Based on Luke 17:11, Jesus did not remain in Ephraim but headed northward and later set out for Jerusalem. When traveling to Jerusalem with his disciples, he went “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.” In his translation, J. B. Phillips interprets this to mean that “Jesus crossed the boundary between Samaria and Galilee.” A more likely meaning is that Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, traveled eastward along the border between Samaria and Galilee. A number of translations are explicit in referring to the border region. “Now it happened that on the way to Jerusalem he was traveling in the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.” (NJB) “Jesus went along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” (CEV) “In the course of his journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galiee.” (REB) “He was going through the area between Samaria and Galilee.” (NCV)
As he was about to enter a village along the way, ten lepers, standing in the distance, shouted, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” (Luke 17:12, 13)
The ten afflicted men may have stayed together for mutual help, for the ailment had rendered them ceremonially unclean and made it necessary for them to avoid contact with anyone who was not diseased. The Greek word for “leprosy” (lépra), besides the disfiguring Hansen’s disease, includes a variety of skin afflictions. Therefore, the precise nature of their disease cannot be established. As men who were ceremonially unclean according to the Mosaic law, they remained standing at a distance.
When he saw them, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. (Luke 17:14) His instructions upheld the Mosaic law, which commanded cured lepers to submit to a priestly examination and then to follow through on the prescribed procedure for cleansing. (See the Notes section regarding the specifics of the law.)
The ten men must have believed that they would be cured and departed. While on the way, they were healed. One of them, becoming aware that he had been cured, walked back to Jesus. With a loud voice, he glorified or praised God for what had occurred. He fell to his knees and prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done for him. The man happened to be a Samaritan. (Luke 17:14-16)
This prompted Jesus to say, “Were not the ten cleansed? But where are the other nine? Were none found [among them desirous] to return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17, 18) It must have been troubling for Jesus to see this lack of gratitude among his own people who should have been exemplary in praising his Father.
He then told the Samaritan who had bowed before him, with his face touching the ground, to rise and to continue on his way. Jesus added, “Your faith has made you well.” It was the man’s faith in Jesus that caused him to join the other nine lepers in pleading to be shown mercy. (Luke 17:19)
According to the law, the priest would examine the healed leper and determine whether the diseased condition no longer existed. This would be followed by a cleansing ceremony involving the use of two birds, cedarwood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop. One of the birds would be killed over an earthen vessel containing “living” water (fresh or spring water, not stagnant water from a cistern), allowing the blood to flow into the vessel. With the yarn, the living bird and the hyssop would be attached to the wood and dipped into the vessel. The water mingled with blood would be sprinkled seven times upon the cured leper. Thereafter the living bird would be released to fly away. (Leviticus 14:2-7)
The cured leper would wash his garments, shave off all his bodily hair, and bathe. Seven days later, he would again shave off all his bodily hair, wash his garments, and bathe. On the eighth day, he, depending on whether he could afford to do so, would offer two unblemished male lambs, one unblemished female lamb, three-tenths of an ephah (about six dry quarts) of choice flour mixed with olive oil, and one “log” (possibly about two-thirds of a pint) of olive oil. With the prescribed amount of olive oil, the priest would present one of the lambs as a guilt offering. He would then take some of the blood of the slaughtered lamb and put it on the cured leper’s right earlobe, thumb of the right hand, and big toe of the right foot. After sprinkling seven times before God with his right finger the olive oil he had poured into his left palm, the priest would apply some of the oil where he had put the blood—the right earlobe, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot. He would then put all the remaining olive oil on the head of the cured leper. Thereafter the priest would offer one of the lambs (probably the female lamb; compare Leviticus 4:32) as a sin offering and the other lamb as a burnt offering, accompanied by the grain offering. (Leviticus 14:8-20)
For one who could not afford all these offerings, two pigeons or two turtledoves could be substituted for one of the male lambs and the female lamb. The amount of choice flour would be reduced to one-tenth ephah (over two dry quarts). The procedure followed would remain the same. (Leviticus 14:21-31)