Summary: As far as Jesus is concerned it's not so much religiosity and background but practiced faith in him which counts. This story isn't as much about thankfulness as it is about WHO was thankful.
Is anyone here a Canadian?
If you were Canadian you would know that tomorrow is Canadian Thanksgiving.
In the States we have Thanksgiving on November 25th this year.
The Chinese had their Autumn moon festival a few weeks ago. The Koreans had their three day harvest festival, Chuseok, just a couple of weeks ago. The Korean festival coincided with the Jewish Sukkot or festival of booths.
All of these are harvest and thanksgiving festivals of sorts -- although none are quite like the American version. Perhaps the closest is the Canadian celebration tomorrow -- where many families will actually sit down to a turkey feast complete with pumpkin pie. And they’ll watch endless football. Calgary plays Monteral and BC plays Winnipeg. Go Lions!
Even the countries that don’t have Thanksgiving value thankfulness. Parents everywhere attempt to teach their children the value of gratitude.
When it comes to thankfulness one of the stories that Christians often turn to is that of the lepers in Luke 17.
Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by a couple of bacteria. It affects the nerves and the skin. About 95% of us are naturally immune to the bacteria and the disease is easily treated in the modern world. But in the ancient world it was devastating.
Because it is infectious, if you started to show signs of the disease you were expelled from the community. You had to leave your family and your friends to live in poverty in leper colonies on the edge of town. You were not allowed to approach healthy people -- not that healthy people wanted to be around you because you were often grossly disfigured during the advanced stages of leprosy.
Luke 17:11 -- “As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”
It’s not clear what they wanted -- perhaps a donation -- most likely a healing touch. Somehow from a distance they had heard about Jesus and his miracles. So they are looking to get in on his action.
But Jesus doesn’t heal them -- at least not right away.
Verse 14 “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’”
For a bill of clean health you had to go show yourself to a priest who would officially recognize the healing. He was the community health officer. And once you got that recognition you could return to your neighborhood, your family, your old job. You got your life back.
“And as they went, (vs. 14) they were cleansed of their leprosy.”
That is, while they were on the way to see the priest they were healed of their leprosy. Only as they stepped out in faith and followed Jesus’ brief instructions -- does the disfiguration begin to disappear. The feeling returned to their fingers and their feet.
You can imagine the swelling emotions and the joy. A father would once again be able to embrace his children. A farmer would be able to return to raising food for his family. The death sentence of leprosy was reversed.
Verse 15 -- “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’ 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done...”
17 “Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?’”
Now, over the years we’ve had a little fun at times trying figure out what happened to the other nine who didn’t return to give thanks.
I suspect that:
One ended up at the mall trying to figure out what he needed in order to return to fashionability.
Another took his family for a weekend away up at the lake.
One man, so jazzed bout having feeling back in his legs, went dancing.
A single guy decided to make up for lost time and started calling all his old girlfriends -- and it was work convincing each of them that he didn’t have some communicable disease. They had obviously heard otherwise and were at times a bit worried about themselves.
You get the idea. They were enjoying their good fortune and looking forward to making up for time lost away from their families. And really, when you think about it you can't blame them.
But one man was different -- his faith was different. He came back to Jesus shouting “Praise the Lord” and Luke says that he fell at Jesus’ feet in gratitude.
This is the man that we usually hold up as an example -- a model during our thanksgiving celebrations -- whether it be in Canada or the US or wherever the gospel is preached.
But I want to let you in on a secret. When we preach about the one who returned while nine didn’t -- we’re not really telling you the whole story. I won’t say that we’re not telling you the truth. It is the truth. I mean, yes, this story is about about thankfulness -- something which everyone already assumes is important. But it is only indirectly and somewhat secondarily so.