Sunday Church School Lesson
Sunday, May 8, 2016
“While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.  As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him;  and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” 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.  Then Jesus answered 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”” (Luke 17:11-19, NASB).
My father was a practicing physician for over 40 years. He once returned from a medical meeting in California where an acquaintance had taken him to a local hospital to see a special case: a patient who had been diagnosed with leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease. The friend claimed that his was the only known case in the state. It was also the only time in my father’s long medical career that he had any contact with this ancient disease. Relatively few people today are afflicted with this loathsome, legendary ailment. Leprosy as described in the Old Testament probably included a wide range of afflictions of the skin. Laws concerning lepers are found especially in Leviticus 13:1-46; 14:1-32. To be a leper was to be “unclean,” often permanently. Those so afflicted had to warn others with cries of “unclean, unclean” (13:45) and were required to live apart (13:46). Therefore, lepers suffered not only from the illness itself but also from being ostracized socially. That was the condition of the 10 men of this lesson. At least one of the lepers in today’s lesson was a Samaritan. Samaritans, who lived in central Palestine, were distant relatives of first-century Jews. There was great animosity between the two groups in Jesus’ day (see Luke 9:51-53; John 4:9; 8:48), a type of bitter tribalism that had been fueled by centuries of negative incidents. The Old Testament traces the time line of these from 2 Kings 17 through Ezra 4 and Nehemiah 4. The period of time between the Old and New Testaments saw further antagonism develop.
- Ten Desperate Men, 11-14.
Jesus and His followers are still on the way to Jerusalem for Passover—Jesus’ final Passover. Jesus had sent messengers ahead “into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. Jesus prefers to minister in places that are open to His message, so He bypassed that particular Samaritan village. He does not avoid Samaria as a whole, however, since verse eleven says He is passing through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. No geographical features separate the two areas in an obvious way. The distinction is determined by the makeup of the villages, with the Jewish villages of Galilee lying to the north of the Samaritan region. The Samaritans, for their part, are centered in the Shechem valley near Mount Gerizim and the surrounding area, roughly 25 miles due north of Jerusalem. We are not told if this certain village is Galilean (Jewish) or Samaritan. Both Jews and Samaritans isolate lepers, so it may be either. The fact that the 10 noted to be lepers stand afar off is in compliance with the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:2). Lepers who ignore the expectation of maintaining proper distance might be driven away by having rocks thrown at them from fear and loathing. The physical distance between Jesus and the lepers is highlighted by the need for the men to raise their voices to be heard. The author gives the impression that they shout in unison, indicating a plan formulated before Jesus’ visit. Their cry is a simple request for Jesus to have mercy. This is a general appeal for favorable attention. Behind this request is the awareness that Jesus is a compassionate Master. The simple command Go shew yourselves unto the priests is for the purpose of verifying that the men no longer have the signs of leprosy. This task is a responsibility entrusted to priests under the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 14:2, 3; compare Luke 5:14). A positive certification will mean that the 10 men will be able to resume their roles in family and village life. The impression we are given is that healing comes only as the 10 with leprosy obey Jesus by beginning to walk away from Him to seek out the priests. It is at that point in time the symptoms of leprosy vanish. They realize their trip to the priests is not a fool’s errand, but rather is the first step in reclaiming their normal lives. A simple lesson here is that faith that results in obedience leads to healing. For the 10 individuals of our text, this is physical healing. For us, it may be spiritual healing, a cleansing of our leprous, unclean hearts when we obediently follow Jesus (Acts 2:38-41).
- One Grateful Man, 15-19.
One of the healed men postpones his trip to the priests. Seeing all symptoms of his leprosy disappear, he makes a U-turn back to Jesus. And he doesn’t come quietly! His previous cry of “unclean, unclean” (Leviticus 13:45) is now replaced with praise. Perhaps the man is glorifying God for the first time in many years. He recognizes the miracle of healing and knows its source. For the man to fall down on his face is the posture of worship, appropriate only for worshipping God (see Revelation 19:10). This is the man’s instinctive reaction. He may not understand everything that has just happened, but one thing he does know: this man, Jesus, is God’s instrument in causing him to be healed, to be cleansed. The man has been shown mercy! This man, who has suffered more than most of us can imagine, has not lost his humanity. His suffering may have caused doubts, but he still believes that God is in control—he knows that God is worthy of worship, praise, and thanksgiving. Here is the surprise twist to the story. The Jews consider the Samaritans to be something like inferior cousins. Jesus transforms this miracle event into a teaching opportunity. The 9 neglect to give thanks. After addressing the onlookers, Jesus turns to the Samaritan himself with the declarations we see here. The man’s new life has begun, and he can get up and go about his business, which first entails getting the blessing of the priests. The man is right to give the credit for the healing to God, but Jesus teaches him a lesson as well: it is through his faith that he has been healed. This does not mean that the man has had the power to heal himself all along. It does not mean that the power of his personal faith in and of itself has brought about the healing. It means, rather, that his trust in God (as demonstrated by his initial act of obedience to seek out the priests) is pleasing to God, by whose power the leprosy has been vanquished.
Into the Lesson
Give each learner a blank index card. Say, “Take 60 seconds to jot down five things you are grateful for that you have used or enjoyed so far today.” After calling time, offer learners a chance to share their lists. Then say, “Most of you probably named some everyday things that you normally don’t even think about as stuff to be thankful for. One observer has said, ‘The more I understand the mind and the human experience, the more I begin to suspect there is no such thing as unhappiness; there is only ungratefulness.’ Is he right?”
After a few minutes of discussion, make a transition by saying, “Today we will see 10 men who had an excellent reason for being happy, but only 1 of them took the time to express gratitude.”
Option. Before class begins, place in chairs copies of the “What Do You Know About Leprosy?” quiz from the reproducible page, which you can download. Learners can begin working on this as they arrive.
Into the Word
Enlist several learners to read the lesson text aloud: one as narrator, one as Jesus, and three or four to read in unison the request of the lepers. (The reading will go more smoothly if you give the readers handouts with their parts highlighted.)
Give the following lists of questions to three groups, one list each, to prepare interviews of Jesus, of one of the nine healed men who did not return, and of the one healed man who did return. Also give each group relevant information from the commentary.
Instruct: “Work within your groups to come up with responses to the questions. For some questions you will need to use your ‘sanctified imagination,’ as not all responses can be derived from either today’s text in particular or the Bible as a whole. Select two people to play the parts of the interviewer and the interviewee. Remember that a critical part of an interview is the follow-up question, so see if you can develop a few of those.”
Interview 1: Jesus. What was the context in which You encountered the men who had leprosy? Why did You instruct them as You did? Why were You surprised that only one of the healed men came back to express gratitude? What did You mean by “Thy faith hath made thee whole”?
Interview 2: One of the nine who did not return. Since it’s unusual for Jews and Samaritans to associate, why were you doing so? What did you and your fellow sufferers know about Jesus before calling out to Him? Why did you stand so far away that you had to shout to be heard? What did you really expect when you implored Jesus to show mercy? After you had turned to go to the priests, how did you know you were healed? Why didn’t you return to thank Jesus for healing you?
Interview 3: The one who did return. What was the worst part about having leprosy? What did you really expect when you implored Jesus to show mercy? Why do you suppose He gave you the instructions that He did? What was your first reaction when you realized you were healed? Why didn’t the others return with you? What part did your faith play in your healing?
Allow groups time to present their interviews.
Write the word ACTS vertically on the board. Explain that this represents the four-part prayer pattern of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. Focus on the third element by asking, “In relation to the other three elements, how much of a typical Christian’s prayer life consists of thanking God?” Use the ensuing discussion to challenge learners to improve the quality and quantity of their prayers in this regard.
Option. Distribute copies of the “How Grateful Are You?” activity from the reproducible page. Have learners complete it as indicated.
Standard Lesson Commentary 2015-2016 (KJV).