As Jesus passed between Samaria and Galilee on His way to Jerusalem, He approached an unnamed village. Outside that village, ten lepers were encamped in terrible squalor and shame. Evidently, nine of these lepers were Jews, and one was a Samaritan. The Jews of that day did not even touch Samaritans, let alone live with them, but the common distress of these ten had brought them together in a shared misery. Homeless outcasts, they were forced to live in an isolated camp outside the village.
Lepers were required by law to stay at least 200-300 feet away from others. When people walked by them, they had to cry out, "Unclean, unclean!" These men begged, scrounged, and ate food that others would not even look at. They probably lived out of the garbage dumps.
Scripture presents the leper as a type of sinner living in shame—debilitated and wasted by sin's terrible effects.
I do not know how these ten lepers ever heard about Jesus. Perhaps a vagabond leper had passed through and told them of the miraculous healings Jesus had performed for lepers in other towns or villages. In any case, they somehow knew Jesus would be passing by and they were waiting anxiously to see Him!
I have often wondered if, when they saw Jesus and the apostles coming down the road, they started waving their stump arms. Did they point to missing limbs? Did they wave their dirty rags of clothing? We do not know how they got His attention, but when Jesus came within earshot, they cried aloud, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
They were not asking for money or for heaven when they died. They were crying for mercy! It was as if they were pleading, "Jesus, how can You look upon such a pitiful sight and not have mercy?" I am sure Jesus did not wince or turn away for even a moment. He looked them right in the face and with great compassion said, "Go shew yourselves unto the priests" (Luke17:14).
I believe life, health and strength immediately flowed into all ten of these men. One after another, they looked at their hands, at each other's faces, and saw their scaly, ashen skin beginning to change. Healthy-looking flesh was being restored to their limbs, their faces. They were being healed!
Do you remember the hour Jesus had mercy on you, how clean and alive you felt? Did you shout because you felt His cleansing power? Did you feel new life in you? These men had to feel that life! You can be sure that some kind of thrill went through that group, and they let out shouts of joy!