And it happened on the way to Jerusalem: Jesus went through the border region of Samaria and Galilee. As he was about to enter a village, ten lepers met him. They stopped in the distance and cried out: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! When he saw them, he said to them: Go, show yourselves to the priests! And it happened, as they went, they were cleansed. But one of them turned back when he saw that he was healed; and he praised God with a loud voice. He threw himself on his face at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. This man was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, "Have not ten become clean? Where are the nine? Has no one turned back to honor God except this stranger? And he said to him, "Get up and walk! Your faith has saved you.
"And it came to pass on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through the border country of Samaria and Galilee. As he was about to enter a village, ten lepers met him. They stopped in the distance and cried out: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! When he saw them, he said to them: Go, show yourselves to the priests! And it came to pass, as they went, they were cleansed. " (cf. verse 11-14)
Jesus is still on the way to Jerusalem with his disciples, where death and resurrection await him. He is heading for a very clear destination and his disciples are following him. When they want to go to a village, they now encounter ten lepers.
In the course of the gospel it turns out that these lepers are probably nine Jews and one Samaritan. This is remarkable insofar as Jews and Samaritans normally have nothing to do with each other, but are, as it were, enemies of the people. But this makes their plight clear: leprosy has united them and makes them equal, Jews and Samaritans alike. They share the same fate.
Since these lepers were not allowed to meet people according to the law, they call out to him from afar to have mercy on them. And Jesus also keeps to the Mosaic law when he gives them the order: "Go, show yourselves to the priests!" (v. 14), because the priest must, so to speak, officially state that the leprosy has been healed. Only then can the lepers return to the community of salvation.
What is Jesus doing here? Surely he could simply heal the lepers and send them home, but he keeps the Mosaic Law and thus sends them on a journey of faith. After all, when they set out on their journey in response to his word, they are not yet healed. The leprosy is still there. But Jesus demands this way of faith from them, that they are convinced: If they now set out on the way to the priests, they will really be healed in the course of this journey - on the word of Jesus. This is a very impressive image that should make us aware: We have to walk a path of faith again and again, even and especially where we are not yet able to recognize anything.
"But one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back; and he praised God with a loud voice. He threw himself on his face at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. This man was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, "Have not ten become clean? Where are the nine? Has no one turned back to honor God except this stranger? And he said to him, "Get up and walk! Your faith has saved you. " (cf. verse 15-19)
At Jesus' command, the ten lepers go to the priests - the pious Jews certainly to Jerusalem and the Samaritan to Samaria, to Mount Chorazin.
The nine Jews now see their healing on the way and feel it as something natural for them, because they are members of the chosen people of Israel. Therefore, as Jews, they have a right to expect the Messiah to bring them salvation. That is why they do not come back to thank Jesus, because it is their right. So these nine Jews accept the gift of healing, but not the giver: Jesus Christ. Thus, they have not found the essential.
And this is what will happen to Jesus in Jerusalem: The people will accept his gift of healing, but not him. They will crucify him. So here again we find an example of what awaits him in Jerusalem. But it is also a very clear admonition to us: We, too, are always happy to accept God's gifts, but quickly forget the giver.
The Samaritan, on the other hand, this stranger and enemy of the Jews, experiences his healing on the way not as his right, but as a gift. And he turns back. For Jesus it must be very painful that the only one who gives thanks is a stranger and not a Jew, not one of his people whom God has chosen from eternity. The long-awaited Messiah is here, but his people - and these nine are representative of this - ignore him, overlook him, deny him, reject him.
These nine Jews therefore also experience only external help, in that they become free from leprosy. The grateful Samaritan, however, also experiences the healing of his soul. He receives this salvation because of his faith, as Jesus says later. We can recognize his faith by the fact that he turns back. When he is healed, he does not go to the priest first, but comes back to Jesus immediately and praises God with a loud voice. To praise means to acknowledge and to worship. He throws himself to the ground at the feet of Jesus, expressing: I belong to you. I worship you. I acknowledge you absolutely. With this, Jesus says to the disciples following him, as well as to us today: The new people of God will become on the basis of faith, not on the basis of belonging to the people of Israel or to any other particular people.
A special meaning of the text is also to be seen in the fact that Jesus does not take back the gift of healing even if we take it selfishly. He does not take it back from us even when we accept His gift but not Himself. These nine became healed and they remained healed even though they did not acknowledge Jesus and did not accept Him as their Savior. It was enough for them to be healed in their bodies, because they believed that as Jews, as members of the chosen people, they were entitled to salvation anyway. Their example shows that the gifts of Jesus can also be received "in vain" so to speak, i.e. without fruit for eternal salvation. They have received the outward gift and are thus also outwardly saved, but the actual salvation, which is about eternity and not about a few years they will still spend here on earth, this actual salvation, for which Jesus came to impart to us through redemption, that they did not want. So the whole thing points to the condemnation that lies ahead of him in Jerusalem: this is how it will be for him in Jerusalem. They will not accept him there. They will crucify him. They accept his gifts, his miracles, but not him. They do not need him. For if they fulfill the law, they will get to heaven - as the Pharisees put it - by their own works.
How often such a basic attitude can still be found today: I make up my life with God alone. I don't need anything that Jesus offers me, the sacraments, etc. This is a fatal error. This is a fatal error! Because Jesus says quite clearly at the end of this Gospel: "Your faith has helped you." (V. 19)
But before that, the Samaritan became pure. It is not just a matter of external purity, because we are reading the Word of God here: it is also about this inner purification from our selfishness, from this attitude: "I work out my own salvation." The Samaritan has experienced this inner purification. He came to adoration, to absolute recognition of Jesus, and was ready to accept everything from Him. He first became clean in body, but faith brought him the much greater: final salvation. This Gospel has something to say to each one of us! ∎