When we apply our minds to the appointed Gospel lesson, we would not be wrong to conclude that the issue is the matter of gratitude--the gratitude which the lepers owe to Jesus, the failure of most of them to show that gratitude, and the gratitude which we, being healed of "the leprosy of sin," truly owe to our Redeemer. But there seems to be something more.
We have only a few examples of Our Lord's healing of lepers. Matthew and Mark tell of a man whom Jesus healed. Both later mention His dining in the home of one Simon the Leper, presumably the same man. All three Synoptic Gospels mention the cleansing of lepers as a sign that the age of the Messiah had arrived. "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them." Quite remarkably, when Jesus sent His disciples forth, he specifically commissioned them to heal lepers!
But today's reading is the only instance in Luke of such a healing and is a passage unique to Luke. What the three Synoptic Gospels have in common, with truly different stories of lepers, is the command, Go, shew thyself (or yourselves) to the priests.
Always obedient to the Law of Moses, Jesus instructed these lepers to follow out the ceremony laid down in such cases. In the 13th and 14 chapters of Leviticus (surely the least read portion of the Torah), we find long and detailed ceremonies for those who had contracted this horrible disfiguring disease and those who were healed of it. The newly healed leper was obliged to present himself to the priest, who administered an examination to certify the healing. Then various sacrifices had to be offered to make atonement for sin.
When nine former lepers showed up in the Jerusalem temple, certainly the priests were surprised, for such healings were indeed rare. But what was a Samaritan to do? The Jerusalem priests would have nothing to do with him.
So in an amazing fit of spiritual insight (not revealed to him by flesh and blood), he returned to Jesus to give thanks. He took Jesus for his priest.
His gratitude is exemplary for us all. But the deeper issue in the passage is the acknowledgment of Jesus as the Great High Priest. Of the ten who were healed, only this Samaritan was privileged to hear Jesus' words, "Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole." A more literal rendition of the Greek is "thy faith hath saved thee." A disease has been miraculously overcome, but something far greater has taken place. The man has found Christ and in Christ he is cleansed and saved forever, body and soul. LKW