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Luke 17:11-19

Lessons from a Thankful Leper

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • November 26, 2023

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Lessons from a Thankful Leper

Luke 17:11-19   


1 Thessalonians 5:18, In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


For believers in Christ, thanksgiving is not just a day in our lives each year, but it is key to the lifestyle of those to whom Jesus has drawn near. We see thanksgiving and gratitude throughout the Scriptures. Throughout both the Old and New Testament we are called to give thanks to the Lord.


Psalm 136:1, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. (NIV)


 “Give thanks” is one word there, it is defined as to throw praise, to cast praise, to confess and offer thanks. It is a word found 114 in the Old Testament and whenever translated “give thanks” is associated with giving thanks to the Lord. In the New Testament “give thanks” is to express gratitude, to give thanks, to be thankful. It is a word again, when written, is associated with the Lord and giving thanks to Him!

 In our very own dictionary, the definition of “thanksgiving” reads this way… the act of giving thanks, grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God. So I want to work out the definition of thanksgiving in our own lives and hearts and encourage you this morning to not just be thankful for thankfulness’ sake, but to attach the Lord to your thanksgiving as you go forward.

The title of the message this morning is, “Lessons from a Thankful Leper.” We will turn to Luke chapter 17:11-19, where we study a group of ten lepers who met Jesus, and when they met him, they were given His mercy, but what the story reveals is that only one of the ten who were healed by Jesus physically, came back and expressed his thanksgiving for what Jesus had done. From the story we will learn some lessons from that thankful leper, and my prayer is that we would apply some lessons we receive from his story into our lives presently.


Read: Luke 17:11-19


In verses 11-13, we get the introduction to the story and the occasion of the 10 lepers introduction to Jesus. They reached out to Jesus for mercy. But when they met Him, they were standing at a distance. They were standing at a distance from Him because of their condition. And as they stood at a distance from Him, they cried out to Jesus for mercy, and Jesus answered them. This leads us to the first lesson we will learn from the leper this morning, that is…        


  1. Jesus Answers Long Distance Calls for Mercy


  • Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, and he meets these men. They are afflicted with the disease of leprosy. Leprosy is a common topic in the Bible, it was a disease that many people worried about. It is mentioned 68 times in the Bible. 55 in the Old Testament and 13 in the new.


Illus. Leprosy for an individual.  


  • While the destruction to a person’s body was obvious, the afflicted knew there was something wrong, yet, due to extreme nerve damage would be numb to the pain. Lepers were dying and yet numb to it all.


  • It was one of the most debilitating and deadly diseases at the time. Nothing was known at the time about how to cure or treat the disease; however, much was known how the people who had the disease were treated.


  • From Leviticus 13 we know that anyone who was suspected of having leprosy was to go to a priest for examination. There was a careful process over many days to properly confirm the condition.


  • If a person were found to be infected, the person was declared “unclean” and “the leprous person was to wear torn clothes, their hair was to hang loose, they were to cover the top of their mouths and cry out “unclean, unclean!” Lepers were then sent outside the city, to a leper camp.


  • When it was determined that a person had leprosy, that person was immediately banished from their home and city.


  • Lepers weren’t allowed to come within 6 feet of another person; and if it was a windy day, the leper would need to stay 150 feet away.


  • The leper was to live in a community with other lepers until they died or miraculously got better.


  • Getting better, if it was truly leprosy, was essentially an impossibility outside of a miracle from God.


Illus. Leprosy in biblical history…Numbers 12, 2 Kings 5, Matthew 8.


  • Jesus had healed the leper who approached Him in Matthew 8. We don’t know if they heard about that healing specifically, but what is clear is, they had some level of understanding that Jesus could help them and offer them mercy.   


Luke 17:11-13, While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, ten men with leprosy who stood at a distance met Him.


  • I want you to picture the scene with me. There is a group of lepers, 10 men with leprosy, and they leave their leper camp and enter into a village where they aren’t supposed to be.


  • They seem to approach Jesus according to what is customary. As they walked through the village, they would have covered the tops of their mouths, crying out “unclean, unclean!”


  • From verses 12 and 13, we know that they stood at a distance when they met him, and from the distance, they “raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”


  • They approach Jesus in their time of need with the term “Master,” it is a word that denotes someone who has notable authority or power. It is a word only used in the book of Luke, and every other time it is spoken to Jesus in the book, it is spoken by one of His 12 disciples.


  • Their request of Him to “have mercy” on them is a common expression that was used by people who came to Jesus asking for physical healing.


  • Their disease was incurable, their situation was hopeless, their lives were miserable, they needed Jesus to do what only He could do.


  • When the lepers cried out to Jesus for mercy, they were asking for His compassion, for his help, for His aid to their affliction.


  • Jesus heard them, and He responded to them. He is going to answer their cry to Him for mercy, but I want to pause there, because this is an important first lesson we learn from the thankful leper… “Jesus answers long distance calls for mercy.”


  • Isaiah 1:5-6, it is made clear that leprosy is a picture of sin.


Illus. From Leviticus chapter 13 we understand that leprosy is a picture of sin in many ways: It begins beneath the surface, it spreads throughout the body, a person would attempt to cover it up for a season; but ultimately, it defiles and separates from others and the leper ended up living outside the camp. 


  • Just as there was no cure for leprosy at that time outside of the mercy of God, so too, there is no cure for sin, outside of mercy from Him.


Ephesians 2:1,4-5, And you were dead in your offenses and sins…But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).


  • Ephesians 2:13 goes on to speak of the life before Christ and being met with mercy of Christ this way… “You who were once far off, have been brought near…”


  • If you have given your life to Christ, you were once dead in your sins, you were dead in transgression, you were once far from Him, but He heard your long-distance call for mercy, and brought you near, He heard your call for mercy and with His great love He gave grace, mercy, and new life.


Illus. Long Distance Cost.


Psalm 63:1, O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.


  • It is important to note that what they sought Jesus for was salvation eternally. They called Him “Master,” recognizing His authority, but as the story goes on, it does not seem that He was the Lord and Savior for all ten of the lepers, we will look at that more as the story continues. He does, however, respond to them, and they would all then go according to His instructions.  


Luke 17:14, When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.


  1. Your Feet Reveal Your Faith


  • In response to the cry for mercy from the lepers, Jesus told them to “go” and show themselves to the priests.


  • Jesus did not lay hands on them as he did in Matthew 8, he simply responds, “go show yourselves to the priests.”


  • Without knowing the laws surrounding leprosy, it will be confusing to understand what exactly Jesus is saying to them.


  • As mentioned earlier, from Leviticus 13 and 14 we know that priests were to diagnose leprosy. They were also the ones who would be able to write a certificate of health and direct a person on what to do when they were cured of leprosy.


  • Now remember, outside of the miracles of God surrounding leprosy, the priests would never have seen someone cured of leprosy.


  • The rules, sacrifices, directions, what the priests were to do, what the person was to do after being cured from leprosy had never been seen outside of the very few miracles from the hand of God seen in the Scriptures.


  • Jesus told the man in Matthew 8 to go to the priest…I imagine they had to go look it up because they had never done this…


  • Now, Jesus tells the ten to go to the priests. Can you imagine…How did you get cleansed? Matthew 8…Jesus touched me.


  • Luke 17, how did this happen? Jesus just sent us to you…


  • The priests had not seen this, there was Miriam, there was a Syrian King who was not Jewish and would not have gone to a priest, now Jesus comes on the scene, and now they have 11 Lepers in just a couple of years, Jesus miracles are attesting to who He is, He is Lord.


  • The lepers listened to Jesus’ word and went according to His command before they saw the plan unfold. In other words, in response to His words, they walked by faith.


  • The lepers show us something about the walk of faith.


  • In response to Jesus’ words, they begin to walk, even before they see anything happening.


Hebrew 11:1, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (NASB 95’)


2 Corinthians 5:7, We walk by faith, not by sight.


  • The lepers believed Jesus could help them, that He could offer them mercy, compassion, healing. But their belief was tested when Jesus sent them on their way before they had gotten their way.


  • Their belief was tested when they didn’t see the results they had come to Him for, when they didn’t know how it would all work out, but He told them to “go.”


  • They did not see their leprosy going away, but when Jesus sent them on their way, they followed his instruction.


  • Their faith was measured by their feet, what they did when the Lord gave them marching orders.


  • We see this throughout Scripture. In Hebrews 11 we are told about the heroes of faith, and what they did…


Hebrews 11:7, By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.


Illus. More on Noah.


Illus. What are you waiting for?


Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


  • Make Sure God Is Given the Glory in Your Story


Luke 17:14-16,And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.


  • The end of verse 14 and into 15 is important for us to see.


  • All ten of the lepers had been healed of their leprosy, an incurable disease.


  • But only one of them, when he saw he had been healed, would turn around, give glory to God for what had happened in his story, and thank Jesus.


Luke 17:17-19, But Jesus responded and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”


  • That Jesus commended the one and commented that none of the others had returned, tells me a few things.


  • Of the 10 lepers, only one decided to turn around, to glorify, bow down, and thank Jesus.


  • When Jesus noted his faith that had made him well, it is a different word from “cleansed” in verse 14 or “healed” in verse 15. The word is sozo, which is the New Testament word that is used for being saved from sin.


John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.


Acts 2:21, And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.


Romans 10:9, If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.


  • It is a word used 106 times in the New Testament, meaning to be delivered, make whole, saved.


  • It is the same word Paul used in the Scripture we referenced earlier in Ephesians 2:8, for by grace you have been saved through faith, not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.


  • To the ten, Jesus gave a common grace, they were able to live a bit longer physically, spared from their dire condition.


  • So too, the scriptures point to common grace in our lives, we all experience the same weather, God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45).


  • For the thankful man, the one who returned and gave glory to God, the one who bowed down and worshipped Jesus, there was more given, He was “made well,” he was “saved.”


  • The Samaritan, returned to acknowledge the giver, not just the gift. In order to acknowledge the giver, the man would have to put his agenda and life on pause in order to come before Jesus and thank Him.


  • The thankful one, “turned around” and that is a picture of repentance, “turning around” and turning toward Jesus.


  • The Scriptures say he gave thanks with a loud voice, for all to hear.


Hebrew 13:15, Through Him then, let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising His name.


  • Jesus was the one the man had received mercy and healing from, Jesus was the one who met him from a distance and healed him, and Jesus was to one he was going to come back to and offer praise, glory and thanksgiving to. He was not doing it quietly, it was not just an attitude he had, it was a posture he pursued, something he tied his life and action to.


James 1:16-17, Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

Illus. You know what.


Romans 11:36, For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.


Illus. Make it known.


Romans 1:21, Even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened.  


Psalm 107:1-2(a), Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…  (NASB 95’)


Luke 17:11-19

11While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12And as He entered a village, ten men with leprosy who stood at a distance met Him; 13and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17But Jesus responded and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”


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