And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (Luke 17:17).
When the Lord asks a question, you can rest assured that it is not because He needs information that He presently lacks. It is not as though He had forgotten how many lepers He had healed. Nor is it the case that He did not know where they were. Even before these men requested the Lord’s help, He already knew their hearts (John 2:24,25; Acts 1:24). All things are open and naked before they eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Heb. 4:13). When the Lord asks a question it is often to reveal to us something about ourselves.
When the Lord God called for man in the garden in the cool of the day, it was not because He did not know where Adam and Eve were (Gen. 3:9). Nor was it the case that He did not know why they were hiding (Gen. 3:10-12). When the Lord asked Cain about his brother, it was not that God did not know that Cain had already slain him (Gen. 4:10). The Lord was not ignorant of the motives of those building the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). In these and many other questions the Lord did not need the information for Himself, but it was for our benefit. Similarly, when the Lord asked “Where are the nine?” He was asking us to see something about ourselves.
These ten men had obviously heard about the Lord. They called His name specifically–“Jesus” (Luke 17:13). They referred to Him as “Master.” They apparently had heard of His power to heal the sick. They knew of His compassion on those in need. And though they were required by law to live away from the people and stand at least a hundred paces away, and though they were required by law to announce their presence so that others may avoid them (Lev. 13:45,46), they cried out, as best they could with their tortured throat and lungs, for mercy, a request Jesus willingly answered.
Jesus did not touch them as he had touched other lepers on other occasions (Matt. 8:1-4), He merely commanded them to go and show themselves unto the priests (as required by the Law – Lev. 13:2; Lev. 14:2), and this, even before there were any signs of healing in their disfigured bodies. They manifested great faith for the Text tells us that they went, just as Jesus commanded them, and, as they were going, only then were they cleansed (17:14). Faith is always demonstrated by our works (James 2:14-26).
We are not told what nine of the men proceeded to do as they were made clean during their journey to the priests, but the tenth, 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” (Luke 17:15,16). This man knew from whence his healing came. He knew that God was to be glorified and so he fell on his face at the feet of Jesus–a posture of worship–and gave Him thanks. He was grateful. He was thankful.
While those nine men initially exhibited commendable faith in their obedience to the command of Jesus, they lacked a very essential element in their response–gratitude, or thanksgiving. Such a disposition, if unchecked, ultimately leads to all the vile things which God condemns to destruction (Rom. 1:21ff). When men in general become unthankful, it usually indicates that times are becoming perilous (II Tim. 3:1-7). Ingrates rank down there with those that are disobedient to parents and those who are unholy. They are not far behind those who love only themselves. Jesus’ question, “Where are the nine?” reveals to us just this about ourselves.
We ought always to be willing to enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). In everything we should give thanks (I Thess. 5:18), replacing all filthiness, foolish talking and jesting with the giving of thanks (Eph. 5:4). Not only in everything but continually we should offer the sacrifice of praise, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15). In the daily giving of thanks to God, we perform our vows (Psalm 61:8) and it is good in the sight of God our Saviour (I Tim. 2:1-3). Whatever we do, we ought to give thanks to God and the Father by Him (Col. 3:17).
What would we have done had we been healed as the Lord healed them? Of which group would we be a part? Does gratitude fill our heart for all the blessings we daily receive (Psalm 68:19)? Do we continually offer unto God our deepest and sincerest gratitude for His kindnesses and thankfulness for His mercies? Those who give thanks are to be commended for their faith. In effect, they have returned to the Master to fall on their face at His feet and give God thanks.
But where are the nine?
Eric L. Padgett