He was a Samaritan- Luke 11:18
This short, simple sentence speaks volumes. The Samaritans were descendants of the nations brought in by the Assyrians to repopulate the territory of the northern Kingdom of Israel when Assyria conquered it and deported the Ten Tribes, as was their custom with any land they subjugated. Efforts by the Ezra the Priest-Scribe and Nehemiah, governor of the province, to ensure adherence to the Torah after the Return from Exile were met with stiff resistance. The divide between the “heretic half-breeds” (as one of my former pastors in college had called them) who were descendants of Jews who had remained in the land and pagans and the returned exiles eventually became a schism. The Jews continued to worship God in the Temple at Jerusalem, with the Samaritans setting up their own on Mount Gerizim.
Thus, the Samaritan leper would have likely not even understood the importance of Our LORD’s command, or even why he was supposed to show himself to a priest. Moreover, since he is the only one to return, its likely that he was the only Samaritan in the group of Ten Lepers. So he would have been doubly outcast, first as a leper than as a Samaritan. Did he have some inkling that once his fellow lepers were restored to ritual purity, they would no longer have fellowship with him?
This is interesting in light of another story involving a Samaritan: the parable of the Good Samaritan, also found exclusively in the Gospel according to St. Luke. Like Jesus (and later the Lepers) the priest and Levite are travelling to Jerusalem (though from Jericho rather than Galilee), most likely to perform service in the Temple. This would required them to remain ritually pure and touching a dead body would have rendered them tumah. Since the victim of the robbers had been left for dead, no doubt he appeared to be so, thus the two men pass by on the other side of the road. They are following the precepts of the Law. Yet a Samaritan, who is not bound by the Law, is able to offer mercy “and be neighbor.”
Gospel to the Outcasts
The Gospel according to St. Luke also exclusively includes such stories as the parable of the Prodigal Son, Our LORD healing the ear of Malchus after St. Peter cuts it off in the Garden of Gethsemane and the "Good Thief" St. Dismas. When one recalls that St. Luke was himself a Gentile and was writing for other Gentiles, details like this take on a profound meaning. How often have we let the rules, or “how it is supposed to be done” interfere and even block the salutary actions God’s grace in our lives, or that of others?