Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 17:11-19
Posted by Dim Bulb on September 24, 2016
Luk 17:11 And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
And it came to pass as He was going up to Jerusalem from the borders of Cæsarea Philippi or Paneas, as is clear from S. Matt 17:22, to Jerusalem; to the feast of tabernacles, as appears from S. John 7:2. He went through the midst of Samaria and Galilee; for this was the direct road for one journeying from Cæsarea to Jerusalem. Mention is made of Samaria to suggest a reason why, among the ten lepers that were healed by Christ, one was a Samaritan; namely, that as Christ was going through Samaria, although He had been inhospitably received by the Samaritans, nay, shut out from one of their towns, Lk 9:53, He yet wished to do good to a Samaritan, that He might return kindness for ill-treatment. See the chronological order of events which I have prefixed to this commentary.
Luk 17:12 And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off.
And as He entered into a certain town. Lepers, as being unclean, were not able to enter cities, towns and villages, lest they should communicate their leprosy to the inhabitants, as well as their legal defilement, which under the old law was communicated by contact with a leprous and unclean person; as in Num 5:2. Hence they met Christ before the village.
There were ten lepers, says Euthymius, whom their disease had united together; for otherwise the Jews hold no communication with the Samaritans, Jn 4:9. These ten leper’s seem to have agreed, as soon as they met Jesus, to demand to be healed with one voice. They made an attack upon the clemency of Jesus.
They stood afar off, as being unclean and out of communion with the clean, being banished lest they should affect them by their breath. In figure leprosy is concupiscence, heresy, and every kind of sin, as is shown in Lev 13:14 and Mt 8:2.
Luk 17:13 And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
And lifted up their voices. They cried out aloud, because they stood afar off. The voice was one and proceeded from all, “Jesus, Master,” have mercy on us, and free us from this heavy and incurable disease. Master here does not so much mean teacher as Lord, one who directs his servants and tells them his wishes. The Greek is ε̉πίστατα, that is Præfect—Præses; one whose right it is to rule and command: for they do not ask Christ to teach them, and give them precepts of virtue, but to command the leprosy and cause it to depart from them. So the Hebrew, Rabbi, means not only master but also Lord, and Mighty, and One of the first rank. Moreover, S. Luke everywhere calls Christ ε̉πίστατα, as is seen Lk 5:5, 8:24, 8:45, 9:33, 9:49; S. Matt. also, Mt 8:25, 17:4, and elsewhere, has κύζιε, that is Lord. So the Gauls, Germans, and Belgians call their masters Lords, Domini, mon maistre, mein meister.
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 he saw, he said. Theophylact says, “They stood afar off indeed in position, but they were near in speech, for ‘The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him,'” Ps 145:18.
Go, shew yourselves to the priests. That is, if you go to them and obey Me, you shall assuredly be healed of your leprosy by My power and providence.
And it came to pass, as they went. Christ commanded them to go to the priests, not that they might be healed by them, for this was impossible, but firstly, for the honour and deference due to the priest-hood; secondly, because the law commanded lepers, if they were healed, to show themselves to the priests, that by their means they might be brought back to the city and temple, and to the society of men. The priests, moreover, had their own signs by which they might know whether a man were a leper or not, as I have shown before. Thirdly, to prove the faith and obedience of the lepers, for they knew themselves to be lepers, and that they could not be healed by the priests, but only that their leprosy could be declared. Yet they went to them at the command of Christ, believing that they would thus be healed by Him before they came to the priests. For if they had not so believed they would assuredly not have gone to them. Fourthly, that Christ might make the priests witnesses of the miraculous healing done by Him, and that from this they might know that He was the Christ.
Allegorically: Christ wished to signify that mystical lepers, that is sinners in the New Law, ought to come to the priests that they may be healed by penance, and absolved from the leprosy of sin. “It is not,” says S. Chrysostom, “the duty of the priest, under the New Law, to prove the leprosy, as it was under the Old, but to cleanse and expiate it when proved.” Lib. iii. de Sacerdotio.
And as they went, they were cleansed. “In certain faith and blind obedience, not judging of the command,” says Euthymius. It is probable that immediately on their going they were healed, that they might know it to have been done by Jesus. Hence the Samaritan, perceiving what had happened, and that he was cured, returned to Jesus and gave thanks. Thus is God wont to reward prompt faith and obedience.
They were cleansed. From their leprosy, which among the Jews was the greatest of uncleannesses, both natural and legal; especially because it was contagious, and made those who came near, leprous and unclean.
Luk 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.
And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean. He left the road and went back to Jesus, the Author of his healing, magnifying God with a loud voice, who, through Jesus, had healed him.
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 before His feet. That by profound humiliation he might show his great reverence to Him, as in the Greek and Syriac. And this was a Samaritan: a Samaritan, and therefore an alien from and abhorrent to the Jews, a schismatic moreover, so that it was wonderful that he alone gave thanks so earnestly to Jesus, who was a Jew, when the other lepers, who were Jews by nation and religion, passed Him by and gave no thanks for so great a benefit.
Luk 17:17 And Jesus answering, said: Were not ten made clean? And where are the nine?
And Jesus answering said, Why do not the nine, equally with this Samaritan, return and acknowledge their cure, and give Me thanks? In truth the nine were rejoiced at their cure, and went to the priests, that they might be declared to be clean, and restored to the society of men, thinking wholly of themselves, and caring very little for the glory of Jesus.
Luk 17:18 There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger.
There is no one found to return. By confessing and declaring themselves cured by God through Christ of their leprosy, which was a great glory to God.
But this stranger. That is, except this Samaritan, who was a stranger to the nation and religion of the Jews. For the Samaritans were Babylonians, Assyrians and Medians, and were transferred by Shalmanezer to Samaria. 2 Kings17:24. The Syriac says, “Why were they separated, so that none gave glory to God except this one?” He represents the Gentiles, who were to believe in Christ, and give Him thanks, when the unbelieving Jews would hold Him in contempt. We thus see that strangers are often more grateful than natives, because strangers wonder at strange benefactors more, and pay them greater respect than natives, who, as familiar with their benefactors, think that benefits are their due from the right of country. Moreover, they were ashamed to humble themselves before their own countrymen, and to acknowledge the misery from which they had been delivered. Rightly therefore does Christ blame them; and He might with justice have deprived them of the benefit of the cure, and allowed them to fall back again into their leprosy. But He would not do this, because His mercy was so great that it extended even to the ungrateful. S. Bernard sharply rebukes the Wickedness of ingratitude, Serm. li. on Canticles. He says, “It is the enemy of our souls, the inanition of our merits, the dispenser of our virtues, the ruin of our benefactions. Ingratitude is a burning wind, drying up the Fountain of Holiness, the dew of mercy, the streams of grace.”
Luk 17:19 And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.
And He said to him, Arise, go thy way: for thy faith. Faith, by which you have believed that I am able to save you, nay that I will do so, if you obey Me, and go to the priests. For this faith has worked with your healing, even though I be the primary author. Hence very likely the prompting of God elicited from this leper some act of contrition by which he was justified; and that he then left the schism of the Samaritans, and joined the true religion of the Jews. In the end he became a disciple of Jesus, and received His baptism, and became a Christian and preached the power and miracle of Christ and converted many to Him.