The Life of the Lord Jesus Christ

By Johann Peter Lange

Edited by Rev. Marcus Dods







the journey of Jesus through the borders between Galilee and Samaria to Perea

(Luk 17:11-19)

The Evangelist Luke introduces the narrative of Jesus healing ten lepers with the words: ‘And it came to pass, that as Jesus journeyed towards Jerusalem, He went through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.’

This notice some most recently have wished to treat as a confused statement in reference to the journey of Jesus,1 although Wetstein had already made its meaning perfectly clear.

According to Wetstein’s view, Jesus coming from the north (from Galilee) did not go straight through Samaria southwards, but when He came to the border between Samaria and Galilee, turned eastward, and, having Samaria on His right and Galilee on His left, went, very probably to Scythopolis where there was a bridge over the Jordan, and so came to Perea.2

The certainty of this view has been perplexed by the supposition (made with reference to Luk 10:38), that Jesus had just come from Bethany, on which account (it has been added) Samaria is named before Galilee. But the mention of Samaria before Galilee is very well explained by the consideration, that Jesus had just before already entered upon the country of Samaria, and had in reality now taken leave of Galilee. Next, objections have been made to Wetstein’s interpretation of the passage in question on grammatical grounds.3 But we have to consider that the passage does not speak of the midst of the land of Samaria and of the land of Galilee, but of the midst of Samaria and Galilee, i.e., of the border separating these two countries. We conclude, therefore, that Jesus was journeying between Galilee and Samaria, in the direction of Perea.

We have already become apprized of the circumstance which occasioned this change in His route.

On this journey, Jesus was approaching some town when He was met by ten lepers. In obedience to the prescription of the law, they timidly kept at a distance. They indeed had heard of Him, and were in hopes that He might bring them relief; but yet they did not dare to approach near to Him. All the more, however, did they strain their voices, which their disease had probably had the usual effect of rendering hoarse and rough, to call out to Him. Ten helpless men, calling out from a distance to their Deliverer passing by, with voice at once strained in its utterance and dull in its tones, gives us much the same impression as when a sinking vessel endeavours to make itself heard by a passing ship, by firing signals of distress, the sound of which is almost smothered by the storm.

The Lord heard their cry of distress, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us!’ He looked up; and as soon as He saw them, He called out to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priest!’

Hardly ever before had He spoken the word of succour so quickly and so grandly. In the import of His word was this: Ye are already healed; go and have your cleanness officially confirmed. With one single word spoken from a distance He healed all the ten.

No doubt the healing was connected with the strict condition, that the mighty word of power should be understood, embraced, and believed by them, and that they should immediately follow out the direction which had been given them. They really did believe. In fact, it was made easy to them by the miraculous power of Jesus’ word. It seemed to fasten upon them, like some irresistible word of command uttered by a commander-in-chief: they turned round like one man and moved away. The strong sympathy of misery and of faith in which they stood to one another, became the psychical medium by which the word of Christ wrought their cure. Soon they were able to observe that the healing had set in.

And, not long after, one of those that were healed was seen to turn back. Whilst yet afar off he was heard, with loud voice, rejoicing and praising God. He came up with haste, threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him. The Evangelist adds, ‘and he was a Samaritan.’ But Jesus spoke: ‘Were not ten of them cleansed? But where are the nine? Have not any been found to turn back to give God the glory but only this alien?’ It was a conspicuous example, showing that true piety and the sentiment of thankfulness—the rarest of all the virtues—are not confined to the community of outward orthodoxy. Among ten healed there was found only one with whom the cure had brought out the full work of the Spirit, issuing in the new life and manifested by a blessed self-devotion to God and gratitude towards Jesus; and that one behoved to be just a Samaritan. In a few simple words Jesus brought out the circumstance into prominent view; but the interpretation He left to the heart of His disciples. Having done this, He dismissed the healed man with the blessing of the believing. ‘Arise, and go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole!’

We see here how misery can form a community out of individuals else wide separated from each other. The Galilean Jews had willingly admitted into their circle a Samaritan. With the return of happier days the union seemed to fall apart. The going to the priests, from which those nine did not again come back, had not for its object that solemn verdict of cleanness which was connected with certain prescribed sacrifices and therefore took place at the temple (Lev 14:9 seqq.): rather it related to that first official declaration of cleanness by which the restored were again admitted into the theocratic community (ibid. 1-8). This declaration was in all probability made by the nearest priests wherever the persons concerned were found. And as this transaction concerned more especially the civil aspect of a man’s life, it would seem conceivable that the Samaritan could very well have presented himself before the same priests as the Jews did; although, again, there is also no difficulty in supposing that he presented himself to a Samaritan priest in some place near his own Samaritan home. But that he actually accomplished the errand on which Jesus had sent him, this we surely are bound to believe; for the punctual fulfilment of the prescription was an important ingredient in the fidelity of that faith of his which was the condition of his restoration; and, further, he could not have regarded himself as one confessedly restored, he could not exult in the full assurance of joy, as long as his cleanness lacked its official certification.4 It is not stated that the remaining nine were all Galilean Jews; yet the tone of the narrative makes it probable that they were. At any rate, the most part were surely of that description. This circumstance gives the incident a very solemn character: it throws a very unfavourable light not only upon these nine who were healed, but also upon the associations to which they belonged, and upon the priests before whom they presented themselves. No note of acknowledgment or joyful thankfulness came from any of those circles in which the wonderful healing of so great a number of men at once could not, however, fail to be seen and much talked of.5 The cry of their distress Jesus had at once responded to with His voice of deliverance; but no echo of thanks responds to His word of mercy: they receive the help with dead silence, and go their way. This is a characteristic feature marking a people which is weighed down under the oppression of hierarchical fanaticism: they are very willing to accept any help or benefaction coming from those lovers of God and of men who have been branded with the charge of heresy; but those thus branded they thank no more. It is as if all these benefits were falling into a deep, silent grave.

We may observe, that the mixture of these lepers, consisting in part of Samaritans and in part of Galileans, shows that Jesus was at this time in a border district between the two countries.





1) Strauss, ii. 201 (Bruno Bauer, Kritik, 3, 35.)

2) Comp. Kuinöl, Comment, in loc. ; Schleiermacher, Lukas, p. 214.

3) [Krebs (Observ. in N. T. e Josepho, p. 129) says, ʻadjectæ voces διὰ μέσου indicant, ea verba necessario esse intelligenda ita, ut Christum per medios fines Samaria; et Galilcvce transiisse dicamus;ʼ but the reasons he adduces are unsatisfactory. Alford s remark may be considered conclusive: ʻFrom the circumstance that these lepers were a mixed company of Jews and Samaritans, διὰ μ. Σ. κ. Γ. probably means "between Samaria and Galilee," on the frontiers of both. So the Greek commentator in Cramer's Catena, ii. 129. Comp. the concluding sentence of this section. ED.]

4) This does not appear to have been sufficiently considered by Stier, who (iv. 266) set himself to combat the view that the Samaritan showed himself to the priests. Adopting this view, we do not at all need to suppose that Jesus stood waiting before the town for his return. He very probably halted in that town ; He at this time performed His journeying at a slow pace ; and the thankful creature would have no difficulty in finding where He was.

5) Stier adverts to the supposition broached in the Berlenburg Bible, that the priests had sought to keep back the restored lepers from returning to thank Jesus, and that this one only had withstood their opposition.