Nope, not for a million dollars, but…

Published 3:29 pm Saturday, September 9, 2023

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By R.A. Tea Mathews

Several years ago, Sonia Mehta wrote in the “Indian Express” about an American journalist who traveled to India to see Mother Teresa’s work. The man watched as the famous nun cared for a leper. But the sick man’s body was so disgusting with its vile, stinking sores that the journalist turned away. 

“I wouldn’t touch him for a million dollars,” he said.

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Mother Teresa looked up at the man and replied, “For a million dollars, I wouldn’t touch him either.”

What did she mean? Let me show you.

I’ve never seen a person with leprosy. You probably haven’t either, but the story demonstrates just how loathsome the disease is. Leprosy is treatable now but not gone—more than 100 cases appeared in the United States in 2020.

Scripture has an obscure story about Jesus and ten lepers. The passage isn’t well-known. In fact, it’s only nine verses and easy to miss.

Scripture tells us Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and was somewhere between the province of Galilee far to the north, where He lived, and the region south of it known as Samaria.  The latter was a vile place to the Jews. 

He enters a village, and this is when the ten cried out, asking for healing. 

What did Jesus say?

  • “I can only heal Jews.”
  • “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
  • “I declare you clean.”
  • None of the above.

Lock in your answer and I’ll show you the passage.

“While (Jesus) was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, ten men with leprosy who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’  When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed.” Luke 17: 11-14

The correct answer is No. 2, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”

The ten left, were cleansed as they went, and then what happened? 

  1. One returned and fell at Jesus’ feet.
  2. One returned and glorified God.
  3. A Samaritan returned, who shouted with a loud voice.
  4. All of the above.

Lock in your answer and I’ll show you the passage.

“Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at (Jesus) feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16

The correct answer is No. 4, “All of the above.”

The important part of this little story is the way it ends. Here’s the rest of the passage:

“Jesus responded and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’” Luke 17:17-19

Presumably, the other nine were Jews, because Jesus says only the foreigner returned. The Samaritan. 

Samaritans were disgusting to Jews. Why? 

Some 700 years earlier, when the Assyrians conquered the area, they deported a good number of Jews, and repopulated the region with the ungodly. These non-believers then intermarried with the Jews who had been left behind. Intermarriage alone was offensive to Jews, but the Samaritans had taken God and woven Him into their utterly despicable worship. 2 Kings 17:21-41

In the story of the ten lepers, when the Samaritan returned, glorifying God, Jesus said, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.”

But the man was already cleansed? What was Jesus saying?

Have you ever promised God that if He would just do one thing for you then you would change and be forever His? Do you think the blind men begged Jesus that day, willing to do anything if they could see?

And God gave each his sight. And nine went on their merry way. But one returned, falling at the feet of Jesus.

His heart had changed. He belonged to God.

And Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you.”

Not your eyesight—your faith has saved all of you. And just so, because when you belong to God everything changes. You always have a place to go. In good times and bad. Every day your walk is with Him. 

Mother Teresa’s life was also forever changed by Jesus. He said, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” Matthew 25:40

The journalist turned away. “I wouldn’t touch that man for a million dollars.” 

“For a million dollars, I wouldn’t touch him either,” Mother Teresa said. “I would do it for Jesus.”

Every day, meditate on what Jesus did for you. If you don’t understand, and even old pastors sometimes don’t, contact me. I’ll send you my Bible study on the Crucifixion.

Whatever God has called you to do, find your strength in Him.

The Rev. Mathews, B.A., M.Div., J.D., is a faith columnist, seminary graduate, and the author of the suspense-filled mystery, Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. Contact her at

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