Luke 17:11-19

The Disciple’s Humility and Gratitude
Luke 17:11-19
Intro: The Scriptures teach much about having a thankful heart. All of us who are “in Christ,” have more to be thankful for than anyone else on earth. We have been chosen by God. We have been redeemed out of slavery to sin. We have been declared “not guilty” in God’s courtroom. We have been saved from His wrath. And we did nothing to merit any of that. Hallelujah for the good news! Today’s text examines the response of 10 men with infectious skin diseases after Jesus heals them. Will they understand what has truly been done for them? Will they acknowledge an astonishing miracle? Will they return to show gratitude to the stranger who made it all happen? THREE TRUTHS EMERGE FROM THIS NARRATIVE… 

Luke 17:11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
Luke 17:12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.

Jesus passes through an unnamed village where He was met by (lit.) “ten men who had leprosy.”

It is difficult to imagine any condition more miserable than leprosy. It was a debilitating social disorder, and those who contracted it were regarded as living under a divine curse. Therefore, they were relegated to the margins of society as outcasts.

By referring to them as “men” rather than as mere “lepers,” the Holy Spirit acknowledges their humanity. He dignifies them as real people. He reclaims them from the exile associated with leprosy. 

Rather than speaking of lepers, cripples or demoniacs, Luke describes them as “a man who was paralyzed” (5:18), and a man “who had demons” (8:27), and here, “men who had leprosy.”

Their humanity is not swallowed up by their diseases. 


You are not your suffering. You are not your infirmity. You are not your sins. The Lord Jesus will preserve your humanity and define your identity.

Luke 17:13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

They call Him, “Jesus, Master” which suggests something about their attitude. These afflicted men believe that Christ can help them. 

They trust His goodness. Their words show their submission to His will. Only the Twelve call Jesus, “Master.” Therefore, these ten leprous men exhibit the first step in following Christ. They use the language of disciples.

These lepers do not plead for healing specifically – perhaps they abandoned that idea long ago. Their plea is virtually a prayer, “Have pity on us.” 

This is a request appropriate only to God. He alone can grant the kind of mercy to people on the margins that restores them to wholeness and right standing in the community.


Luke 17:14 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. 

The Lord does not touch these ritually defiled men as He had for an earlier case of leprosy that He healed. 

Neither does He make any promises to them for healing. He makes no command for the disease to depart. He prescribed no medicine. He commanded no washing with water.

Instead, He orders them to present themselves to the priests, presumably at a temple for their reclassification as “clean.”

He treats these men with leprosy as if they are already healed; and when they obey in faith, their healing takes place.

Jesus’ command conforms precisely to the traditional rite of cleansing as required by the Mosaic law. He is no renegade rabbi. Yet healing power accompanied His words.

The instruction itself is curious since the law commanded those with leprosy to present themselves to the priests after there had already been a change in their condition (Lev 14:2-4). 

The priests were basically “health care consultants” in these matters. They could either exclude people or restore their social statuses in the community. They were not physicians in any regard.

The lepers are required to act as though doing what Jesus commands will make a difference, though there is yet no tangible evidence that it will.

What do they have to lose? It’s worth a try so they all go.

“And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”

One commentator points out, “help meets them in the path of obedience.”

As the lepers acted on Jesus’ command, their leprosy was removed. It was both a disease that needed healing and a ritual impurity that required cleansing.

This is remarkable, of course. Jesus’ power and authority are so great that He can heal from a distance. He did the same thing when He raised up the servant of a certain centurion (7:10).

At what point did all ten realize that their leprosy had been cured? Even though Luke is a doctor, we are not told.

Anyone can tell immediately if his sight or hearing or ability to speak has been restored. What would the evidence be that leprosy had been cleansed? Does the skin immediately heal? Do red spots or scales vanish? Do digits regrow?

One of the ten looks at his body and notices the change!

Luke 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,
Luke 17:16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 

Of the ten, only this one makes a public identification with what God is now doing in Jesus. The kingdom of God has been at work, but only this Samaritan makes the necessary response of gratitude and faith. He responds in FOUR WAYS:


Here, the concrete act of returning symbolizes converting to faith. This Samaritan is now a believer. He has joined the family of God.

The man returned to praise Jesus not when he had been declared clean by a priest, but “when he saw that he was healed.”

“and with a loud voice glorified God”

The loud voice that first begged for mercy now responds with praise for the mercy that was ultimately given.

He takes his place alongside others who glorify God in response to healing: man healed from paralysis (5:25); woman bent over by Satan (13:13); blind man who sees (18:43) – and likewise the wonder of the centurion who witnessed Jesus’ death (23:47)

This is the opposite of the pride in Herod’s heart that God judged publicly and directly.

Acts 12:23 Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died.

“and fell down on his face at His feet”

His healing broke all the barriers that caused him so much suffering and shame. He no longer observed the safety zone required of lepers.

In Israel a person normally fell prostrate in reverence before an altar, or at the feet of a king, but virtually never before an ordinary person.

The Samaritan had found the correct posture of worship: not in the Jerusalem temple, but prostrate at the feet of Jesus.

He gave Jesus the highest honor and respect usually reserved for God. This esteem came from a non-Israelite who was a leper and a Samaritan. To every Jewish religious leader this would have been an embarrassing scandal.

Samaritans were regarded by Jews not simply as outcasts but as apostates. They were a hated group.

This Samaritan, however, in showing glory and reverence to Jesus, fulfills the chief purpose for which Israel exists.

“giving Him thanks”

Only here in the NT is thanks expressed to Jesus; it is addressed elsewhere to God Himself.

“giving thanks” = eucharistēo – allusion to the Lord’s Table – a place where gratitude is expected in worship

How grateful was he? From that initial distance, increased by his journey to the priests, he has circled back to come into direct contact with Jesus. 

Gratitude goes the whole way.

Psalm 100:4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 
Psalm 100:5 For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

Col 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

J.C. Ryle – The widespread thanklessness of Christians is a scandal. It reveals our lack of humility. So we must pray for a deeper sense of our own sinfulness, and admit how unworthy we are.

This, after all, is the true secret for a grateful heart. It is the person who daily feels his debt to grace, the one who daily remembers that in reality he deserves nothing but judgment in hell.

Thankfulness only blossoms from a root of deep humility.


Leon Morris – If people do not give thanks quickly, they usually do not do so at all.

Luke 17:17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
Luke 17:18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”

We cannot assume that the other nine men who were healed were all Jewish. Some surely were. 

What we can say is that all ten were miraculously cured of leprosy, but only one returned to glorify and revere Jesus – and the one who returned was the least expected to do so.

When we watch 9 people out of 10 forget to thank Jesus, we are witnessing a microcosm of humanity.

Is there another sin more characteristic of our fallen race than ingratitude?

The wicked men, in Romans chapter one, are described this way…

Rom 1:21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Os Guinness has written that Romans 1:21 is a sober reminder that “rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom saying, ‘thank you’ is no longer necessary.”

Ingratitude is described as one of the prevailing sins of godlessness in the last days.

2 Tim 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 
2 Tim 3:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
2 Tim 3:3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 
2 Tim 3:4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 
2 Tim 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.

We may be inclined to think that not being thankful is a relatively minor sin, but it is in fact one of the worst sins in the Bible.

Ingratitude is a way of saying that God owes us whatever He gives us, and that we owe Him nothing in return.

It might have been expected that all would give praise to God. But apparently the nine were so absorbed in their new happiness that they could not spare a thought for its source. They had been restored to earthly society, which was most important to them.

They received their healing, but had no further contact with Jesus, showing how superficial their faith was.

Luke 17:19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Skeptics often say that if only they saw a true miracle, they would believe. This narrative destroys that notion.

The other nine witnessed a miracle in their own flesh. Undoubtedly, they were convinced of the miraculous – and they were apparently content with it – but it did not lead them to faith in Jesus to save their souls. Their healing only went “skin deep!”

The Samaritan experienced the very same miracle, but he encountered God in it. 

What we have is a story of ten being healed and one being saved.

“Your faith has made you well” occurs four times in Luke: sinful woman (7:50); hemorrhaging woman (8:48); “this Samaritan” (17:19); blind beggar (18:42).

This benediction is never used in reference to a Pharisee or any kind of Jewish religious leader, but only of sinners, outsiders, the needy, and the unclean – “for of such is the kingdom of God” (18:16).


What is your response to what God has done for you? Come to Jesus by faith. Trust in His death and resurrection to save you from God’s wrath. Trust in His goodness and His promise to forgive you. Then return gratitude to Him for all the blessings of grace. Show full gratitude by living for the glory of God. Understand that God owes us nothing, and we owe everything to Him, starting with grateful worship with a thankful heart.

illus: Pastor Charles Spurgeon once presented the Gospel with a very talkative woman. She was so chatty and boisterous that the famed preacher could barely get a word in. Yet eventually she listened long enough to hear the good news, and as she began to understand the mercy God had for her in Christ, she bubbled with excitement and said, “Mr. Spurgeon, if Christ saves me He will never hear the end of it!” 

That’s true. Christ will never hear the end of it because His salvation lasts forever. Therefore, His grace demands eternal gratitude.