Leprosy is a terrible disease. Yes, we are thankful that this disease has been eradicated here in the west but not so in some other parts of the world. Growing up in India, I have seen lepers begging for alms on the street corners. Their deep moan as they begged for alms can be heard at a distance. The stench that emanates from their open sores is a telling tale of the disease that is eating away at their flesh.
It is into this depressive situation that Jesus brings hope as he heals the ten lepers in Luke 17:15-19.
“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
And as the ten were healed only one turned back and glorified God. They all had faith. They all prayed to God. And all of them were healed. But only one returned to give thanks to God. Only one returned and knelt down at the feet of Jesus and gave thanks. And he did it promptly. Even though he was all alone as opposed to the nine, this Samaritan took the initiative by himself to turn around and give thanks.
The ten lepers were quick to pray. Luke 17:13 reads, “and they all raised their voices saying, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They cried out to Jesus. And what did Jesus say? It is interesting to note that Jesus did not say, sons you are healed! Jesus did not say, get up and walk! Jesus, did not say, your leprosy is healed! Instead Jesus said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” And as soon as they heard this, the text reads, they began their journey to the priests. Luke 17:14 reads, “And as they were going, they were cleansed.” Careful examination of the text reveals that none of them were immediately healed. There was no visible evidence in Jesus’ command or on their skin that something radical had happened. They all had faith to take the step to go to the priests still seeing their sores and parched skins, and knowing that they were still leprous. Why would they show themselves to the priest if they were still leprous? It must have taken tremendous faith to know that what Jesus said would be true.
But even though the nine lepers had faith to go to the priests, they did not have saving faith in Christ as the Son of God—the only true God, the eternal King, who had the power to forgive them of their sins. They were merely focused on their immediate need—a cure for their leprosy. We know this is true because when one returned to praise God, Luke 17:9 reads “your faith has made you well.” Meaning, this leper was not only made physically whole but also spiritually cleansed of his sins. He was saved. The other nine were so focused on their physical need that they immediately involved themselves with fulfilling the ritual of seeing the priests rather than praising God.
Is it any different today? Like the nine lepers, there are people who cry out to God for help but become consumed with the immediate earthly need and do not remember to give praise to God. The questions we all need to ask ourselves are, “Do I take time to thank God? Is thankfulness an outpouring of my heart? Do I remember to give praise to God or am I more concerned with the rituals and traditions of religion?
To paraphrase Charles Spurgeon, “we receive the benefits of a continent of mercies but we return only an island of praises. Spurgeon said that even if heaven and earth and sea are all wrapped in silence, our love for Jesus will cause us to praise God.
Colossians 4:2 reads, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
The story is told of a mother and her four-year-old daughter who were strolling through an open-air market. As the little girl stared at a large pile of oranges, a generous vendor took one from the table and gave it to her. “What do you say to the nice man?” the mother asked her daughter. This little girl looked at the orange, and then thrust it toward the man and said, “Peel it!”
If praise is missing in your life, maybe it is time to examine yourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 reads, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” True saving faith will always result in praise to God.
2 Timothy 3:1-2 reads, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” So clearly un-thankfulness is characteristic of unbelievers.
This Thanksgiving, may your praises feed the heavenly flame of praises to God. May it not be constrained by the circumstances in your life, your family, or even your church. May your heart not just rest in the feasting of your Thanksgiving meal, but in the indulgence of your personal love for Christ resulting in true praise. May you find satisfaction in Christ alone—in His finished work. Happy Thanksgiving, 2017!
~Pastor Sam Mathews