Summary: Ten lepers were healed, yet only one returned to give thanks. There are several truths that can be seen from this one who returned to give thanks that we should apply to ourselves to help us be thankful.
Most of us are familiar with the traditional story of Thanksgiving where William Bradford, of Plymouth Rock, proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of the Pilgrims in their second year in the New World, as well as an abundant harvest that they had reaped with the aid of the Indians. However, most people don’t know that the first American Thanksgiving didn’t occur in 1621 with this group of Pilgrims who shared a feast with a group of friendly Indians. The first recorded thanksgiving actually took place in Virginia more than 11 years earlier, and it wasn’t a feast. The winter of 1610 at Jamestown had reduced a group of 409 settlers to 60. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. When help arrived, in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, a prayer meeting was held to give thanks to God. You would think that after seeing so many of their loved ones die due to the hardships of the New World, they would not feel that thankful. However, the opposite was true. They realized they had much to be thankful for.
We ourselves often don’t realize how blessed we are, or how thankful we ought to be, until what we have is threatened to be taken away. It is good and fitting that as Christians, we ought to celebrate Thanksgiving for God has certainly been good to every singular one of us. Someone once said that gratitude is the source for all other Christian virtues. If that be the case, then perhaps we need to reason that ingratitude may well be the source of all, or at least many of our faults as well. When we begin to take for granted what God has done for us, then we become calloused and filled with pride and then God can no longer use us. For a Christian, every day ought to be a day of thanksgiving.
Here in the passage of scripture that I read this morning, there were ten lepers who met Jesus and had a life changing encounter with the Lord. When you break this story down to it’s simplest elements, that describes every Christian. We were outcasts from the Kingdom of God, on our way to certain death, but then we had a life changing encounter with Jesus. While we should never look back on the pleasures of sin, we should never forget where the Lord has brought us from. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said: Isaiah 51:1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged. In other words, look at where God has brought you from, remember what God has done for you. Visit again in your mind the place where you first met God and His mercy and grace. However, what is so significant about these lepers who were healed is that out of the 10, only one returned to say thanks. There were nine who did not take the time to say thank you. If you were to infer the truth of this story on general humanity, we could say that nine out of ten people never really pause to give thanks for what they have. One man named Charles Brown, gave several suggestions as to why the other nine never returned to give thanks. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions, but they reveal a whole lot about human nature.
· One waited to see if the cure was real.
· One waited to see if it would last.
· One said he would see Jesus later.
· One decided that he had never had leprosy.
· One said he would have gotten well anyway.
· One gave the glory to the priests.
· One said, "O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything."
· One said, "Any rabbi could have done it."
· One said, "I was already much improved."
And then there was one who returned to give God thanks. I want to share with you this morning several truths from this passage of scripture that I hope will cause us to truly give God thanks for what all He has done for us.
I. NOTICE THE LEPERS’ CONDITION.
1. Most of us have heard stories of the horrors of having leprosy in Biblical times. It was a horrible disease to have. Not only was there the pain of the disease itself, but there was also the stigma that went with having the disease.
2. The Mosaic Law pronounced a leper as being “unclean”. They were not fit to enter into the tabernacle, or later, the Temple to worship. They could no longer live with their families, but the law required them to live outside the city (Num. 5:2-3). The Law required that they rend their clothes as a sign of extreme sorrow, that their faces be covered and that they cry out “unclean” when ever anyone came close to them. Their faces were hidden, representing that no form of intimacy could be known to them. In Hebrew tradition, the face was seen as being the most intimate part. You could not truly know someone until you could see their face. When the Jews were commanded to seek the face of God, they were commanded to seek His presence for the same Hebrew word for face, is the same word for presence.