Summary: Only one of the ten lepers in today's story thought to thank the giver for his miraculous gift of healing. God calls us to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, as we thank him for every good gift from heaven above.
Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude
One day a woman was rushing home from a doctor’s appointment. The doctor had been late, so by the time she left the clinic she was running quite a bit behind schedule. She still had to pick up her prescription, pick up the children from the baby-sitter, and get home and make dinner. As she began to circle the busy Wal-Mart parking lot, looking for a space, the heavens opened up with one of those South Texas downpours. While she usually wasn’t one to bother God with small stuff, she began to pray as she turned down the row closest to the front door. "Lord, you know what kind of a day I’ve had, and there’s still an awful lot to do. Could you please get me a close-in parking space so I don’t get soaked?"
The words weren’t even completely out of her mouth when she saw a car’s backup lights come on at the end of the row. It was the best space in the whole parking lot, right next to the handicap spots and straight out from the front door. She made straight for it and as she pulled in, she said, "Never mind God, something just opened up."
How many times do we pass up saying a simple “thank you” to the one who gives every good thing we have? That is certainly the case in today’s story. Ten lepers. Ten men desperate for a miracle, and only one out of ten expresses thanks.
In Bible times the word “leprosy” was used to describe all kinds of skin diseases, and the prognosis was tough: you were potentially contagious, so you were cut off from the community. No longer could you live at home with your family or shop with others at the market or sit with friends in the Synagogue. You had to keep your face covered and you had to live separately with other lepers, never mingling with clean people. Everywhere you went you had to announce, “Unclean!” and stay apart from the crowds. And everyone suspected that your disease was some kind of divine judgment for your sin. So leprosy was a social and spiritual ailment as much as a physical one.
No wonder these ten lepers cried out for mercy. First, they had to cry out because they couldn’t get too close to Jesus. And secondly, they needed mercy because most of these skin diseases had no known cure. The term “mercy” means, “not getting what you deserve.” They felt condemned by God and were hurting all over, so they appealed to the Messiah to bring some relief.
And relief he brought. Jesus told them to go to the priest and be declared clean again, as per the law of Moses. The priests functioned as health inspectors back then. And scripture says “as they were going” the lepers found healing. Notice how Jesus called them to take a step of faith in their healing. He didn’t heal them first and then send them on their way. No, he told them to go ahead and act as if they were already healed. And as they obeyed and stepped out on faith, they experienced God at work.
This reminds me of the Old Testament story of the prophet Elisha who healed the foreigner Naaman. You’ll find it in 2 Kings 5. Elisha told Naaman to wash himself seven times in the waters of the Jordan River. At first Naaman was incensed. He thought, “I can bathe at home! This is all he’s got for me?” But Elisha, like Jesus in today’s story, was calling his leper to faith. Will you begin to act on faith as if you had already received the miracle? And in both Naaman’s case and the case of these ten other lepers, as they obeyed, as they stepped out on faith, they received.
Can you imagine how exciting it must have been for these ten fellows as they started their walk to the Synagogue and began to see the leprosy vanish from their skin? As the white spots began to subside and life returned to their fingers and toes? They must have been thrilled out of their minds. At first they may have had doubts, but now certainly they began planning for some grand family reunions, some wonderful celebrations that night, as soon as they were cleared by the priest. No doubt they had much on their minds. It’s almost excusable their forgetting to return and thank Jesus.
Yet, one remembered. As soon as he noticed his healing, he delayed his re-entry into society and returned to the source. He paused in his busy schedule and took time to acknowledge his great gift by thanking the giver. And using that same loud voice of before, he fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped God. He got it right.