The Healing of the Ten Lepers

29th Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 17:12-19


Healing of the 10 lepers. miracle-healing-of-the-10-lepers.jpg In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen [1]


Today is the Twenty ninth Sunday after Pentecost and also, being December 9th, we remember the Conception of the Holy Theotokos by St. Anna. The main reading today is about the Healing of the Ten Lepers.


In this miracle, like most of the miracles in the Gospel, is presented to us aninner meaning and outer meaning.


The inner meaning is about  what true faith really is, and also about the unfaithfulness and unthankfulness of the Jews.


The outer meaning seems to be clear, that  we should in all things give thanks to God, particularly when we are given great gifts, and only one man gave thanks  to God for this great boon that he was given, this healing from his leprosy.




 “And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:  And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. “ [2]


Leprosy was an affliction  that represented uncleanness. A leper was disenfranchised from his community. He could not enter into the temple, and he could not even come near a Jew, much less touch one. Someone who came close to him or touched him would be considered unclean, until he fulfilled various ceremonies prescribed in the law. A leper was truly an exile among his own people.


These lepers were “afar off”. They were afar off because they had to stay away from the Jews, because of their uncleanness. They also were afar off because we cannot approach God, being full of sins. Leprosy is a metaphor for our sins.  A man who has  sins is certainly afar off  from God. When they lifted up their  voices to ask God to have mercy, this reminds us of the two blind men. In another place, it says: “two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.” [3] They were insistent, just as these lepers must have been insistent. Being afar off, they must have had to shout loudly and often, since with the bustle and press of the crowd, it would have been hard to make their voices known. They must have insistently had to cry out for mercy to God, far away from Him, in their sins.


At least  they knew they were fall away. So many of us don’t understand  how far away we truly are, and how much we need to call out to God, and ask forgiveness for our sins, like the publican [4], or like the blind men [5], or like these lepers.


“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” [6]


He is following Jewish law to the  letter here. He did not always do it this way. “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.  And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.” [7] There was a whole ritual  and ceremony that was necessary when a leper was cleansed. It is quite beautiful, and symbolic of Christ’s economy, and cleansing of us. I cannot really go into it, because I don’t know it very well, but St. Cyril of Jerusalem talks about it extensively.


Our Lord was following Jewish law so that He would not be judged before His time, but we can see from this other example that our Lord will touch the unclean and make it clean. He also shows from what we are reading today, that obedience can make a man clean. He just said to the lepers, before they were cleansed, ‘Go to the priests’. Now, why in the world would a man go to a priest, when he  is  still full of leprosy. This is akin to the man, who was born blind, even without eyes, to go to the pool of Siloam, and wash, still being blind. Because of obedience, these people were cleansed. Even the ones who were not thankful to the Lord  were cleansed, because, after all, they were obedient too, but they lost their reward, as we will see in a minute.


“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,  And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.” [8]


This man uses his head, or should I say, he uses his heart. He was ordered to go to the priest, and then he was cleansed on the way. He knew that the  Great High Priest had healed him, so he obeyed the command. He  went to Great High Priest and worshipped Him. This man understood. He had eyes to see, and ears to hear. He saw what a  great miracle had been worked, and he knew that only God would be able to do such a thing. This man was a thoughtful man. He considered things. These other nine, even upon seeing the example of one of their kindred,  were not thoughtful. It did not occur to they why they were cleansed, and Who they had just encountered. They had just seen the God-man, and been healed  by His mercy, and yet they did not really understand.


The law is about love and thankfulness. The law is about becoming like God.  The Jewish law is very  intricate, and you would be amazed how many things in the Jewish law we still follow to this day, but its  essence is the Christian law. that  essence is to become like God, to be enlightened, and, being enlightened by Him, to become like Him. Not in His essence, but in His actions. to be full of love  for every man, to be fire. This leper understood that he had just encountered fire, and he went back to it. These nine men, who had also been healed, did not understand, because they were not thinking with their hearts. They were not being enlightened.


The other Gospel says something that relates very much to what we are considering here. It says:


“Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” [9]


Be careful how you hear.  Everyone is hearing the same thing, but we are hearing it differently, because we are hearing it through the prism of our consciousness, and our passions, and our sins, and our agendas. To the pure, all things are pure. [10] The pure in heart will see God [11]. The impure will see Him, and yet not see Him, and hear Him, and yet not understand him. They may be healed by Him, and yet they will not really be completely healed by Him. The real healing of the leper we  are about to see. His healing from leprosy was only the beginning, just like the man who was born blind. [12] When he went to the pool of Siloam and came back, having been  given eyes to see,  he was enlightened to see the God-man, and to know Him, and REALLY healed at that point. [13] We can see this over and over again. Christ heals the man inside and out. We have seen only a partial  healing so far today. The leper still has a bit more medication to be given, and his healing will be completed.


“And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” [14]


A Samaritan  was a heretic, plain and simple. They worshipped false gods, and also the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, as the falsely understood Him, and rejected all of the sacred scripture, save the Pentateuch, the first five books. They were shunned by the Jews, as they should have been, because they were an unclean people, and yet, even among those people, there were ones with great souls, that God was able to touch, just like St. Photini, who was a Samaritan, the woman at the well. [15] The nine  Jews who did not return represent, in microcosm, the Jewish nation. Someone in that audience certainly understood what He was really referring to.  This healing, and many other actions of our Savior  was a harbinger of things to come, bringing the nations into communion with God. As for those who were first given the promise, so many of those would reject it, just like these 9 lepers who rejected God by  not giving Him thanks.


“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” [16]


We have heard  this so many times in the scriptures, “thy faith hath made thee whole.” Now, what was his faith? He was told to go to the priests.  We don’t know if he had a sure hope of being healed at that time. He might have been confused. We don’t know if his faith was in that action or not, but when he  was healed, he came to the God-man and worshipped him There was his faith! Faith is how we live. Faith  is how we act. Faith is when God enlightens us, and He fills us, and there is so much within  us that we cannot but act in ways that are pleasing to Him. A spring overflowing from our hearts! -- that’s what faith is. Faith is not only believing something. It is being so filled with God, that we act like God, in mercy in love, in compassion, and  that we recognize God, and we worship Him as Who He is. That is faith, and this leper, this former leper, had faith, because He saw the God-man, and he was touched by Him, and he reacted to Him!


What can  we learn from this short, little story, just a few lines? We can certainly  see that one should give thanks to God, but more fundamentally, the inner meaning is that this leper had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and saw the God-man, and ACTED upon what he learned and what he knew  Then, the God-man, truly healed him, and made him filled with knowledge, so  that he would grow to fruition.


It is the same principle for us. The church gives us so many wonderful gifts, so many incalculable  riches, and many times, we do not value them very much at all. We don’t understand what a great thing we have been given. On an intellectual level, perhaps we understand, but we don’t act with fervent faith because of them. The gifts we have been given are so tremendous that they should spur us on, and make us live in Christ.


Brothers and sisters, living in Christ is not only knowing those things that God has revealed to us in the books and the traditions of our church. Those are all  God inspired, and God breathed, but we must make these things to be the definition of who we are, not just what we know.  We should have such a mastery of God’s mercy in our life so that we would react in ways that are good and holy naturally. It was natural for this leper.


For us, just as for this  leper,  this comes though labor, through effort. The leper was sick for a long time, he had to endure much for a long time. So do we, unfortunately, mostly  because of our sins. So, let us endure, let us proceed, and let us try to capture God’s mercy in our hearts, and let it warm us and enlighten us.





Old Believer Sermon for the 29th  Sunday after Pentecost (unpublished)

 “Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke”, St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas


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[1] This homily was transcribed from one given On December 9th   1996 according to the church calendar (Dec 22 ns) , being the Twenty Ninth  Sunday after Pentecost, and commemoration of the conception of the Most Holy Theotokos.


There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, “spoken” style.


It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.


[2] Luke 17:14

[3] Matthew 9:27

[4] Luke 18:10-14, read on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, one of the preparatory sundays before Great Lent

[5] Matthew 9:27-30, and especially, Matthew 20:30-34

[6] Luke 17:15

[7] Matthew 8:2-4

[8] Luke 17:16

[9] Luke 8:18 (part of the reading for the Conception of the Holy Theotokos by St. Anna)

[10] Titus 1:15

[11] Matthew 5:8, sung at liturgy as part of the 3rd Antiphon  (the beatitudes)

[12] Cf. John 9:1-38, the Healing of the man born blind from his birth, read on the Sunday of the Blind Man, the 5th  Sunday after Pascha

[13] See especially  John 9:35-38

[14] Luke 17:17-18

[15] Cf. John 4:5-42, the story of the Samaritan woman, who became a great Saint, and equal to the Apostles, St. Photini. The Sunday of the Samaritan woman is the 4th Sunday after Pascha.

[16] Luke 17:19