True Salvation – Luke 17:11-19

Introduction

What do you think is the biggest lie that one could ever believe? Think about it a second. What do you think is the biggest lie one could believe?

Would it be that God doesn’t exist? Well, maybe. But a lot of people believe in some God and will still be in great trouble at the day of judgment.

Would it be that Jesus is not God? Maybe. But you still have a lot of people who believe this and that are unregenerate.

Would it be that the Bible is not authoritative? Maybe. But a lot of people believe in the authority of the Bible and still are not saved.

But what if you made people believe that they were saved, when they are not?

Complete deceit. You get close to the truth but tweak it just enough so that people don’t see the difference. Welcome to America, right? The country where 50% of the people are “born-again” and 90% believe in premarital sex.

Or maybe, we could say, welcome to Palestine in 30 AD.

Our times are not very different from those of Jesus Christ. Effective lies don’t change. When Jesus came to Israel, almost everybody was a Jew. They all thought they were the chosen people, the blessed descendants of Abraham, the holy remnant of the world.

They all thought they were all right. But what did Jesus think? Did Jesus think that all the people in Israel claiming to be Jews were going to heaven? Oh no.

According to Him, hell will be filled with people who confessed the name of Jesus Christ, of people who called Him master and who filled their lives with “religious” things.

So who is it that will really go to heaven? Who are the people that are really saved? How does it show in their lives?

This morning we are going to look at a salvation story from the life of Christ and we will what true salvation brings: a life that glorifies God.

In fact, let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 17:11-19, where we will find 4 settings that illustrate what true salvation is, so that we also would live for the glory of God.

Luk 17:11  On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.

Luk 17:12  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance

Luk 17:13  and lifted up their voices, saying, « Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. »

Luk 17:14  When he saw them he said to them, « Go and show yourselves to the priests. » And as they went they were cleansed.

Luk 17:15  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

Luk 17:16  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Luk 17:17  Then Jesus answered, « Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Luk 17:18  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? »

Luk 17:19  And he said to him, « Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. »

This miracle is a story of salvation. Or one could translate this last phrase, “your faith has made you whole” or “your faith has saved you.” The Greek word here is the word that Paul uses for salvation throughout Scriptures.  And I believe that it was critical for the disciples to understand this at the time that it happened.

I. The Journey

The first setting is the journey. We see in verse 1:

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”

This is Jesus’ last journey. He is going to Jerusalem, and He is going there to die. At this point, the dies are already cast. Since the resurrection of Lazarus, about 3 months earlier, the Sanhedrin, the religious leaders of the nation, made a united decision to put Jesus to death. This is what we read in John 11:53, “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”

So at this point Jesus is a fugitive. His hours are counted. He is on his way to Jerusalem, and He knows that it is His last journey. He planned it all out from the beginning. The miracles on the Sabbath, the arguments with the Pharisees, the cleansings of the Temple…everything was planned. Jesus had two purposes from the beginning: he is going to die, yes, but He also wants to make disciples. And to make a true disciple two things were necessary: that they believe in who He truly is, the Messiah and the Son of God, and that they understand what true salvation means.

Now, do you think that the disciples truly understood what true salvation is? Well, they were in the process. We see in the Scriptures that they are very often caught off guard with the manner in which Jesus responds to people. Sometimes they just don’t understand. They almost wish Jesus would make peace with the Pharisees.

And so here we are at the end of the life of Jesus. He has only a few more weeks to live. And He is trying to make sure His disciples understand fully what it means to be His disciples.

And this is what we see in the gospel of Luke from chapters 13-19. And here Luke insists on these last months of the life of Christ. And it all starts in Luke 13:22, “He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.” So they are coming down from Caesarea Philippi in the north where Peter made his confession. And then something interesting happens. The disciples begin to have a little more discernment. One of the hardest things for the people of Israel to understand was what true salvation was. Because they had a national religion, it was very difficult to understand where the line was for them, especially because it was very easy to fake an outside faith with legalism.

So in verse 23: “And someone said to him, « Lord, will those who are saved be few?« 

And Jesus to answer: the gate is narrow. The disciples are beginning to get it.

And here we are in Luke 17, about 2 weeks before Christ’s death. He has been hiding in a village called Ephraim with his disciples for a while, spending time with them, and now is the time to end all things. And so Jesus plans it all out. He will leave Judea discretely by going north to Galilee through Samaria, then in Galilee will join a group of pilgrims on their way to the Passover, which will give Him protection and a crowd to minister to.

So remember. Jesus is about to die. His disciples believe that He is the Christ, but they still are confused on what true salvation is. And here come the ten lepers and a story of salvation that will never be forgotten by the disciples.

II. The Desperation of the Lepers

So first, we see the journey. Secondly, we see the desperation of the lepers.

Luk 17:12  And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance

Luk 17:13  and lifted up their voices, saying, « Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. »

At this point, Jesus had not been seen in Galilee for at least 6 months, and here He appears in a village, probably in the south of Galilee. Jesus’ reputation as a healer had made its way around. As soon as Jesus enters the village, the lepers come to meet Him, and they stay at a distance, as it was obligated by law to do so.

But it would not take long for Jesus to notice them. Even at a distance, lepers stand out. They look different, they sound different, and they smell different.

In the Bible, leprosy was more kind of family of skin diseases than one disease in particular. Most of these diseases were pretty intense though.

Nowadays we equal leprosy to Hansen’s disease, a grave illness attacking one’s skin and nervous system. It’s actually kind of scary. Since the illness attacks the nerves of their extremities, they end up losing the sense of feeling in their fingers and other parts of their body. This is why they can end up scratching their nose until it bleeds without even knowing it. They can even lose entire body parts like that.

So if you saw a leper, you would know there was something wrong with him. Their skin looked different. In fact, this illness is sometimes called lion’s-faces disease because as the skin is lost again and again it eventually forms hard bumps. I saw someone like that before. It was one of the scariest sights I had ever seen.

And not only the effects of this sickness are gruesome, but they are also contagious and deadly. And as they affect the body, not only does it change someone’s outside appearance, but it also changes their voices, making it raspy and uncomfortable to listen to.

There might even be nuances of this in the text here. We see in verse 13 that the lepers raise their “voices.” Well, in the Greek text it is actually not “voices” but “voice,” almost as if their speaking was so awkward and pitiful that it was just the melting of a cacophony.

And not only leprosy looked bad, but it sounded bad, and it smelled bad.

Leprosy, in the Bible was different from other illnesses, because it had a very high religious stigma. There were a lot of different sicknesses existing in the times of Moses and Jesus. But as God had chosen some animals to be unclean, He also chose some illnesses to be unclean. And leprosy happened to be the main one. That is why we do not see people being “healed” from leprosy but “cleansed” from leprosy in the Bible.

The state of someone with leprosy was extremely humbling:

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.” (Leviticus 13:45-46)

It is one thing to have a shameful disease, but it is another to have to scream it to every passing person! Can you imagine living in a society where if you let’s say sin against your boss you have to spend the rest of the day, obligated by law, to yell, “sinner! sinner!” to everyone that you see?

The lepers were the people that had lost absolutely everything. Because of their illness they were separated from their families, from their friends, from their cities. The certainly could not find work. They were forbidden to enter the synagogues and the Temple.  They were excluded from the social and the religious life of the people.

A prayer f the Pharisees goes like this, “I thank you God that I was not born a Gentile, a slave, a leper, or a woman!”

These people were the outcasts. The nobodies. They had fallen short of the standards of the land. They even had a Samaritan in their midst. Samaritans were the worst kind of people for the Jews.  At one time Jesus was discussing things with some leaders in Jerusalem and they got so mad at Him, they said: « Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon? »

Samaritans were worst than Gentiles and unbelievers, they were in some sense regarded as traitors by the Jews. Not only they were a bastard people, but they had also been enemies in the past. In the 2nd Cent. BC Antiochus Epiphanes offered pigs as sacrifices in the Temple, bringing the Jews of the south to rebel and actually gain independence, and at that time the Samaritans sided with the opposing forces to attack them. But the Jews won and they destroyed the temple of the Samaritans. All to say, there was just a lot of hatred between Samaritans and Jews.

So here comes 10 lepers. Outcasts, rejected, and they even have a Samaritan with them. They are really as low as low can get. They are like dead to society.

And they see Jesus, and come to Him, and cry out loud, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!« 

They call Him “master,” a word that only appears in Luke and speaks of someone with notable power (even miraculous). And they cry out to Him, begging for mercy.

People only cry for mercy when there is absolutely no hope. Here, they have absolutely nothing to offer to Christ to ask for help. No money, no labor, no gifting. They are useless. All they can do is plead for grace.  And so they “confess” Christ as master.

III. Healing and Worship

Now we move to the next verse, and we get to the third aspect depicted true salvation, that of healing and worship.

Luk 17:14  When he saw them he said to them, « Go and show yourselves to the priests. » And as they went they were cleansed.

These lepers were truly the lowliest of society. It seems to this point that Jesus doesn’t even notice them until they cry out. And He sees then, but still remains very distant to them, which is kind of interesting.

Jesus did His miracles in a lot of different ways. Most of the time, He clearly displayed compassion and care for the people. When the first leper came to be healed by Him in Mark 1, He touched him. That was crazy for the people. One could never touch a leper. During His ministry, we see how He would preach the word and then heal the people one by one, making it very personal.

But other times, He tested people. Jesus tested the Centurion. He tested the Syro-Phoenician lady. He tested Lazarus’ sisters, and many more. He didn’t only want people to be healed. If that was His goal, He could have just snapped His fingers and get every living creature on earth healed on the spot.  Jesus wanted to produce faith in His people. He wanted people to understand the spiritual aspect of things. He wanted them to know more than the healer, but also the Savior.

And so here, Jesus tests these lepers. Moses had commanded the lepers to go see the priests. And that’s all He tells them to do. No promise. No hope. Just a command. And they believe. They go. And on their way they are healed.

Luk 17:15  Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

Just imagine a minute those 10 lepers making their way to go see the priests. They go on the road, and every time they pass someone, they have to make a detour around them, crying out, “unclean! unclean!” Just imagine how freaky it would be to be walking with your family down the street and then have a group of 10 sick people scream that around you. So they walk, and they see a grandma: “unclean! unclean!” they continue, see a bunch of little kids playing around: “unclean! unclean!” hey keep walking and they see some men working on a house: “unclean! unclean!” then a random persons walks by, and they see him come from a distance, and they get ready to cry out again. But as they walk towards him, they start to realize that their skin is getting better. And the closer the man approaches, the cleaner their skin becomes. And when the man passes by, for the first time they are silent. and they continue walking, and they see some other men coming their way, and so they shake hands and start to talk about the things of life catching up and everything. And all they are thinking about is this, “I can’t believe it! Life is back to normal again! This is great! Let’s come back to where it was before!”

But one man thinks differently. For him, life is not the same. And so he turns back, and starts running the opposite way. And he sees the men building the house, and starts screaming and he probably has tears pouring on his cheeks, “clean! clean! God healed me! Look at my skin! Jesus of Nazareth did it!” and he continues and sees the little children playing around, and cries out to them, “Look at me! Jesus cleansed me! I am no longer unclean! Praise be the name of our God!” and he continues to run back and sees the grandma, still walking pretty slow. “Clean! Clean! God cleansed me! I am clean! Glory to God!”

What else could he do? He had had a big sticker “outcast” on his forehead for maybe years. He was condemned with no hope. And now, things were different. Was he going to be silent? Was he going to not tell the world about how awesome God is? That made no sense to him.

Luk 17:16  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

That man was not simply healed. He was transformed. He had met the grace of God and would respond to it with faith. And so he runs back to Jesus. He runs back to his Savior, and he falls down at His feet with cries of thankfulness. Even though the word “proskuneo” is not used here in reference to the prostration of the leper, we all understand the implications of his abasement. He is worshipping. Something happened in that man’s heart. A change that made him desire to run toward His Savior, a change that made him desire to worship His creator. He received cleansing like the very grace of God, and responded to it with praise.

I wonder how loud that guy would have sung on a Sabbath worship service. Monotonous voice:  “All creatures of our God and King…lift up your voice and with us sing…alleluia, alleluia…” Man, I bet the synagogue was shaking after he stopped by!

A heart that received grace is a heart that sings. That’s simply how faith works. Grace comes down, and praise returns.

IV. The Ungratefulness of the Nine

Fourthly and finally, the last aspect that we see is that of the ungratefulness of the nine.

Luk 17:17  Then Jesus answered, « Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?

Where not ten cleansed? Jesus’ question begs for a positive answer. Of course they were cleansed. It is evident. And as a normal reaction to this supernatural cleansing, they should be there as well.

And so He continues: “Where the nine?” The Greek here actually omits the verb. Where the nine? Again, Jesus sharp question begs for the obvious. They should be there.

But where are they? Something is not right. Why did the 9 not come back to thank Jesus and give glory to God? Where are they?

The certainly saw the Samaritan turn back. They probably heard him cry out with joy to the glory of God. Why did they not follow? I wonder what they were thinking.

“That guy is over zealous. We got what we wanted, let’s just relax now. Let’s enjoy all the things we have been missing. Let’s go see our friends and prove them wrong. We made it. We found a way to get out of it. We did it. We found the healer, and He listened to us. We were convincing enough when we cried out to Him. We even called Him master at the entrance of the village, at the town-gate, the most important place. There were a lot of people. They all heard us cry out to Him. I’m sure that made Him feel good. We did our job. But that Samaritan…he’s got no life anyways. He’s a loser. He is the least of the least. We don’t need what he needs. He’s got issues. But us, we know how to figure things out.”

Complete ungratefulness. Pride and unbelief: “me” as the focus, and total blindness concerning God’s working. And the result: no thankfulness, and zero worship, and an eternal reward that is completely void.

It’s crazy. These lepers were like nothing to the world before Christ met them, and yet they didn’t even come back to say one word of thankfulness. How prideful can one be? What Jesus had just done for them was unheard of. Nobody else cleansed lepers. Nobody.  And Jesus had made it clear during His ministry that everything He did He did it through the power of God and for the glory of God. But after they got what they wanted, they didn’t even think back.  Their hearts were hardened by unbelief. They just didn’t see God as He truly was in the picture. Had God healed them? Probably. But it didn’t mean they owed Him anything. In fact, if God was so good, he should be expected to do good things, right? They deserved it.

The 9 lepers had no need to come back. They “made the prayer.” Their problem was solved. Their conscience was appeased. They certainly did not need to come back. They could just continue to live life as they had in the past.

Luk 17:18  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? »

“Have they not been found returning?” is the literal rendition of Jesus question from the Greek. Interestingly, Jesus asks this question with the “ouk” negativizer. It begs a positive answer. After such a great miracle of healing, they should have been found. They had been given all the proofs that Jesus was being used as an instrument of God and that He was worthy of following. They should have been found. Where they?

No. Only the one who was forgiven much praises much. But the other ones, no. They did not give glory to God. In effect, the word here translated as “praise” is the word “doxa” meaning glory. The 9 kept the glory for themselves. They figured things out, they did it, there was no need to render glory to someone else. Only the loser came back. The Samaritan. The sinner. The foreigner. (The allogene.)

This word foreigner is pejorative. Jesus’ usage of it is the only one in the New Testament. But it was also found on a limestone block from the Temple of Jerusalem. It was placed in the Court of the Gentiles next to the entrance to the Court of the Women or an area into which only Jews could go. ‘Let no foreigner [allogene] enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary.’ A foreigner doing this was subject to the penalty of death.

The privileged ones, the “chosen” ones, where missing before the throne of their God. Only the praise of this foreigner was given to God. And while the 9 others might have thought it was enough, it wasn’t enough for God.

Let me ask you a question. How much of the glory belongs to God?

Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

How much of the glory belongs to God? All of the glory! All of it! All the praise! All the honor! All the worship! All of it! This world was made for Him, through Him, by Him.

God will not be satisfied with the praise of a few. He wants our praise. He wants our loud praise.

The glory belongs to God. It’s who He is. He is going to get it whether we give it to Him or not. Either He will receive it from our mouths, or He will take it through judgment. Taking the glory away from God is like trying to snatch His arm off. But that can’t happen to an unchanging God. He’s going to get His arm back, and He’s going to beat up those who don’t want to give it back.

Let me tell you, unless they repented, those 9 lepers are in hell right now. And their desperation is much greater than anything they might have known on earth.

God wants the glory, let us give it to Him! All of it! All that we can!

So if to God belongs all the glory, why don’t we sing loud? How can we be satisfied with displaying so little joy in our lives? How can we allow the spirit of complaining and judging and ungratefulness to enter our lives?

How easy to take things for granted! But we have received so much! Grace upon grace upon grace. Especially for us, who are studying the very Word of God and who are being set apart for ministry. How much grace have we received! What a privilege to be called to do God’s work, us, unworthy sinners!

[But let me ask you a question: do people know that you are a thankful person? Obviously we don’t want to be external people, but if we asked some around us, would they testify of us as men constantly filled with words of praise to Our Savior? What would your family say? What would your neighbors say? Have they ever heard you praise God with a loud voice? ]

Listen! The stewardship of the disciples is ours. Jesus revealed to them what true salvation was: that of desperate and lost people receiving grace, and responding to it with praise, giving glory to His name. We should be the first examples of such salvation.

I have no doubt that in every one of our churches there are many people who sit in the pews week after week and are not changed. And they never run to Christ. And they never fall down at His feet.  We can’t change their hearts, but we can show them what true salvation means to us!

We’re not any better than these lepers were. Like them, if it is not for God’s grace, we’re condemned to separation, to shame, and to death. Just like Isaac, we were bound to the altar of death without even knowing it. Just picture yourself in his place. That’s who we were. Walking to our death, completely blind, completely clueless, and completely lost. And then we go to the altar and lay down. And the knife is about to fall down on our throat. And then Jesus comes in the midst of everything and takes our spot. And He lays down on the altar. And God the Father comes down also, and takes the knife from Abraham. And at this point, no angel dares to come near Him. And He takes that knife and slaughters His Son. He slaughters Him. For our sake.

Can’t we sing loud?

Luk 17:19  And he said to him, « Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. »

And so Jesus looks at him. His eyes say much: “The self-righteous will get what they want. They will feel good about themselves. But for you, you have had faith. Life will never be the same. Go now. Live on as a new person. You have been saved.”

Conclusion

I think the disciples remembered this story very vividly. I think that when they saw true salvation with their own eyes, its fruits and the obviousness of God’s working, that it truly impacted them. If this random man was willing to have such a loud and public testimony of God’s grace in his life, as Jesus’ chosen disciples, their task would be much greater. As the recipients of God’s salvation, they were stewards of God’s grace. A grace that would allow them to live lives that would bring a glory worthy of their Savior. Miracle after miracle, message after message, Christ was showing His disciples how to move from seeing trees to see fully. Let our eyes be open to see the fullness of God’s glory. “Therefore…work out our salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you.

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