Bible Question:

When the ten lepers were cleansed and were told to go see the priest, one came back and Jesus told him, “Your faith has made you whole. ” What is the difference in being cleansed and being made whole?

Bible Answer:

The account of the ten lepers is as follows:

While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men 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. 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 His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered 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.” (KJV) Luke 17:11-19

The passage tells us that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem when ten lepers found Him and asked for mercy. They wanted to be healed. Jesus told them to go and find a priest. Jesus’ command is significant because these leprous men would only go to a priest to be pronounced healed if they were free of this leprosy (Leviticus 14). The fact that they started walking to the priest reveals that they believed Jesus was going to heal them. They were not healed when they started walking. They were healed as they were going to the priest. We are told that they were “cleansed.” The Greek word that is translated as “cleansed” is katharizo. It simply means to “cleanse.” It was a term used to refer to a leper who was healed and no longer had the disease.

This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest . . . (NASB) Lev. 14:2

The same expression that is found in Leviticus 14:2 is used in Luke so that the reader would understand the lepers were healed from leprosy and were ready to meet the priest.

As soon as the tenth leper saw that he had been healed, he returned to Jesus to praise Him. The Greek word that is translated as “whole” or “well” comes from the Greek word sesoken. It means “to rescue, save, or heal.” That is, the man’s faith had resulted in his healing. Because he had believed Jesus, he had started walking to the priest.

Some believe the word “whole” refers to the man’s physical and spiritual healing because he believed. But the other nine believed too! They all believed. Jesus used the same word “cleansed” from the Old Testament to refer to healing from leprosy, and the word “whole” is a Greek word that should be understood in this context as “heal.” In short they refer to the same event. “Cleansed” is used in a technical sense. That is the difference between the two words.


The emphasis of the parable is not their cleansing or healing but that only one out of ten lepers thanked God for what He had done. How often do we thank God for what He does for us?

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