Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 17:11-19
Posted by Dim Bulb on August 14, 2013
Luk 17:11 And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
We cannot determine for certain, to which journey of our Lord from Galilee to Jerusalem reference is made here. Nor, indeed, does the context here afford us any clue for ascertaining it. It may, possibly, refer to the journey mentioned (chap. 9:42, &c.), on which He had been treated so inhospitably by the Samaritans, towards whom He returned good for evil, by curing one of their countrymen of a loathsome leprosy. For, of the ten cured, one was a Samaritan. And His having passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, is mentioned in allusion to the cure of the Samaritan leper with the nine others. This was His direct route to Jerusalem, through the confines of both provinces, by the road which passes between both.
Luk 17:12 And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off.
“As He entered,” or was about to enter, “a certain village,” which was on the confines of both provinces. The cure here referred to took place outside the village, from which, by the law of Moses, those infected with leprosy were excluded. Hence, “they stood afar off,” as they were not allowed to come too near, for sanitary and mystical reasons, contemplated by the law of Moses. At what distance, lepers were obliged to keep aloof cannot be ascertained.
Luk 17:13 And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
They lifted up their voice.” As they could not approach too near (Leviticus 13:46), in order to be heard by Him, and also to show the earnestness and fervour of their supplication. They also joined in one common cry, in the hope that their joint cry for relief would be more efficacious. Jews and Samaritans, between whom there was no communication (John 4:9), cast aside their mutual religious differences, and became united from a sense of their common misery, and a strong desire of a cure, of which all were equally in quest.
“Jesus, Master.” The Greek word for “Master”—επιστατα—which is peculiar to St. Luke, and applied by him in several parts of his Gospel to our Lord only, (5:5; 8:24–45; 9:33–49), signifies, not merely a teacher, but a teacher vested with authority. It conveys, You can command all things, command this disease to depart from us. Comparing Luke 9:49, with Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5, it signifies the same as κυριε, Lord, and Rabbi, Master. In Luke (9:49), it corresponds with διδασκαλε, Master, Teacher, in Mark 9:38.
“Have mercy on us.” They don’t specify in what they hoped to have Him exercise mercy. But, firmly believing in His power, they confided in His beneficent will to restore them to health, and remove their bodily leprosy.
Luk 17:14 Whom when he saw, he said: Go, shew yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean.
“Whom when He saw,” not only with the eyes of the body, but also with the eyes of mercy, “He said: Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (See Matthew 8:4, &c.) Our Lord sends them to the priests, before He actually cures them, as He cured the leper (Matthew 8), in order to try their faith and test their obedience, and also make it clear, to whom they were indebted for their cure. Understanding our Lord’s command to contain an assurance that He would cure them—the priests had no power to cure, their part simply was to attest the cure and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving as prescribed in the law of Moses, and restore them to society (Leviticus 13:14)—they obeyed at once, and were miraculously cared on their way. It is said by some, that, as our Lord could not recognise the Samaritan priests—priests of a false faith and worship—He meant that even the Samaritan would go to Jewish priests. Others say, that the “priests” meant, those belonging to each one’s religion. The Jewish priests, for the Jews; the Samaritan priest, for the Samaritan leper. Without raising any question as to our Lord’s sending the Samaritan to his own priest, as a minister of a schismatical worship, the advocates of this latter opinion might say, he was sent merely for a certificate of his restoration to health, which, likely, the Jewish priests would not give; and even, if given by them, it would not avail him. This did not necessarily entail a journey to Jerusalem on the part of the Jewish lepers. The priests of any locality could give the required attestation of the cure; and thus enable a cured leper to return to his house and kindred.
Luk 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.
Whether he returned, after having shown himself to the priest, as our Lord commanded, and received the required certificate of his cure, or before it, when on his way he saw himself cured, is not quite clear from the context, although the words, “when he saw that he was made clean, he went back,” would seem in favour of the opinion that he returned the moment he saw himself cured. Having gone some distance, and probably out of our Redeemer’s sight, they perceived their cure. Most likely, they were also cleansed from the leprosy of sin. Our Redeemer, it is thought, usually conferred the grace of justification on those on whom He wrought a bodily cure, inspiring them with sentiments of true contrition.
“With a loud voice,” showing the intensity of his grateful feelings.
“Glorifying God,” who displayed His power and goodness in his cure, through Christ.
Luk 17:16 And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks. And this was a Samaritan.
And fell down on his face,” in prostrate adoration, “at His feet.” Before, he kept aloof; now, seeing himself cured, he ventured to approach nearer, even to His very feet.
“And he was a Samaritan.” The Evangelist adds this, to contrast the gratitude of this stranger, who belonged to a people who were not so favoured as the Jews, with the ingratitude of the nine others who were Jews.
(For the history of the Samaritans, see Matthew 10:5.). Here is what Bishop MacEvilly wrote concerning the Samaritan’s in his comments on Matt 10:5:
In order to know who these Samaritans were, it is to be borne in mind, that after the ten tribes of Israel seceded from Juda and Benjamin, under Jeroboam, Amri (Omri), one of Jeroboam’s successors, built Samaria, which was to be the capital of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 16:24). Salmanasar (Shalmaneser), king of Assyria, carried the ten tribes captive into Assyria (2 Kings 17), and sent in their place, to colonize the country, people from Babylon and Cutha, &c. On the arrival of these latter, who carried with them their idolatrous worship, Samaria was infested with lions, which destroyed the country, and killed its inhabitants. This scourge was attributed to their neglect of the worship of the Deity of the land. Hence, in order to appease him, the king of Assyria had one of the captive priests sent back from Babylon, to instruct the new colonists in the ordinances and worship of the God of Israel.
After this, they united the worship of God with that of idols. (2 Kings 17) In this state did the Samaritans live under the kings of Assyria, having little or no intercourse with the Jews. When the Jews were permitted to rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem, the Samaritans offered to assist them in their undertaking (Ezra 4:2). The rejection of this offer by the Jews, sowed the seeds of the undying hostility which ever after existed between both peoples. The breach was rendered irreparable, when, after the return of the Jews from captivity, and the rebuilding of the temple, the Samaritans had a rival temple built on Mount Garazim (Gerizim), near Samaria, where victims were offered up, as at Jerusalem, and served as a place also of resort for some malcontent Jews. From this period, the Samaritans, forgetful of their Pagan origin, wished to be considered as true Israelites, who preserved in all its purity the observance of the law, with an unbroken succession of high priests, who now ministered on Mount Garazim, the seat of their religion. For a long period, before the time of our Redeemer, they gave up the worship of idols; otherwise, they could have no pretensions to be considered true Israelites, rivals of the Jews, in regard to the observance of the law, and the purity of Divine worship.
The temple of Garazim and city of Samaria were demolished by John Hyrcanus, 120 years before the time of our Redeemer. Lest the Apostles might suppose that the Samaritans, who held a sort of intermediate place between the Jews and Gentiles, were to be confounded with the Jews, our Lord specially mentions them in connection with the Gentiles. His object in prohibiting the Apostles from preaching to the Gentiles on this first mission was, to take away all excuse from the Jews, who might justify their incredulity and resistance on the ground, that, according to the ordination of God, and His promises through the predictions of the Prophets, the message of salvation was first promised to the Jews, “the children of the kingdom,” “the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” to whom these promises were specially made (Acts 13:46). To the Jews the Gospel was given, according to promise and mercy; to the Gentiles, out of pure mercy, without a promise. (Rom. 15)
Luk 17:17 And Jesus answering, said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine?
Luk 17:18 There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger.
This interrogatory form is a more forcible way of enunciating the fact of their cure.
Our Lord would seem to reproach the nine others for their want of gratitude in not imitating the example of the Samaritan, who returned and gave thanks to his benefactor. “To give glory to God,” by openly proclaiming the exercise of His power and goodness in their cure through Christ. He does not say, “give glory to Me,” to convey, that the glory of every thing should be given to God alone, and that He sought His Father’s glory in all He did.
“But this stranger,” alien in religion and extraction. The circumstance of this man being a stranger to the Jewish religion, a member of a false and schismatical Church, between which and the Synagogue there was no communication, not even civil intercourse, only set forth, in a clearer light, the ingratitude of the Jews, God’s chosen people, on whom He bestowed so many and such signal favours; to whom the Son of God was sent to preach first, and by them ungratefully rejected.
“Where are the nine?” How applicable is not this question, in many instances, to Christians, who, after receiving wonderful cures of their bodily ailments and spiritual distempers from God, ungratefully forget all, and insult and outrage afresh the best of benefactors, relapsing into sin, like the swine wallowing in the mire, or the dog returning to his vomit; thus, crucifying again the Son of God, and making a mockery of Him.
Luk 17:19 And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.
“Arise,” from the posture in which he lay prostrate at His feet. “Go thy way?” Thou hast shown thy gratitude, in which the nine others were signally wanting.
“Thy faith,” whereby thou didst unhesitatingly believe in My power; and, confiding in My implied assurance of curing thee, on thy way to the priest, didst obey My mandate. “Hath made thee whole,” restored his bodily health, and most likely, cured him of the spiritual leprosy of sin, signified by the corporal leprosy from which he suffered. Our Lord, by ascribing the cure to faith, which concurred as a necessary disposition for effecting it, showed His great modesty, in not ascribing it to Himself, who accomplished it.
He, as usual, commends the great virtue of faith, as it was the foundation of the whole system of spiritual life, and of the religion He was about to establish. It was the virtue most needed to bring man back to God. For, as man first departed from God by pride of intellect, the affectation of knowledge like unto that of God; so, his first step in his return to God must be, by humbling that proud intellect, and rendering it captive to faith in embracing, on the sole authority of God, truths which it could not understand, since faith is the “argumentum non apparentium” (Heb. 11:1). (See 2 Cor. 10:4, 5.)