Where are the Nine? 

11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:11-19).

We first worshipped together as a congregation in July 4, 1999. Today is our 9th Anniversary. The number nine, unlike the numbers seven, eight or ten, does not have any important biblical significance. In fact, the Greek word for nine (ejnneva; ennea) appears only once in the New Testament in Luke 17. Providentially, however, the passage in which the word occurs is useful for our meditation on this occasion.

The Lord Jesus was passing through the midst of Samaria and Galilee, when He met ten lepers. One of them was a Samaritan, whereas most if not all the others were Jews. They had apparently banded together because of their common plight. When they saw the Lord, they lifted up their voice and almost in unison besought Him to heal them of their leprosy. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cried. The Lord had compassion and acceded to their entreaty. Without another word, He sent them off to show themselves unto the priests that they were healed of their leprosy, and that they might offer a sacrifice as the Law required, in order that they might be ceremonially cleansed (Lev 14:2ff). It was at the same time a test of obedience.

The ten lepers hastened off as instructed, and as they went, one by one they began to realise that they had been healed. We can imagine how they rejoiced and celebrated with one another as they began to examine their hands and arms. What a joy! Did they continue on to look for the priests, or did they forget the Lord’s instructions and disbanded and started for home as soon as happiness overtook their heart? We are not sure. But what we know is that one out of the ten decided to turn back to look for the Lord. As soon as he found the Lord, he fell on his face and gave thanks to the Lord. He was a Samaritan.

The Lord was very pleased with this man. But at the same time, a sense of poignancy arose in His heart.  Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger,” He asked. Then He said to the man: “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

What can we learn from this event? What shall we remind ourselves of from this passage on this, the 9th anniversary of PCC? Let me suggest three lessons.


First of all, let us remind ourselves of the importance of pursuing holiness.

1. Pursuit of Holiness

The ten lepers were suffering from a disease of the skin. But it was no ordinary disease. It was a disease with which the Scripture assigns much symbolic significance because of the many parallels that may be derived between leprosy and sin, and lepers and sinners. The prophet Isaiah in speaking about the sin of the church under-age in the years subsequent to King Uzziah, likened the nation to a leper:

4 Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.   5 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  6 From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:4-6).

How do we compare as a congregation of the Lord? I trust we have not degenerated to such an extent in the nine years that the Lord has given us. However, we are not unaware of the devices of the wicked one (1 Pet 5:8) and the warnings that the Word of God has given us (Acts 20:28; etc).

Shall we not take heed lest we fall (1Cor 10:12)? Shall we be complacent when every now and then we see symptoms of possible leprosy? Yes, it may be a small bright spot (Lev 13:2) that may appear to be no big deal to most of us whose hearts have been made callous by constant exposure to sin, but do not all full-scale leprous outbreaks begin like that?

Shall we not, therefore, beloved brethren, take heed to cry out unto our Lord in regard to holiness individually and corporately. The ten lepers knew their perilous condition; and they knew they could not help themselves. We know the danger we are in; and we know we cannot help ourselves unless the Lord helps us. Shall we not, therefore, on this our anniversary not be too overtaken by what we have accomplished as a church, or how warm our fellowship has been, but rather reflect on whether we have sought holiness as we ought to have.

The apostle Peter was writing to the church when he says:

13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:13-19)

If holiness is not a concern for us, we have failed as a church. If there is no reflection on whether we have grown in holiness in the past year, our anniversary would have been a wasted opportunity. Have you been holy as the Lord is holy, beloved brothers and sisters and children? Have you prayed for the church that sin is kept in check and disciplined maintained that we may be said to be a holy branch of the Church of Christ?

But secondly, let us remind ourselves of the importance of selfless service.

2. Selfless Service

Ten lepers came to the Lord. Did the Lord know that nine of them would be ungrateful? We are not told if it was revealed to Him, or as Calvin would puts it—whether His divine nature was in repose at the time. But what we know is that the Lord did not at all hesitate to heal them. He gained nothing through His service. He gave them no condition except requiring them to present themselves to the priests. He received a word of thanks, but had to contend with nine who did not care.

Shall we not learn the example of the Lord? Shall we not learn to serve one another without expecting to gain anything in return? The apostle John says: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn 3:16).

We thank God that over the past nine years, we have all been beneficiaries of the selfless service of many of our brethren. These have served, often in the background, without receiving a word of thanks from the rest of us. Shall we not pause a while on this ninth anniversary to thank God for them.

But shall we not also resolve to imitate the Lord and our brethren to lay down our lives for each other. Many are already doing so. They have volunteered to cook, to print our bulletins and notes, to proof-read, to interpret, to translate, to man the PA, to arrange the chairs and tables, to run the finance, to stand in for the catechism classes, to precent, to drive the old folks, to wash pots and pans, to clear rubbish, to lock up, to prepare the Lord’s Table, etc, etc. Almost every member seems to be doing something. But there is more to be done, and more could be done. Shall we not seek to serve and resolve to do selflessly even if we receive not the praises and thanks of man? Shall we not imitate the Lord?

But finally, let us remind ourselves of the importance of gratitude.

3. Exercise of Gratitude

Gratitude is a biblical virtue and a mark of genuine faith. Although our Lord did not say it explicitly, it is clear that our Lord was pleased with the Samaritan that he had demonstrated gratitude; while at the same time He was grieved at the ingratitude of the nine Jews. Indeed, Calvin is probably right that by telling the Samaritan that his faith had made him whole, the Lord is suggesting the “ungrateful forgetfulness” of the nine demonstrates that they “were not regenerated by the spirit of adoption.” Their ‘faith’ by which they obeyed the Lord was “a feeling of piety” or “a temporary faith… urged by strong necessity” which disappeared as soon as they obtained their wishes from the Lord.

Cicero, the pagan philosopher whom Calvin alluded to numerous times in his works, once said: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” But true gratitude does not grow out of fallen nature. Gratitude is a heartfelt, natural, or should we say, spiritual, response of the regenerate heart. Sadly, the old man, often rears his ugly head so that we forget the good that the Lord has showered upon us directly in our salvation or indirectly through those whom the Lord has appointed as instruments of our blessing.

For this reason, it is necessary for us to be reminded to be thankful. The apostle Paul enjoins: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful… 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3:15-17).

Nine years have gone by. Nine years is quite a long time. Many things have happened, and many have come and gone in these nine years. But what shall we call to mind when we think about the nine years that have gone by? Shall we not adopt the attitude of the Samaritan by recalling the things that stir our hearts to gratitude? Shall we not on this ninth anniversary take the opportunity to be thankful to the Lord for us individually and corporately? Indeed, shall we not take the opportunity to say a word of thanks to those who have been a blessing to us in the church, be they our elders or deacons or fellow members in the church? Oh what joy this 9th anniversary will be, if each of us consciously seeks to be like the Samaritan rather than the nine ungrateful Jews!


Church anniversaries can be joyous events. But all too often, they degenerate into a time of carnal celebration and an exercise of self-congratulation. Shall we not make a difference, brothers and sisters and children? Shall we not make this a time of joyous thanksgiving and mutual exchange of words of gratitude, as well as a time of solemn resolutions? Shall we not resolve to pursue after holiness and righteousness more zealously in the year ahead? Shall we not also seek to imitate our Lord more by laying down our lives more lovingly and cheerfully for our brethren in this family that the Lord has planted us in. Amen.

—JJ Lim