(By Pastor Tim Redfield)
Luke 17:11-19 – Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
The account of Jesus healing the 10 Lepers is a familiar account. Most people could probably summarize what happened in a few sentences. 10 Lepers asked Jesus for help with their terrible disease. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. While they were on the way to the priests, they were healed. Only one of the healed lepers came back to thank Jesus. Because this is such a familiar account, we might be tempted to overlook the importance of this event. We can compare ourselves to those lepers. There are times that we act like the ungrateful lepers and there are other times that we live like the thankful Samaritan.
In this account, we see both improper and proper attitudes regarding thankfulness. It is a good thing that our nation sets aside a day every year to give thanks. But we have to ask, how many people actually use this holiday to give thanks in the proper way? Does the Thanksgiving Holiday simply become a reason to eat good food and watch football games? Is it just a time to have fun with family and then to get ready to go to the stores in the middle of the night to get good sale prices? I am not saying that I don’t enjoy these things but do we always put things in the proper perspective?
In the account of the healing of the 10 lepers we see ways that the Second Commandment was obeyed and we see ways that it was broken. First, all 10 lepers came to Jesus and made a request. They prayed, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:13). With that bold prayer, they were doing what God requests in the Psalms. Psalm 50:15 says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me.” When these men first encountered Jesus, they gave him the honor that was due him by calling on him for deliverance in their time of trouble.
Jesus didn’t perform a miracle right away. He told them to go to the priests and while they were on their way they were healed. As we see the reaction, we would like to think that we would have reacted like the Samaritan leper who came back to thank Jesus. It is astonishing that he was the only one to return. All 10 were given the same generous gift. How could those nine have forgotten to thank Jesus? Jesus had taken care of their sickness and they were so selfish that they didn’t even think to return and thank him for his mercy.
Before we are too harsh toward the nine lepers, let’s think about the ways God has provided for us. Our God has given us many things. God provides us with everything that we need. He gives us our food, shelter, and clothing. Many families are going to enjoy a wonderful feast for Thanksgiving. Even those people who don’t have a huge Turkey dinner are still going to have a meal. God gives us our families. He gives us fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. Many people will enjoy the company of family over the holiday weekend.
God gives us many things for our enjoyment. He gives us rest and relaxation so that we can be rejuvenated before we get back to work. God also graciously watches over us every day. He sends angels to protect us from harm. He delivers us from all kinds of trouble. He looks out for our health. If he wanted to, God could still perform miracles to heal us. However, we usually see him working through doctors and medicine. God graciously provides us with many things.
We certainly have much for which we can give thanks. And yet, do we truly display how grateful we are for all these blessings? Do we come before God and thank him for every single thing that he has done for us? Do we always give him the credit for what he has done? There are times that we are too willing to give ourselves the credit for our possessions, our homes, and even the food on our table. When we have wealth, it is easy to forget that everything we have is really a gift from God.
We sometimes act just like those 9 lepers. We come to Jesus with all kinds of requests for him to fix our problems. He answers our prayers and then we don’t give him the thanks that he deserves. The truly incredible thing is that God continues to bless us even though we do not deserve it. By nature we are entirely sinful and yet we have all that we need in this life. There are plenty of times that we are ungrateful for what our God does for us and yet he continues to bless us. Our God is truly a gracious God.
It is truly incredible that we have a God who gives us so many good things. Yes there are times that we commit the sin of ingratitude. But God has worked faith in us. As a fruit of faith, we thank him for salvation.
Look at the joyful and thankful attitude of the Samaritan. Verses 15 and 16 say this, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” This Samaritan had the proper Christian attitude. He praised God for what had happened. He bowed down before Jesus and thanked him for the gracious healing. He knew that he did not deserve this great mercy. He appreciated the love that Jesus had shown to him through this miracle. This is how we react through a heart of faith to the great blessings that God shows us.
Jesus speaks about the faith of this man. Jesus said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). At first when we read this it seems like Jesus is saying that this man was healed because of his faith. However, if that was the case, then the 9 ungrateful men would not have been healed. In this sentence Jesus isn’t talking about the man’s physical health. Jesus is talking about his eternal salvation. The phrase “your faith has made you well” could better be translated “your faith has saved you.” The verb is the same word that is used when the Bible talks about the fact that Jesus has saved us from our sins. Jesus is assuring the Samaritan man that his sins have been taken away and that he has eternal life through faith in Jesus.
The Samaritan man came back to thank Jesus as a fruit of faith. He already trusted in Jesus as his Savior and he made his request for healing out of a heart of faith. Everything that he did was motivated from a heart of faith. Jesus is the motivation behind everything that we do. He gives us the talents and abilities to work at our jobs, to take care of our homes, and to prepare wonderful Thanksgiving meals. Even as we relax with family it is a good opportunity to look at all the ways that God has blessed us. Our life of thanksgiving means that we are constantly keeping Christ at the center of every activity.
We praise and thank him for the doctors and medicine that he has given us. We praise and thank him for the incredible amounts of food that he provides for us in our country. We fall before him and thank him over and over for the grace of forgiveness. We certainly have not deserved his mercy and yet he graciously called us to faith and he graciously preserves us in our faith.