Ten lepers were cleansed (Lk 17:11-19). At some point all ten had to have known that they were cleansed of their disease but only one returned and fell at the feet of Jesus and only that one heard the words, “Stand up…” spoken by the Lord of Life. There is a difference between “knowledge of” and gratitude and the story of the one grateful leper demonstrates this for us. Further, the story verifies that there is a specific growth in the awareness and understanding of the human person that comes only through gratitude. Here it is important to remember that only the one who returned and thanked Jesus heard the words, “Stand up”.
We can live life with a “knowledge of” God and there is certainly a level of good in this. We can know God is in heaven and that we believe in Him but in this secure knowledge; God remains separate, God stays “up there”. Gratitude (different from “knowledge of”) allows no room for separation. Gratitude by its very nature implies an open heart, it implies a desire for relationship. Gratitude means falling at the feet of the other, heart open and vulnerable, and saying “thank you”. It is a healing thing to be able to honestly and sincerely say “thank you”. In his gratitude the one leper who returned did not only acknowledge his cleansing and he did not only demonstrate his desire for a continuing relationship with the Lord but through this return he also came to a deeper awareness of who he was (an opportunity unfortunately passed over by the other nine).
“Stand up” says Jesus to the one who returned. When God speaks to us and says “stand up” it means be freed from the burden of sin – all its weight and its lies and its false understandings. To “stand up” means not to be bowed down to the earth with our eyes averted from heaven but to stand erect, to return to the posture in which we were originally made by our Creator – feet on earth and eyes to heaven – in all of this coming to a deeper awareness of the truth of who we are.
Gratitude and relationship are what lead to this realization. This is the lesson for all disciples of the one leper who returned. “One of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” And to him alone, Jesus said, “Stand up.”