Summary: The things in this world, even the things that we pray earnestly for, often end up distracting us from the Giver of the Gift.
This morning we look at dependence on God, and identifying the difference between loving gifts, and loving and worshiping the Giver of All Good Gifts. Our Gospel lesson for this morning is a great lesson, in fact, for Thanksgiving Day services. As we examine it, we can see a nice picture of ourselves, and how we can easily let the things that we pray for, that we request and petition God for, end up distracting us from the very God to whom we were praying.
So, to begin, imagine a group of ten lepers making their way to the city, to present themselves to the priests. For years they had been living together in the uninhabited countryside because lepers were forbidden to interact with society. In fact, if ever they came near human habitation they were expected to ring a bell to alert the people as they would scream, "Unclean! Unclean!"
Leprosy is one of the premier pictures of sin in the Bible. Leprosy causes you to not be able to feel anything by destroying the body’s nervous system. if someone is blind, they can’t see, If they’re deaf...when they have leprosy, they can’t feel. Sometimes, a leper would sleep by a fire, and would roll too close and burn themselves severely. Many would accidentally cut themselves without realizing it.
Because lepers no longer have feelings, it is a great allegory for sin. Sin causes us to lose all spiritual feelings. Sin hardens the heart and destroys the conscience, making it so seared
that sinners perform and witness the most evil acts, and feel nothing.
Back to our ten lepers, their society considered them dead, since leprosy was practically incurable, and very contagious. These ten men, however, made the long journey to the city because earlier they had cried to Jesus, to have pity on them.
This cry, which was actually a cry commonly used to beg for money, was met instead by Jesus miraculously healing them, and telling them to go and show themselves to the priest, who would have to examine them and pronounce whether the disease was gone.
Back then, if the priest judged that the disease was leprosy, the person would be immediately banished from family, friends and society, and condemned to live in lonely caves in the mountainside or in burial places until they died.
However, if a skin disease was misdiagnosed as leprosy, or it healed and got better, before they could return to their families they had to first show themselves again to the priest who would certify their healing, and perform a rite of cleansing over them.
As the ten made their way to the priest, they felt within themselves a surge of new strength and vitality and realized that they had indeed been healed. Now what do they do? "Hey, let's go back to Jesus," suggests the Samaritan. "No," said another, "We’ve already been healed, why bother him. But we still have to be pronounced as healed. We can’t meet people until the priest certifies us clean."
The one, however, turns back; jumping and praising God as he goes back to Jesus. And we know what happened when he got to Jesus. He threw himself at his feet and Eucharisto’d him.
Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Now what is the point here? Are the nine who did not turn back to give thanks going to be denied their healing because they failed to practice good manners and express their appreciation to the one who had blessed them with such an extraordinary gift?
That’s not what the Scriptures teach. The blessing of healing didn't depend upon their appreciative response. It’s an amazing picture of our salvation in that respect. God’s Grace to mankind is not dependent on us, and how we act and react, whether that freely given grace brings us our salvation, or just our every day necessities. God is very gracious to us daily in ways that we don’t even begin to consider.
The nine Jewish lepers looked to their own interest, their healing and the vision of their re-integration back into society, with their family and friends that they may not have seen for years. They valued first and foremost the gift that they had been given.
And yes every giver does love it when his gift is appreciated!
But one instead valued, and gave thanks, to God,
who gave him the gift, and on whom he depended for his life.
Today I want to talk about dependence. Dependence on someone else is a very hard thing. People do not like to depend on other people or objects to help them do something that they want to do.