When Jesus heals ten lepers, only one, a foreigner, returns to give thanks in a loud voice, falling at Jesus’ feet. Jesus says to him, “arise, go your way, your faith has made you well.”
A long time ago, someone explained to me that this meant that while all were healed of the disease of leprosy, only the one who returned to give thanks was restored completely. That is, the body of the one who returned to give thanks was completely restored so that the scars of the disease were also erased. I have not thought much about this interpretation, until today.
Two things bother me about this interpretation. First it bothers me that this interpretation of Jesus’ actions suggests that Jesus grants partial physical healing to the nine only to give complete physical healing to the one who “does the right thing.” It seems a rather shamanistic interpretation, as if physical healing were an evidence of right behaviour, of God’s blessing in exchange for correct worship. Such an interpretation does not seem to mesh with the teachings of Jesus who says that the God whose behaviour we should imitate is the God who causes the sun to shine on the good and on the evil, and causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. I suggest that when Jesus says that the former leper’s faith has made him “well” or “whole,” Jesus is not referring to a more complete state of physical healing, which leads me to the second thing that bothers me.
The phrase, “your faith has made you well,” I think, is not a reference to some correct internal act of believing that then results in an outward manifestation of physical blessing. I think the physical healings and blessings in the Gospels were a matter of Jesus’ manifesting His divinity and were manifested in all who drew near, or were brought near. Often the Gospels say of the crowds that Jesus healed them all. Often Jesus heals without reference to faith, or without reference to the faith of the person healed.
What then is the “wellness” that comes to the one who has faith? As faith always has to do with what is not seen, at least according to St. Paul (where is the faith if you already see?), I suggest that the wellness that comes with faith also has to do with that which is unseen. The wellness of faith has to do with the healing of or return to the normal, noetically discerned spiritual life of the person. That is, the one who has faith has already begun to be healed so that he or she can perceive the reality that is not perceptible to the senses.
In the story of the ten lepers, the physical healing reveals the divinity of Christ which somehow awakens the faith of the one (now former leper) so that he discerns (in his heart, or nous) that the appropriate response to God for His blessings (freely bestowed on the thankful and the unthankful) is to fall down at the feet of Jesus, glorifying God and giving Jesus thanks. And in this action of falling down at the feet of Jesus and glorifying God, the former leper returns to the normal healthy condition of a human being: a creature in the image of God worshiping God.
We don’t worship God for what we can get out of it: God freely bestows His blessings on all. Worship is the natural response to awakened faith.