Summary: The lesson of thankfulness is taught to us by the Savior in the healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19
I started my preparation for a today’s Thanksgiving Sermon a couple of weeks ago. In looking for sermon ideas, I read a sermon by Ray Pritchard written in 2007 titled, “How God Revealed the Ingratitude of My Own Heart.” He wrote this sermon about one year after leaving the comfort and security of pastoring Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park.
It was only after he had gone one year without a regular source of income that Ray realized how unthankful he had been. He writes, “During all those years when I received a regular paycheck as a pastor, I never once stopped to give thanks to God for his provision. In particular during the years in Oak Park when the church took such good care of us, I was quick to cash those checks but did not say “Thank You” to the Lord. Never one time can I remember being grateful to God for his provision for our needs.” Ray Pritchard, “How God Revealed the Ingratitude of My Own Heart,” November, 2007, www.keepbelieving.org.
Ray is exactly right. We usually do not appreciate all of the things that God has done for us until they are either taken away from us or until we suffer in some other way. Did you thank God this morning for your electricity? Your hot water for a shower? Your breakfast? The car that safely and warmly transported you to church this morning? Probably not. But how would you feel if you lived in north Jersey and just got your power back three weeks after the hurricane. Would you thank God for electricity then?
The common failure of being ungrateful was further pointed out to me last Sunday. We visited my family on Long Island. Thousands were still without power and there was evident damage everywhere from hurricane Sandy. My sister and her husband had their power restored 2 days earlier. He shared our thanksgiving devotional and gave testimony that he was doing OK during the first few days without power. HE stayed home while my sister spent the nights with their daughter and husband who did have power. But after about six nights his patience started to wear out. The house was down to 40 degrees at night, and he was complaining to the Lord about the horrible situation. But in the middle of his complaints, God revealed his ungratefulness. He gave testimony how lying in bed he started to thank God for a warm blanket, a soft pillow, running water, and a beautiful house that God provided. He tearfully recognized that he had been unthankful and he also thanked God for turning off the power so that he could learn to be more thankful.
This lesson of thankfulness is taught to us by the Savior in the healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19 “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 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. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.””
The setting for this miracle takes place in the final weeks of Christ’s life. At this point in his ministry, he is spending his time in obscure places, fully aware of the nearness of his suffering and death. He is sharing more openly with the disciples concerning his death, and his face is resolutely set toward Jerusalem. In the following days Jesus would travel to Jericho, then Bethany and eventually into Jerusalem on his triumphant entry. This theme “On his way to Jerusalem” is mentioned two other times in Luke’s Gospel. It is Luke’s way of reminding us that Jesus was intent to do the Father’s will and suffer in our place.
During these final weeks, everything that Jesus did takes on great significance. The healing of the ten lepers teaches us an important lesson about thankfulness and about our surrender to God. Follow this theme with me as we look at the four main part to this brief story.
The first part is that we must Give Thanks Because Our NEED is GREAT. 17:11-13
The location of this miracle is important. It takes place on the border of Samaria and Galilee. As Jesus has demonstrated before, his love extends beyond the Jews. He is the Savior of the world, even the Samaritans who were hated by the Jews. Not only was at least one of these lepers a Samaritan, the disease was the most feared disease of the day. The best equivalent that we have today is for someone to be diagnosed with cancer. In Jesus’ time, Leprosy was the most feared disease for several key reasons. The location of Samaria, the fact that a Samaritan was healed, and the disease itself all point to the desperate need that Jesus faces when he heals these men.