Summary: As we approach Thanksgiving, today's message looks at the lessons we can learn from a bunch of lepers on our giving thanks and our being thankful.
Lessons Learned from Lepers
** Watch: https://youtu.be/YxEDC54pClo
As I look at the Thanksgiving story and it’s history, and then look at how we celebrate it today, I see some obvious shortcomings in the way we choose to be thankful.
Let me give you a real short history lesson. The Pilgrims were originally members of the English Separatist Church, which was a puritan sect. They fled England to Holland to escape religious persecution, but once they got there they weren’t exactly enamored with Dutch life or culture, nor how they were viewed and treated. So they negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America.
They set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620 where they met with immediate hardship where almost half died that first winter. But the next year, the harvest was good, so they decided to celebrate with a feast that included about 90 Indians who had helped them survive and plant crops.
Like I said, a really short history.
But seeing that first Thanksgiving, which is the basis for our present Thanksgiving Day celebration, like I said earlier, I see some shortcomings in the way we give thanks.
When we give thanks it always seems to center around something that has happened to us, and for us as Christians it should include what God has done in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us so our sins can be forgiven and we can have eternal life in heaven.
Yet, if it’s only about what has happened, then there’s a vital element missing. Therefore, let me propose this.
“The purpose of giving thanks isn’t just about being thankful for something that has happened, but it also should be viewed as opening the door to a much greater blessing God has in store.”
Methodist minister, Charles Allen said, “Thanksgiving becomes a window through which God’s love shines through.” (Charles Allen)
It’s this basic truth of thanksgiving, that is, becoming a window for God to provide a much greater blessings that is at the heart of today’s lesson that we learn from a bunch of lepers. In fact, every time I read this story, it’s this the giving of thanks by only one of them, and then the lack of it by the others that has always captured my attention.
Read Luke 17:11-19
“Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’” (Luke 17:11-19 NKJV)
Leprosy was and is a terrible disease. It usually starts with white patches upon a person’s face, which makes it impossible to hide. What happens is that leprosy attacks the nerve endings and the skin becomes numb. If a leper cuts or burns themselves in these areas they will never know it.
But it doesn’t stop there. It also attacks the internal organs as well. It’s said that more lepers die from other diseases because of their weakened condition, rather than from the disease itself.
And so at the pronouncement of leprosy in the days of Jesus meant that the person becomes, if I can use a title of a TV series, one of the walking dead. Leprosy meant death, a little bit at a time. Further, lepers were forced out of their homes and villages because of their disease. They couldn’t work nor could they worship God in the Temple or synagogues. They were the outcasts of society, and the untouchables of that day.
Whenever they came into an area they had to loudly proclaim “unclean,” and people would avoid them like the plague (no pun intended), because to touch a leper or anything associated with a leper, according to the Law of Moses, would make them unclean (Leviticus 13:45-46).
That’s the story of these ten lepers. They were wretched, forsaken, and disheartened. They were hopeless and helpless, outcast amongst their family and friends.
But in this dreaded condition they formed a fellowship, “The Fellowship of the Lepers.” This is significant. In the Mosaic Law it says that lepers were to “dwell alone.” And while such a fellowship is the last thing they should have done according to the law, it was in reality the first thing they needed to do, which they recognized. And when we feel like they did, then being alone is the last thing we should do, but instead gather together for encouragement and strength.