There were ten of them. Being cut off from their loved ones, perhaps they had banded together to form some kind of family. They were forbidden to get anywhere close to anyone else. They were walking corpses; nothing but death would release them from their disease.
They must have heard of Him; heard rumors that He had healed lepers in other towns. This might be their only chance to ever be clean. Maybe the desperation made them bold, made them risk getting close. Not close enough to touch, not close enough to completely freak out people, but close enough to shout. They knew how to shout. Everywhere they went they were required to shout out the warning, “Unclean”.
This time, they didn’t shout a warning. Instead, they cried out a plea, “Have pity!” And He saw them. Did their hearts start to beat faster? Did a tiny wisp of hope rise up? But then, what was this? Instead of approaching them, instead of healing, He sent them down the road. Sent them to the very ones who enforced their isolation.
What went through their minds? Were they disappointed? Confused? Angry? Did they think He hadn’t understood their request? They could have refused to leave the Master, demanding He heal them right then. They could have marched off in a huff, shaking their heads at the waste of time. They could have sat down and cried, their momentary joy at His hearing them crushed.
Instead, even though nothing seemed to have happened, they obeyed. They started down that road, unsure of what would happen next. They seemed to have everything to lose by walking away, and yet they went. They started walking. And as they went… as they went, they were cleansed.
Why did Jesus choose to heal these ten lepers in this way? (see Luke 17) We know He wasn’t squeamish about touching the sick and diseased. He’d touched other lepers and even the dead. So, why did He send them off?
I could be wrong, but I think Jesus was not just interested in healing their bodies. I think He wanted something else to happen. Something that could only happen as they went. How long did it take them to notice they had been healed? Was Jesus still in sight, or had the road dipped and turned? We aren't told.
What we are told is that only one returned. He came back, shouting once again, this time in praise to God. I think as Jesus was still talking and teaching, He heard a holler way in the distance, getting louder and closer. The decaying, stinking flesh gone, the man threw himself at Jesus’ feet. And to him, Jesus gave not just physical restoration, but a complete healing.
The others missed it. The disease was gone, but their hearts were not made right. This one, this Samaritan, who was scorned and rejected even before the leprosy, this man received the fullness of Jesus’ healing.
When I bring a problem, a question, a prayer request to Jesus, I want His answer while I am still gazing on His face. I want to leave Him already restored. I want to set out with all the details sorted out. But, time and again, what I hear Jesus say is to Go. Like the lepers, I have a choice. I can stay put, refusing to leave. I can storm off, annoyed that He is not doing things my way. I can sit down, feeling sorry for myself, doubting He has heard.
Or, like the ten, I can go. Even more, like the one, I can step out in faith, knowing that He who sends me desires my complete healing. I can trust that even if I do not understand it all, in the very going, I begin to be cleansed. I can start down that unclear path in the assurance that He sends me to return to Him, restored, renewed, praising God for His provision along the way.