Peninsula Community Church
November 30, 2014
Why Be Thankful
Luke 17:11-19 – 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 up 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.”
As we look at this story, it is important to look at some of the key points found in the text. The first key point that we find is that the story occurred in between the two regions of Samaria and Galilee. The roads in this area were often packed with beggars, those who were sick, those with severe illnesses such blindness and debilitating physical issues, as well as robbers and thieves. In Jesus day, it was a popular road for travel so it made it a great place for those who were in need to sell their wares and beg for money.
The second key point of this story is that there were ten lepers. We do not know how long they had been lepers, but in Jesus’ day lepers were outcasts. They were forced into isolation or leper colonies by both society and the religious leaders. It was a common practice orchestrated by the religious leaders to pronounce a leper to be dead even though they still had life in them. In some ways this was understandable because little was known about the disease at that time. Those who contracted leprosy would see their muscles and nerves being effected which caused skin scaling and deterioration. The person with leprosy would often injure themselves to the degree that they would lose toes and fingers because they had little or no feeling in their extremities. Since the healing process was slowed down by the disease, they would often have open sores and lesions on their bodies.
It is noteworthy that the ten lepers recognized Jesus right away and began to call out for Him to have mercy on them. We only know the nationality of the one the leper but if the others were Jews it is interesting that the pain of their disease brought them together when their heritage and social standing separated them. You see the Samaritans and the Jews were not friendly toward each other. In fact, they despised one another with a better hatred.
The third key point is that Jesus sent them to the priests for confirmation of the healing. While they were outcasts, notice what Jesus did. It is kind of interesting. Jesus never laid his hands on them. He never prayed for them. He simply commanded them to go see the priests. Now, this may seem to be a strange command but in that day the priest was the only one who had the authority to make the pronouncement that a leper had been healed.
The fourth key point is that they were healed only as they obeyed Jesus to go to the priests. In their obedience, God healed them. It was not until they turned to go to the priest that they were healed. You see their actions spoke of their faith and as a result of their faith, they were cleansed. As we will see here a moment, while the outward sign of their leprosy was gone it appears that the inward man was untouched and unchanged.
The fifth key point of this passage is that of the ten lepers who were cleansed, only one returned to give Jesus thanks for what had occurred. We don’t know why this was so, but he was the only one. It is interesting to note as well that the one that returned was a Samaritan. According to the societal norms of that day, he had two strikes against him. For one, he was a leper and secondly, he was a Samaritan. And yet, He chose to be thankful and express that thanks to Christ.
When he returned to give thanks, Jesus makes a proclamation. Jesus proclaimed “Your faith has made you well.” The word used here in comparison to the word used for the nine who were cleansed meant that he was healed not only physically but he was healed mentally and emotionally. The Greek word SOZA, which is often used for our English word “salvation”, means complete and whole. So it appears that he was not just healed of his physical issues but also from the internal scars and mental depression caused by the disease of leprosy and the rejection he faced from society.
We have read the story but what lessons do we gain from this as it relates to thanksgiving. Well let me list three for you. First, by having a thankful heart we are reminded of God’s gift of grace. Too often, we get to the place where we feel we do not have much to thank God for, but when we remember His grace we are reminded of just how much we do have to be thankful for. You see, it is my opinion that Jesus did not have to heal these lepers but He did.
For whatever reason, He chose to touch these lepers. You see the lepers were helpless to change their plight. They had no control over their destiny because they had been ostracized and were considered to be dead by the religious community. But God, who was rich in grace chose to speak life to them. They did not deserve it by society’s norms but God does not measure man’s worthiness by the norms established by society or by the culture of the day. For most in that day, it would have been easy to condemn and judge the lepers, but Jesus did not. Jesus looked upon them with compassion and mercy and He healed them.
So let me ask you, where have you seen the grace of God in your life? It is there even though it is not always evident. We can and should therefore offer great thanksgiving for what God has done even when we did not deserve it. You are saved by His grace. You are guided by His grace. You are given great gifts and benefits by His grace. We have so much to be thankful for. Have you expressed that thanks to the Father who gives good gifts from above?
Second, by having a thankful heart we do not take things for granted. It is amazing that only one of the ten lepers returned to give thanks for their healing. Now it is possible that in their excitement that the other nine forgot about giving thanks personally. It is possible that they had been sick for so long that all they thought about was getting to the priest to be proclaimed clean. No matter the reason, they did not return to say thanks. The problem is that when we fail to be grateful, we can become selfish and self absorbed. Too often, we forget the blessings of God and take what God and what others have done us for granted. Let me ask you, have you ever blessed someone with a gift or shown them great grace only to find that they failed to ever give you thanks. Now certainly, we don’t do things to receive thanks, but we have all experienced that time in our life where we were hurt by one’s ungratefulness.
But, when we have a grateful heart, we will be focused on the greatness and kindness of God because we are reminded of what He has created for us and what He has provided for us. In the passage before us, Jesus spoke the word and they were healed. They all had something to be grateful for but only one expressed that thanksgiving to Christ. While the others may have intended to do so or may have been grateful in their hearts, they did not voice their thanks. The one leper who returned thanked God exuberantly. He lifted his thanks with a loud voice and a bended knee. Needless to say he was excited and grateful for his healing.
Third, by being thankful we experience healing, strength, and transformation. There is something amazing about having a grateful heart. A grateful heart is a glad heart and it brings healing not just to our body but to our spirit as well. Gratitude heals, energizes, and transforms lives. The opposite can occur as well. In Romans 1:21 we see this illustrated. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Because of a thankless heart, they became futile and their thinking became muddled. It is noteworthy that scientific studies have concluded that those who have a grateful heart are more optimistic and feel better about their lives than those who are not grateful. Those with a grateful heart tend to exercise more and tend to have fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on their aggravations and those who are discontented with life.
Look at the one leper who returned to give thanks! Jesus proclaimed he was healed. As noted before, the word used here is “SOZA.” It means to be made complete or totally healed. This leper was completely healed physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. When we proclaim our thankfulness, we too are healed, energized and transformed. We will never be the same and that is worth the price of a grateful heart.
I will close with this. Michelle sent me a quote the other day. It said “what if we woke up tomorrow with only the things we were to give thanks for today?” If this were true what would you possess tomorrow? Could you live with what is left? May we be a grateful people who live out of a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom