On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted 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 went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-17
Sigmund Freud had a horrible cancer to his mouth, and in 1926, he also developed heart trouble and spent time in a sanatorium. He returned to Vienna with a yearning for morning drives, and for the first time, he said, he experienced the glories of springtime in Vienna. “What a pity,” he wrote, “that one has to grow old and ill before making this discovery.” Thanksgiving is a great time to stop and think. To reflect on the things God has done for us this past year.
Luke has given us a story from the life of Jesus that helps us think about the importance of being thankful for God’s goodness to me. And this story can help us to grow in our understanding of having a grateful spirit. With the story of the ten lepers, Luke emphasizes this rare gift of a thankful spirit. Luke is the only Gospel writer who tells this story. It is possible that Luke met the grateful leper years later and heard the story from this man’s very lips.
Notice Jesus’ final words: “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. And Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give God praise?'” Only one had taken the time to thank the person who had made his recovery possible.
Have you noticed how infrequent gratitude is expressed these days? It seems like people have just come to expect everything to be given to them.
A man writing at the post office desk was approached by an older fellow who had a postcard in his hand. The old man said, “Sir, could you please address this note for me?” The man gladly did so, and he agreed to write a short message on the postcard, and he even signed it for the man, too.
Finally, the man doing the writing said to the older man, “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”
The old fellow thought about it for a minute, and he said, “Yes, at the end could you just put, ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.'”
How often do you hear people express sincere gratitude? This Thanksgiving season tries this experiment. Keep track of the number of complaints you hear each day, and compare that with the number of times you hear people express sincere words of gratitude. And do me a favor and when you read this post record the results in the comment section.
In the account of the Ten Lepers, it is evident that only one was grateful and showed a heart of gratitude. I think it is appropriate to connect the attitude of gratitude to the writings of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12. Paul writes, in Romans,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:1-8
John Stott in his book on Romans points out that gratitude flows out from an appreciation of God’s grace. Stott says that “there is no greater incentive to holy living than a contemplation of the mercies of God.” So, our thankfulness and our attitude of gratitude flow out of our sense of the mercy God has showered on us. If you struggle with, bring grateful it is possible that you also struggle to receive God’s grace in your life. Maybe you feel you don’t deserve that kind of love and attention from the Father? It is possible there is some unforgiven sin in your past that still haunts you? Could it be that there are just too many broken relationships in your past that you can seem to keep and maintain any relationships? Whatever it is that is keeping you outside of God’s grace know this, you are forgiven. You have been forgiven not because of who you are but because of what Jesus Christ has done for you. It is possible those other nine lepers didn’t feel worthy to come back and give thanks. Their past sins may have haunted them also, but look at what they missed out on a chance to have all the pain of the past forgiven.
In the parable of the ten lepers when the one realizes how powerfully God’s grace and mercy has been showered on him, his response is, Jesus I can’t thank you enough. You stooped down and showed me a lowly poor miserable sinner, amazing and all-encompassing grace. Dear Savior, you took time out of your day to reach down and heal me and not only physically but spiritually. When others turn, and run the other way, you stopped and embraced me. Lord, when I think of what you have given me back, all I can do is to you my gratitude and love.
That is our response as well. When we stop this Thanksgiving and reflect on what God through Jesus Christ has given us back our spiritual response is gratitude. Notice I said our spiritual response because I believe our natural response is to take all of this for granted. To assume that somehow we deserve God’s mercy and grace when we deserve wrath and punishment. But our spiritual response understands exactly what we have been given back. Spiritually we know that we are poor miserable sinners in need of God’s grace. Spiritually we realize that God did not need to waste any of his precious time with us.
Spiritually we understand that like the leper we stand before a holy and righteous God covered with the sores and the scabs of our sins. But instead of turning away Jesus comes to us grabs hold of us and tells us that he will take that uncleanness away and make us whole again. He will allow us through his death and resurrection back into fellowship with him and the Father. We give thanks to God for his mercy shown to us through his Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.