Summary: The one leper who returned to give thanks encourages me to be thankful in 6 ways.
One Gave Thanks
November 22, 2009
I heard about an episode of the Simpsons, where the family was sitting down for supper and Homer asked Bart to give thanks before the meal. Bart bowed his head and said, “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves… so thanks for nothing.” Now to some people that’s funny, but I think it’s tragic. And it reveals a real problem a lot of people have. They live their lives enjoying the blessings of God but never once stopping to say, “Thanks”. They’re like the old pig who spends his life rooting around the acorns on the ground, but has never looked up long enough to acknowledge the tree that produced the acorns.
This morning I want to share with you a story in the bible about 10 lepers that Jesus healed. 9 of them were like that old pig… but one of them was different… he stopped and looked up long enough to thank Jesus… the tree of life!
Let’s read Luke 17:11-19.
I don’t know if you realize what leprosy is and the kind of fear it struck in the hearts of people of Jesus’ day, but it was a horrible problem. The word used in the bible for ‘leprosy’, actually was used to describe a number of different diseases. But doctor’s today believe that what most people were suffering from back then is commonly called, “Hansen’s Disease” today. It starts out as a harmless looking white patch of skin, but it eventually becomes numb, to that point that it’s victims lose all sense of touch. As time goes on, the patch begins to spread all over the body, including the face… so it’s impossible to hide. Next, it begins to form spongy tumors all over your body, while at the same time attacking the internal organs. Because the nerve endings die, victims of leprosy can’t tell whether they’re hands or feet are being harmed and after awhile parts of their body lit. die and fall off. There was no medical cure for leprosy, and you can imagine that getting it struck great fear into people’s heart.
The Jewish Mosaic Law pronounced a leper as being “unclean”. That meant they were forbidden to enter the Temple. In otherwords, you weren’t allowed to go to church and worship with others. In fact, if you got leprosy, you were no longer allowed to even live with your families, because the law required you to live outside the city (Num. 5:2-3).
So contracting leprosy meant you essentially lost everything, your family, your job, your money… all of it! Lepers were lit. called “the walking dead,” and because they were homeless they were forced to live in colonies with other lepers. The reason this is such a great passage on ‘giving thanks’ is because when these 10 lepers got healed, they had a lot to be thankful for!
As we look at this passage, I think we’re all going to see a little bit of ourselves this morning. Because you’re either one or the other. Either, you’re like the lepers who got what they wanted and then went on their merry way… or you’re like the leper who stopped to give thanks. Which one is it? In fact, by the time we’re done, hopefully we’ll all have a more thankful attitude. Because if you’re a Christian this morning, you’ve been healed of an incurable disease, and you have a LOT to be thankful for!
In fact, from these verses I want to give you at least 6 reasons for why I (personally) am so thankful to God this morning. This isn’t actually a SERMON… it’s a testimony from one healed leper to another! 5 Reasons I’m Thankful…
1. I’m thankful that Jesus… RECOGNIZED my cry.
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, when he came across a border town somewhere between Galilee and Samaria. As he came into the outskirts of town he was met by the sound of 10 lepers who were crying out at the top of their voices…“Jesus… Master… have mercy on us!” Verse 13 specifically tells us that they were standing far off. The reason they were yelling at the top of their lungs at Jesus was that Jewish tradition required (that because leprosy was contagious), they had to stand at least 100 steps away from anyone without leprosy. In fact, to make sure that you didn’t spread the disease, if anyone came within 16.5 feet of you, you were required to call out at the top of your voice… “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!” Can you imagine the embarrassment you’d feel if you contracted “H1N1” Flu and you had to do that?
Now, notice that they were obeying the law, they were keeping their distance… but like referees at a football game… I’ll bet you that they were right on the line!!! They’d probably heard rumors about this “Miracle Man” named Jesus, and so they were desperate to get His attention. Now, If that wasn’t bad enough, the Law further required that their faces had to be covered. Now to a Jew, your face is the most intimate part of your body. For example, when the scriptures commanded them to “seek the face of God”… it meant that they were to “seek intimacy, closeness with God” In fact, the Heb. Word for “face” and “presence” are the same word! Now as a leper, if you had to hide your face, it meant you couldn’t seek intimacy with God… or anyone else for that matter! As a result, lepers had no friends, no deep relationships…no one cared. You were on your own… totally isolated. A social outcast!