The 19th-century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote about humanity, “If he is not stupid, he is monstrously ungrateful. Phenomenally ungrateful. In fact, I believe that the best definition of man is the ungrateful biped.” By contrast, thankfulness is one of the great marks of the disciple of Jesus.
Jesus begins this section with some brief teaching on different aspects of discipleship. There is the warning not to bring about the ruin of another person’s faith (vv. 1–3), and then teaching about forgiveness, faith, and the recognition that we should see serving Jesus as our duty, as well as our joy and privilege (vv. 4–10).
Luke then records Jesus entering a village where He meets ten lepers (vv. 11–19). They have heard that Jesus is passing through and, with excitement and anticipation, seek Him out. They speak to Him “at a distance” because leprosy was more than a physical illness; it meant social and religious isolation. Jesus doesn’t heal them right there and then. He gives them a test of their faith. Without feeling or looking any different, they believe Jesus’ word and on their way to the priest, “they were cleansed” (v. 14).
Now we come to the point of the story: ten men experience the grace and power of Jesus, but nine continue on their way. Ten are happy that they have been healed, but only one is grateful, and he spontaneously lifts up his voice in praise to God. Once again, Luke shocks us—“and he was a Samaritan” (v. 16). Jesus has repeatedly announced that it will be the sinners and the Gentiles who will enter the kingdom first.
The climax of the story comes with Jesus’ final words to this man: “Get up and go your way. Your faith has saved you” (v. 19 LEB). Ten men were healed, but only one was saved. Ten men experienced the physical and earthly blessings of God, but only one received the spiritual and eternal blessings. His thankfulness is a demonstration of the genuineness of his faith.
Psalm 30 would be the song of the Samaritan, and you and me:
“You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.” (Psalm 30:11–12 NRSV)
What is the benefit of recognising that “doing our duty” is an important aspect of Christian discipleship?
Take a few moments and “count your blessings”. What can you thank God for today?