeed, it warms our hearts to see the gratitude this man expressed towards the Lord for His mercy.

Now we read that this man was a Samaritan. Apparently all the men who were cleansed were not Samaritans, though we do not know that this was the only one. Yet this thankful man was a Samaritan, and some of the others must have been pure Israelites or Galileans. Yet this Samaritan was the only one of the group to return to thank the Lord! Remember that Samaritans were half Israelites, and as such were considered bastardized and the enemy by most who considered themselves full Israelites. In many ways, the Samaritans were looked down upon by the Jews more than the Gentiles were. Yet this man is the only one who comes back to thank the Lord! This shows us once again that the prejudices of man are generalizations, and do not take account of what is in the heart of an individual. Yet God looks at the heart!

17. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?

While it is certain that the Lord appreciates the thankful heart of this one former leper, He asks a very valid question. Where are the other nine? Why did this man alone show enough gratitude to come back and thank the One Who was responsible for his release from his terrible burden?

18. “Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?

Certainly there were among the others who were healed some of God’s people Israel. How is it then that only a foreigner, this Samaritan, was thankful enough to return and give glory to God? This was a good question, and one we are hard-pressed to answer. How sad that God’s people showed no thankfulness, and only a foreigner and half-Israelite would think of thanking the One Who had done so much for him. Yet too often even today those who belong to God seem to take His blessings for granted, and show very little thankfulness. Let us ever be careful to remember with gratitude the One Who did so much for us that He was even willing to die for us. Truly we can never repay Him His love, and we should at least be willing to give Him thanks for His great grace, mercy, and favor to us.

19. And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Now the Lord dismisses the man, telling him to arise and go his way. The Lord has received his thanks, and it is enough. Now where he was to go is another question, for we do not know when exactly he had turned back, and when exactly these men had been healed. If he had turned back on his way to the priests, then the way he was to go was to the priests, of course, as he still had to obey the Lord’s command. Certainly by going to the priests to have the ritual for cleansing a leper performed upon them, he and his fellows would be a stunning witness to them of the power of God at work in the land at that time. And if the priests knew anything about current events in Israel, which they must have known, they would have been aware that there was only One in Israel Who could possibly have had the power to heal in this amazing fashion.

Now we might ask what the Lord meant when He told this man that his faith had made him well? Did He mean when he returned to give the Lord thanks? No, that cannot be, for the other nine did not return, and yet they were healed. Rather, He was referring to the faith these men showed when they started their journey to the priests to be declared clean of their leprosy, even when they could see the evidence in their bodies that they were still afflicted with this disease. This was faith indeed, and was taking the Lord’s word above the evidence of their own senses. For this, they were healed, all ten. Their gratitude, or lack of it, was another matter. Let all who have true faith in Christ beware, lest they like these nine lepers remember the joy of receiving God’s saving grace, but forget the gratitude that such grace should bring.

20. Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;

Now the Pharisees question the Lord as to when the kingdom of God will come. They had heard Him teach about this kingdom many times, no doubt, and wanted Him to speak plainly about the times, and when exactly this will take place. Of course, this kingdom had been set forth by the prophets in many places in the Old Testament as well, and yet never had God revealed when exactly He would bring all these great promises to fulfillment. So they are hoping to get an answer from the Lord, and find out if he knows when this long-promised time of blessing will at last come to pass.

Now the Lord was asked a very similar question by His disciples in Acts 1:6, when they said, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And His answer to them was, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His Own authority.” So if Christ would not even answer this question for His disciples and friends, He certainly was not going to answer it for His opponents and enemies.

So Christ did not answer the Pharisees’ question, but instead He used their question as a springboard for teaching about the Kingdom. The Lord often did this when He did not wish to answer a question. Instead of refusing to answer, He instead answered by telling His audience what they really needed to hear, or by answering the question that they really should have asked. We should remember that we, like Christ, need not answer every question that is put to us. Just because someone sees fit to ask us a question does not mean that we are obligated to give him an answer.

Now the Lord tells them that the kingdom of God does not come with observation. This could mean careful watching, although it also almost seems to carry with it the idea of hostile observation. In other words, these Pharisees may have been asking this question in hopes that the Lord would tell them His plans for bringing in the kingdom which He was always talking about, so that they could do something to oppose it or keep Him from bringing it in. Yet the Lord tells them that this is not possible with the kingdom of God. When another nation attacked Israel, like when Babylon or Rome took over the land, the people could see that invading government come in. They could trace the route they were taking, and could speak of the places where this invading army would camp and from which they would stage their raids and sieges upon the surrounding towns. In other words, they could carefully, and even hostilely, observe the government as it came in and took over the land. Yet the kingdom of God does not come in this way!

21. “Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Some make this verse out to mean that the kingdom of God is something that is within all men. If this is made to mean all men on earth, then the kingdom seems to become more like a heart or a liver, a thing that all men have, and thus it seems to mean very little. If this is made to mean in the hearts of believers only, this is still not very revealing, for it is clear that different believers often have very different attitudes about things, not to mention very different behavior, and so having the kingdom within you apparently does not account for much.

Others use this verse to settle the question “What is the kingdom of God?” “See,” they might say, “the Kingdom of God is within you. That means it’s not a physical kingdom at all, but a spiritual kingdom in your heart.” Yet if we try to read such a definition of the Kingdom into all its occurrences elsewhere in Scripture, we will soon find that this definition of the Kingdom cannot possibly fit in the majority of cases. Such a definition would make many other passages in the Scriptures meaningless or nonsensical. Moreover, the Lord was speaking to His enemies the Pharisees, not His followers or disciples. Is the kingdom of God really a “spiritual kingdom” in the hearts of the enemies of Christ? No, the Kingdom is very much a physical kingdom: it is God’s government on earth.

So, one might ask, what did Christ mean when He said that the Kingdom is within you? Remember, the Lord has just told us that the kingdom of God does not come with observation. You cannot see it coming or map its progress. Now, He tells us why that is. The reason is that the kingdom of God does not come upon men from the outside. That is the way all human governments must come in. Yet the kingdom of God is not this way. When the kingdom of God comes, no man will watch its progress as it moves from one part of the globe to another. Instead, it comes on the scene suddenly, and appears inside of men. No one can observe its coming, for it comes within those it makes its subjects.

Some have tried to make out that the word “within” here means “in the midst,” yet this meaning does not fit. The word “within” here is the Greek word entos. It occurs elsewhere only in Matthew 23:26, which reads:

26. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

The word here clearly means “inside.” Thus what is meant is that the kingdom of God is something that appears inside of men. It does not come upon them from the outside in a way that its coming can be observed, as the Lord said in the last verse.

Moreover, the kingdom of God when it comes does not act upon men from without. In order for a human government to impose its rules upon you, it must catch you violating them (or suspect that you violated them, depending on the system of government,) capture you, and punish you. The kingdom of God does not need to act this way, however. The kingdom of God is within men, (yes, even men like the Pharisees,) and when someone violates its laws, it can act within him to bring about his punishment. Moreover, it can internally guide men into a knowledge of what exactly its rules are. Isaiah 30:21 says:

21. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.

Thus the kingdom guides men from within, not by rules imposed upon them from without. The Kingdom of God is not really made up of things like palaces or ornamental chairs called thrones or other, material things that make up some governments. There is no place in the Kingdom of God that one could point to like Washington, D.C. and say, “Look, this is the Kingdom.” Instead, the Kingdom of God is all-present and all-pervasive. It reaches from the most elegant city to the crudest jungle village, from the highest official to the lowest citizen. Everywhere upon the earth the Kingdom will be actively and livingly present. There is not a dark corner or a hidden recess anywhere in the world where one can sin without the knowledge of the Kingdom of God, and no place to hide from its inevitable and total rule. For its punishments are not ones that take place outside the body, like prisons or fines, but rather sickness within the body itself. Likewise its directives are not those written on paper and stored in a library somewhere, but rather the voice of God Himself speaking to the heart of every citizen of the Kingdom directly through His Spirit.

Did this answer the Pharisees’ question? No, but it did teach something very important about the Kingdom that it benefited the Pharisees to know. When the Kingdom will come, however, was not knowledge that was meant for them to know.