The famous miracle of Jesus Christ healing 10 men of the disfiguring and contagious skin disease leprosy is recorded in the Bible in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 17:11-1). Illness and isolation marked the men's lives while they were suffering from leprosy, but Jesus' healing gave them both good physical health and good standing in the community that had ostracized them before. Here's what the Bible says happened...
Have Pity On Us
The story begins in Luke 17:11-13: "Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, 10 men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!'"
Leprosy was a terrible skin disease that caused people’s flesh to scar and decay. People suffering from leprosy often couldn’t feel physical pain, because leprosy destroys the body’s nerve endings. So lepers would frequently damage body parts (like fingers and toes) without realizing it. Many lepers were missing whole chunks of skin on their bodies, leaving their insides exposed. Not only did they look frightful, but they smelled badly, too -- the stench of their rotting flesh was powerful.
Since leprosy was highly contagious, rules for separating lepers from other people were put into place as health safeguards. But the rules were humiliating for the lepers. Lepers were banished from healthy people’s presence to live in communities with other lepers (which were often located in isolated caves). When going out into the larger community, lepers were required to wear bells to alert people nearby to their presence. Healthy people who encountered a leper were supposed to call out: 'Leper! Unclean!' so others would be aware of the situation, and lepers themselves were supposed to call out "Unclean!" about themselves as well. Sometimes, out of fear, people threw stones at lepers who they thought were getting too close to them.
Show Yourselves to the Priests
The story continues in Luke 17:14, with the words that Jesus used to heal the men: "When he saw them, he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed."
Jesus wanted the men with leprosy to visit the priests so they could be officially pronounced cured and fully integrated back into society as a result. The Jewish priests were the ones who had the authority to declare someone either clean or unclean in society. Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 of the Torah describes the detailed list of regulations that the Jewish priests followed when examining people with skin diseases and determining whether or not they were to be considered clean.
The 10 lepers showed great confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal them by following his instructions immediately. Rather than pressing the issue by drawing closer to Jesus to ask him to touch them, they were willing to respond to Jesus’ words in faith by going to see the priests, trusting that something good would happen as a result of their obedience. Then they noticed en route that they had been healed.
The story ends in Luke 17:15-19: "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him -- and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, "Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?"
Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
Only one out of the 10 healed men returned to thank Jesus -- and he was the one that society would have least expected to do so: a Samaritan (an ethnicity that Jews despised, because the Samaritan race resulted from Jews marrying Gentiles, which was seen as corrupting their religious heritage). Jesus was willing to heal all 10 without discriminating against the Samaritan, showing that his grace was for everyone.
The man who chose to return to thank Jesus received an extra gift: a spiritual blessing in addition to his physical healing. When Jesus said "Your faith has made you well," he let the man know that he had experienced more than just restoration for his body; he had also received restoration for his soul. The other men who didn't bother to thank Jesus didn't receive that knowledge.