Text: Luke 17:11-19
Theme: Jesus encounter with the ten lepers is revealing in three ways:
the reason for thanksgiving, the rarity of thanksgiving and the results of thanksgiving.
You can imagine that Luke, a doctor, takes a keen interest in these men.
As you know, leprosy was a horrible disease.
This malignant infection could spread to a person’s hands and feet and face.
It was degenerative: it caused tissues to break down.
A leper’s skin could be disfigured, bones twisted, and fingers curled into a claw.
According to Leviticus 13 a skin disease like leprosy made one ceremonially unclean.
To make matters worse, leprosy was thought to be contagious.
Understandably people were deathly afraid of lepers. Lepers were shunned.
Lepers were forced to live on the edge of society- as forlorn outcasts.
That’s why verse 12 says: They stood at a distance.
These lepers were miserable. Then they heard about Jesus and his healing power.
So they took bold steps to intercept Jesus.
They positioned themselves within earshot of the road.
When Jesus came by they called out in a loud voice: Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
So begins a fascinating encounter. It is a fitting passage for a thanksgiving service.
Here we find reason for thanksgiving, the rarity of thanksgiving, the results of thanksgiving.
First, the reason for thanksgiving. The lepers cried out: Jesus, Master, have pity on us. Here’s the good news: Jesus had pity. He didn’t ignore them. He responded to them.
He had pity on this diseased collection of outcasts.
And Jesus not only had pity; he had power- to do something about it. Vs 14:
Jesus said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, they were cleansed.
They were cleansed. What a cause for rejoicing! Imagine their utter elation!
The dreaded disease disappeared! They were healthy! Now they had a future!
They could return to their families and communities!
They were brought from a living death to life.
Jesus’ mercy and power gave abundant reason for thanksgiving.
And so it has always been. Unbroken is a best-selling book about Louis Zamperini. When WWII began, this track star enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
At one point he flew with a B-24 crew on a search + rescue mission over the Pacific. During their flight Zamperini’s plane went down.
Louie and just two others survived. They managed to get aboard their emergency raft.
But no one spotted them; no one came to their rescue. They drifted, with no food or water.
Now this quote: On the sixth day without water, the men recognized that they weren’t going to last much longer. They bowed their heads together as Louis prayed.
If God would quench their thirst, he vowed, he’d dedicate his life to him.
The next day the sky broke open and rain poured down. What a reason for thanksgiving!
And thanksgiving isn’t limited to the dramatic: a leper’s healing or life-saving rain. Every blessing God pours out is cause for thanks: good health; a comfortable home;
a loving marriage; a job that suits you; a cherished friend; a son flourishing at college;
a caring church community; relief that the extreme political ads are finally over- for now.
God’s provision gives all of us plenty of reason for thanksgiving.
Which leads to a second main point: the rarity of thanksgiving.
God's goodness is ample reason to give thanks. But the truth is: not everybody does.
Look at the ten men. All ten suffered from leprosy.
All ten banded together to intercept Jesus. All ten called out for help.
All ten were healed. Undoubtedly all ten were thrilled to be healed.
But, only One of them… came back, praising God in a loud voice. Just one.
It caused Jesus to ask, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"
Aren't we so often like the nine lepers?
How often don't we cry out for God’s help, but then barely whisper a thank you?
We appeal for his grace, but then show little gratitude.
It makes me think of that Mayzie bird in the Dr. Suess book: Horton Hatches an Egg. Mayzie Bird has been sitting on her egg a long time and grows tired of it.
So she calls out for some respite. Horton the Elephant happens to be passing by.
He has pity on Mayzie; he agrees to help out for awhile and sit on her egg.
But Mayzie can’t be bothered to thank him. She’s too eager to play.
She’s too eager to do her own thing. No thanks. Just Toodle-oo and off she flies.
Where are the other nine? We see that giving thanks is not automatic.
Let’s bring this home: in your prayers how much time do you spend thanking God?
Surveys find that many busy Christians spend just a few minutes a day in prayer.
And prayer requests tend to take up most of that prayer time.
Like Mayzie bird, we have places to go; we don’t take time to thank God for his blessings.
That can happen with our own Prayer of the People here at Faith Church.
This prayer gives space for voicing both thanksgiving and intercession.
But sometimes we mostly pray for this and that and the next thing.
Here’s a second angle. How much money do you give- thanking God with your offerings?
Surveys find that average Christians give 2-4% of their income for kingdom causes.
That’s far from the biblical 10%. Despite as much prosperity as any time in history.
Let me ask: like the one leper, do you go to God with thanks- in thought, word + action?
What habits might you cultivate to grow a lifestyle of thanksgiving to God?
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
This brings us to a third point: the results of thanksgiving- the results of thanksgiving.
First and foremost, our thanksgiving pleases God.
All during Jesus ministry he met resistance and ridicule.
Plenty of the people hung around just for the show and the miracles and the bread.
From Luke’s gospel, we know Jesus was headed to Jerusalem, where he’d be crucified.
After being healed, the other nine just kept right on going. That was disappointing.
But this leper returned and thanked him. How satisfying!
Sometimes we forget that Jesus is a human person. He has feelings.
Our thanks touch the very heart of our Lord!
God longs for children who not only ask loudly but also thank him loudly.
Years ago I realized this- that I was too much like the nine: asking but not thanking. So, here’s what I do now: in my daily devotions I give special time to thanking God.
On a piece of paper I jot down my thanks to God- for every blessing that comes to mind.
It’s a habit I’ve continued for years and years. Thankfulness pleases the Lord.
And it’s a joy for us, because thanksgiving relishes the good things from God’s hand.
A second result of our thanksgiving: it draws us to Jesus.
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to see and hear Jesus in person?
Over the ages countless Christians have wished they could have met Jesus face to face.
Think about this irony. Those ten lepers lived during Jesus’ three years of public ministry. Those ten lepers were located in Palestine, right where Jesus lived and traveled.
Now those lepers managed to get within earshot and call out for Jesus’ help.
Those ten lepers were healed by Jesus.
But nine of them never came closer than shouting distance.
Because they didn’t return and give thanks, they didn’t draw near to God in the flesh! Talk about missing the moment- a chance most Christians can only dream of.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet + thanked him. His thankfulness drew him to Jesus. He saw Jesus face to face. He touched his feet. Jesus speaks to him. What a moment!
Still today our thanksgiving draws us to Jesus- not physically, but relationally.
Do you want a closer walk with Jesus? Then start thanking him.
A third result of thanksgiving: as we draw near to God with thanks we’re blessed.
In the end, what does Jesus say? Rise and go; your faith has made you well.
This is more than a statement, linking healing to his faith. This is a sort of benediction. Jesus is sending him with his blessing- with a sweet sense of shalom.
I think of King David. The book of Psalms contains many of his songs of thanksgiving.
Take Ps. 100:Enter his gates with thanksgiving; give thanks to him + praise his name.
David’s thanksgiving was part of his whole-hearted devotion to God.
God prized that devotion. In turn God consistently blessed David throughout his life.
The other nine received healing in body. But they missed out on Jesus’ full blessing.
Do you long for God’s full blessing: peace of mind, contentment, lasting shalom?
Then come to Jesus with thanksgiving and be blessed.
But one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, may we be like the one leper.
May we keep coming back to Jesus with thanksgiving.
Then we will please God.
Then we will draw closer to Jesus.
Thanksgiving service; Faith Church
November 18, 2018