The Good Samaritan of Jesus’ parable in Luke 10 enjoys the fame and prestige of the honor attached to his name. Though in the minds of first-century Israelites, “good” and “Samaritan” were two words that couldn’t possibly belong in the same sentence, the Samaritan who helped the beaten and left-for-dead Jewish man lives on as a paragon of loving one’s neighbor.
But there’s another Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel who also deserves our praise. He’s the man in Luke 17:11-19 who, after being healed of leprosy with nine others, returned to Jesus and gave him thanks. The other nine, presumably Jews, went on their way after they were cleansed by the Word of Christ. But the Samaritan turned back, went to Jesus, fell at his feet, and thanked him for his deliverance from the dreaded disease. And Jesus said to him: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (v.19).
There can be no doubt that the other nine (now healthy) lepers felt some gratitude in their hearts towards Jesus for his healing. Just as there are many in the world today who may feel some thanksgiving in their hearts to God for all the gifts and blessings he gives them in this world. But this feeling of thanks isn’t the same as praise and worship. Only the Samaritan went back to Jesus to fall at this feet and thank him. The other nine continued on their way, distancing themselves from Christ, happy for the good he did but not grateful enough to worship and thank him.
Who had true faith? Only the Samaritan, because he alone was led by his gratitude back to Jesus, the Savior and Author of Life. And only the Samaritan was saved. When Jesus told him, “your faith has made you well” (v. 19), the Greek can also be translated as “your faith has saved you.” And that is the meaning, because all ten were made well. But only the Samaritan was saved, healed not just of leprosy but healed of his sin.
We are sometimes told to “count our blessings.” We can all do that, and each of us has many blessings to count and be grateful for. They are God’s gifts to us. But the greatest blessing is not a gift but the Giver. The Samaritan was blessed with healing; but he found a greater blessing in Jesus. His was true faith in Christ, the faith that brings forgiveness and eternal life.
His faith was a gratitude that drove him to the feet of Jesus, not – as in the case of the other nine – a vague feeling of thanks that he felt as he walked away from the Lord.
Go to Jesus, worship him, and thank him. Only by this faith are you saved.
Soli Deo Gloria!