Glorifying God With a Loud Voice
Jesus’ healing of 10 lepers—with just one giving thanks—is a story for how we are to live today beyond our initial encounter with God.
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The life of the lepers actually portrays our life before God began to work with us. We were separated from God. We were in a different world and a different walk away from God.
The apostle Peter witnessed boldly to an audience on the Day of Pentecost that “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man, was attested by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did through Him in your midst as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).
Jesus was making it loud and clear that He would enter the lives and work with those whom society had marginalized or ostracized—those without hope.
You may not realize how one such miracle incredibly impacts our lives today as we respond to Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me.” It’s the story of the 10 lepers healed by Christ recorded inLuke 17:11-19. Its focus centers on the offense of ingratitude, but the greater story for us today is how to truly express thankfulness for God’s intervention in our lives beyond our initial encounter with Him.
No accidental meeting
The story begins in Luke 17:11 with the words “Now as it happened,” giving urgency to the moment in Jesus’ travels north of Jerusalem between the regions of Samaria and Galilee. The Samaritans, a people of mixed heritage, worshipped in a manner different from the Jews. And the Jews, considering themselves exclusively God’s people, looked down on and ostracized the Samaritans.
The next key words are “Then as He entered” in Luke 17:12, again framing the moment of Jesus’ encounter with “ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.” Luke’s account goes on to say, “And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”
I don’t believe this was an accidental bumping into someone. The time was imminent for Christ to not only touch people with a miracle, but to also reach down and offer a fuller transformation of their being beyond the moment. Jesus was making it loud and clear that He would enter the lives and work with those whom society had marginalized or ostracized—those without hope.
These 10 men, beyond their backgrounds, personalities, and hopes and dreams, were now lumped into one broad-brush term— lepers. Leprosy was an infectious disease causing bodily deterioration, with progressive damage to skin and underlying nerves, leaving limbs in an atrophied, useless state.
The ever-present, notable skin lesions were symptomatic of something going on inside. Biblical instruction long before had told the people of Israel to “put out of the camp every leper … both male and female” (Numbers 5:2-3).
William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible commentary on the Gospel of Luke mentions that “there was no specified distance at which they should stand, but we know that at least one authority laid it down that, when he was windward of a healthy person, the leper should stand at least fifty yards away. Nothing could better show the isolation in which lepers lived” (comments on Luke 17:11-19).
Is it any wonder that the lepers in Luke 17 cried out to Jesus for mercy? The culturally prescribed distance of 150 feet and the immensity of their debilitating ailment demanded such a pronounced cry.
Something to do—and a mind-set to keep
Christ would not brush them off. He wouldn’t condemn them as did so many in the religious culture of that day, who believed physical ailments or infirmities were a direct result of sinful people’s actions (see John 9:1-2 as an example).
Rather He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), which followed the prescribed detailed and systematic manner of inspecting lepers who might reenter society from “outside the camp.”
Did you notice something here that Jesus specifically gives those who would follow Him? He gives them a job to do! Following Christ is not simply staring upward and believing precepts, but doing something down here below that He has asked you to do in His Word that might even seem humanly frustrating. Jesus told the lepers to take a walk and go to the priests.
And notice what followed in the same verse: “And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”
What happened next after this life-changing miracle? “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down at His feet, giving Him thanks, and he was a Samaritan” (emphasis added throughout).
Jesus then responded in typical rabbinical manner by conveying instruction through a question: “‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go you way. Your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:17-19).
Only one in 10 of that forsaken band returned to express gratitude. How soon they forgot! But this one man returned to Jesus and, it is forever imprinted, “with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down at His feet, giving Him thanks.”
And He was a Samaritan, of all people—one ridiculed and marginalized by those professing to follow biblical religion in that day. Yet he would be one of Luke’s many heroes. He would be the New Testament Naaman who would resemble Christ’s words spoken earlier in Nazareth (see Luke 4:24-27; 2 Kings 5).
Moreover, he’s us and we’re him. We have all been spoken to and touched by the same Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. This story is more than a moment or event frozen in time. It lays out a manner of existence for us to live out today before God and man.
As they were, so were we
The life of the lepers actually portrays our life before God began to work with us and brought us into contact with His Son. We were separated from God—and by far more than 150 feet. We were in a different world and a different walk away from God.
We were cut off from the land of true spiritual living. Isaiah 59:1-2 describes our previous isolated spiritual state before God entered our lives: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
Sometimes we forget where God found us and began to work with us! Even Spirit-led Christians can be prone to spiritual amnesia. Romans 3:23 offers a vivid reminder that we were in that band of those cut off: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” And the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Just like the lepers we were all “the walking dead”—we just didn’t know it.
It’s time to respond to this wakeup call found in the telling of the miraculous healing of the lepers.
Remember the instruction in Numbers 5:1-2 that stated lepers had to be put outside the camp? Consider the words of Hebrews 13:12-13 with that in mind: “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”
Jesus Christ died in relative isolation from the community of men. Paul tells us why in 2 Corinthians 5:21, explaining that God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The spiritual leprosy that has consumed humanity since Eden and consumed our lives until we accepted God’s gift of redemption was placed on Christ—“outside the camp.” Truly, “He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows … And we hid, as it we, our faces from Him” (Isaiah 53:3). He not merely reached out to the lepers, but in a greater spiritual sense identified with their lot and suffered in their place—and ours.
Our personal acceptance of what Christ has done for us allows us to be spiritually cleansed inside and out. Every lesion of impurity that we brought on ourselves, be it on our hearts, thoughts or deeds, is removed.
The apostle John makes it plain that what our Heavenly Father asked Jesus to perform in our stead goes deep and thoroughly: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our spiritual reality is that we are no longer spiritual lepers, but welcomed into the spiritual family of God with a “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) as real and incredible as the miracle that touched those lepers of old.
How loud, then, is our voice?
How, then, do we emulate the example of the thankful Samaritan leper who “with a loud voice glorified God”? How do you and I “go outside the camp,” as Hebrews 13 says, encounter Jesus Christ once and always, and do as it instructs in the verses that follow? We are admonished, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15-16).
We do so, and seek out Christ and be about our “Father’s business” by realizing:
God hasn’t touched our lives by accident but by design. He’s our physical and spiritual Creator. We don’t worship an accidental Savior, for He not only created time but is also the Master of timing. Hearing His words, reading this article, is no chance encounter. The God we worship doesn’t operate by chance but by determined purpose (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10). Experiencing Him is not by the roll of cosmic dice.
God has not called us to despise others, but to pray and long for others to become part of His family. It’s God’s call to choose His family. It’s our job to accept His family and to always remember that at one time we were the “others”—but now we can rejoice because by God’s grace we belong to God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:23).
When God comes into our lives and begins to perform His work in us (Ephesians 2:10), He will give us something to do, just as with the lepers of old . He will give us a job. It may not be to visit a Levitical priest, but to look for and follow through on the assignment He presents you. God will do for us what only He can do—heal our heart and remove the sinful lesions of the past—but He will also ask us to do our part in faith, which demands eyes that see beyond the moment.
God’s reach into our lives isn’t momentary, and thus our response cannot merely be a fleeting verbal thank-you. Experiencing God isn’t a one-time event. It’s a transformative relationship that must persist for the rest of our lives.
Our appreciation may commence with a verbal thank-you, but this gratitude needs to remain, shaping every motive in our heart, thought in our brain, reasoning of our mind, and actions that are witnessed by all.
Why? Because we have been created to worship God in all we do, to glorify His name in all that comes our way, and to be a blessing to all with whom we come in contact—just as the Samaritan leper’s example of return and thankfulness remains a blessing to us.
The future awaits us, but not alone as we continue in Jesus’ directive of “Follow Me.” The question now is, with how loud a voice will we glorify God?