v 18. Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”
Some of you, I know, have visited the little island of Spinalonga, just off the coast of Crete. It was one of the last leper colonies in Europe, only closing down in 1957. The inhabitants lived in isolation because of a general dread of the disease. Walking its deserted and partly ruined remains evokes strange feelings of a bygone era and its attitude to leprosy. The ten lepers in this story probably lived in a similar small colony on the boundary of the Jewish state where it bordered Samaria. They were left there in isolation and did not even dare to get near Jesus as he approached. They were men at the end of their tether, with no hope of returning to society unless Jesus stepped in to heal them. They were utterly dependent and could do nothing other than trust Jesus.
All ten are healed – but only one finds it in his heart to praise God for his healing, and he was the outsider, a Samaritan. Thankfulness is a genuine element of the poverty of spirit that we are thinking about this week.
It is only as I am writing this section that it occurs to me that all three people we have looked at so far this week have been ‘outsiders’. The tax collector, the Roman officer and now a Samaritan suffering from leprosy would not have been regarded as proper, holy Jews. They knew they deserved nothing and yet received everything!