Well, you may not have missed Thanksgiving dinner, but thanksgiving is more than turkey and stuffing. And even cranberries and pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving is an attitude, an attitude of gratitude.
That’s the part of Thanksgiving that was missed by the nine in the story we are looking at today. I fear, that is the attitude that is severely lacking in a lot of us in our day. We, the most blest people that have ever lived, are often the most ungrateful.
So, perhaps we can learn something from this story too about the “nine guys who missed Thanksgiving.” By the way, the title isn’t original with me. I’ve heard it used a number of times before, I just can’t remember where. But it does have a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? So let’s look at a time when nine out of ten guys missed thanksgiving.
First, let’s set the stage:
Luke 17:11 - 12
11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.Obviously, Jesus is traveling. We haven’t read enough of the context to know more than this, but Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. The reason He is heading there is to present Himself to the Nation of Israel as her Messiah and to be rejected and crucified. He will become the fulfillment of the Passover Lamb, dying in place of His people.
But on His way to Jerusalem, He encounters a distraction. Off to the side of the road, “afar off,” stood a group of lepers. They were required by law to stay separate from everyone. They were even required to yell to everyone, “Unclean! Unclean!” They lived in isolation; it was like a living death. And that’s what they were doing, waiting to die because leprosy was a fatal disease. Nobody wanted to look at them with their disfigurement and their weeping sores. Nobody would touch them. Nobody wanted to catch the dreaded disease - a disease rampant in that day.
But, they must have heard about this traveling miracle worker that some were claiming was the Messiah because when they saw Him go by, they ignored all the social requirements. Instead, they cried out to Him for help. Luke 17:13 tells us, “And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”
This is quite a bold thing to do, not just that they had the audacity to speak to someone, but in what they were asking. The word “master” here meant “top commander, head general of an army, the one in command.” It was a synonym for Lord - the expressed faith that Jesus is in command, yes, even that He could command the disease of leprosy. This was a cry of faith to the one they believed could help, to the one who could truly show mercy to them.
What will Jesus do? He has made a habit out of healing everyone who came to Him with a need. That’s why the multitudes flocked to Him. And He healed them all. Often, it was through His touch. Yes, He actually touched the untouchable.
But not this time: Luke 17:14 says,
“So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”What? That’s it? Nothing flashy? Nothing dramatic? No laying on of hands? No theatrics? No loud proclamations or prayers for healing? No! None of that! Just act like you are healed, fellas, and go show the priests so they can certify you are clean. That was the requirement of the law according to Leviticus 13. They had to be examined by a priest. They had to have their skin examined and be certified they were clean before they could return to society.
But they weren’t were they? They were still just as repulsive as ever with their oozing sores. This would totally be an act of faith. But they obeyed, amazingly, they obeyed. And as they were going to the priest, they were healed. One second their skin was white with dead, rotting flesh, and the next second, as pink and soft as a babies. Truly a miracle had taken place.
I assume they were long gone from Jesus’ presence when his happened. I don’t know where the priest lived, but it was far enough that the one had to turn around and come back. Luke 17:15-16 says:
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.Wow! He was even a hated Samaritan? Had you caught that in the story before? Yes, Jesus compassion even extended to a Samaritan - one of those people no self-righteous Jew would have anything to do with. They wouldn’t even talk to a whole and well Samaritan, let alone a leprous one. But Jesus did! That’s what it says. And Jesus healed him. Remember from verse 11 that Jesus was going “through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.”
But this Samaritan didn’t just come back to say “Thank You!” He “fell down on his face at [Jesus’] feet.” This is worship. This was a common Scriptural expression of worship. By falling on his face before Him, he was acknowledging Jesus as God. Who else could do a miracle like that?
And “with a loud voice, [he] glorified God.” This is praise. Not sedate, fundamentalist praise where we don’t make any noise or ever get excited, but this was Pentecostal praise – loud and exuberant. Nobody could doubt this man’s joy and excitement.
But Jesus looked down at the man, and remembered there were ten, not just one.
Luke 17:17-18 –
So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”We don’t know what Jesus is feeling, we only what Jesus said. But it seems logical that in His human heart, he felt hurt by the nine men’s ingratitude. Nobody wants to feel unappreciated, and God is not too big to feel slighted. Yet, nine of them received the healing without a peep of thanks. What a shame!
But, I wonder how we would have acted in a situation like that? Do you know how you would have? You bask in the goodness of God, but do you ever give Him thanks? And I’m not talking ritualistically. Most Christians would routinely say grace at meals to thank God for their food, or pray in the morning thanking Him for the day, but do you, you personally, truly have a heart of gratitude? Is gratitude a good description of your attitude? Or do you take God’s blessings as your due, that it is somehow your right as a Christian?
It happens all the time. On a human level, the ones you pour the most energy into, who take up the most time, who cost you the most money, are quite often the least appreciative. They think it is there due. And you say, “After all I’ve done for you, how could you do this to me? I bailed you out. I lent you money. I was there for you. Now you turn on me?” And they will respond, “Well, yeah, but what have you done for me lately?” You are only as good as the last thing you have done for someone, and if you haven’t done what they want this time, man, you are history. There is no residual gratitude that carries over. And they will turn on you quick as a wink.
But they are that same way with God. God showers them with blessings. They enjoy this good earth, good health, good food, sunshine and rain, and material blessings. But a little trouble comes along, and “I’m mad at you God!” becomes their attitude. It is amazing the number of truly blessed people who are ungrateful and mad at God.
But even in the best of times, we don’t tend to have a gratitude gene in our nature. We mostly are dominated by grumbling, complaining, and whining. We need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Good times, bad times – it doesn’t matter. We must be grateful people because God is always good.
Well, Jesus was real good to ten lepers, and only one came back to say thank you. Ah, but this one did came back. And to him, Jesus said: Luke 17:19 – “And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”
This is something new, something incredibly new. This is more than physical healing, since he had already been physically healed. This is spiritual healing. The word, “well,” in verse 19 is the word, “sozo,” in Greek. It means to save, or to rescue, and it is the standard Greek word used for salvation. Physically, he had been made well, but spiritually, he was now made well. He was saved by faith.
And that’s the only way. Ephesians 2:8 affirms, “By grace are you saved, through faith.” So this is the story, not of ten men being physically healed, but of one man being saved through faith. Ten had enough faith to go to the priests to have their healing verified, but only one had the faith to return to Jesus and glorify God.
OK, let’s bring this home now. Leprosy, in Scripture, is symbolic of what? The disease of sin. The disease to the soul caused by sin is an ugly, revolting thing, and if not healed, is a progressive thing. Sin continues to eat away at us until eventually it causes death, the second death where we are cast into the lake of fire. And only Jesus can make us well, only Jesus can “sozo” us, save us from sin.
But how many of us who have been saved are truly grateful for that? How many of us even think about that on a daily basis? We concentrate so much on the physical, we become ungrateful over the smallest inconveniences. And when real tragedies come along, well, forget about thankfulness. But there should never be any inconvenience big enough that it over-shadows our gratitude for salvation. No matter what, we can always be grateful for that. Therefore, gratitude should be the natural state of every believer. We should live lives that are characterized by grateful hearts and grateful lips.
This one man who returned, you might have expected him to run on to the priest to get his certification of a clean bill of health just like the other nine did. But he turned around and came back - back to express his thanksgiving. That’s what you would have expected all ten to do. They should have returned and started an impromptu choir singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” But wouldn’t you expect us unworthy people who are saved by grace, to also be singing perpetual praise? Thanksgiving is always appropriate, no matter what our circumstances.
Gratitude makes so much difference in your attitude. For instance: There is the story about a balloonist at the end of the 19th century who planned a trip over the Alps in Europe. Each day he would carefully plan out his itinerary, but who can control the wind? So instead of going to point A like he had planned, he ended up at point B. And the next day, instead of point C, he ended up at point D. But instead of being all upset about it and grumbling and complaining, like so many of us would, he took it in stride, saying: “I didn’t know about this place. Had I known, I would have planned to land here.”
Each day was a new adventure, and a new and welcome surprise. He was delighted with the experience. But likewise, each day, no matter what it brings to your life, can be a new opportunity to experience the grace of God even in times of pain and loss, we can experience God’s grace.
The moral? If you plan to go to from point A to point B and end up in point C, rejoice anyway. Maybe God has something exciting for you there. This is part of what Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:11, where he said: “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Gratitude can be a part of every area of your life, because we can learn gratitude in any situation, just as we learn contentment.
For instance, Paul recommended being single. There are great advantages in being single. You control your life, and decide when and where to go, what to eat, you are free to do what you like. But the Bible also says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing,” so being married is a good thing. There are great advantages to being married. I won’t elaborate on them here, but life is fantastic when you have a good partner, especially one warm and cuddly. Whatever state you’re in, you can praise and thank God.
You can give thanks in good times and bad. Pastor Martin Rinkhart wrote the words to “Now Thank We All Our God,” during the 30 Years’ war in Europe. It is Number 556 in our hymnal. During the war, he conducted as many as forty funerals a day, one of them was that of his own wife. Yet, he still wrote this beautiful hymn as a table grace to be recited by his family:
“Now thank we all our God,War raged, personal heartache was his daily companion, yet, he still had a thankful heart toward God. And that is the right attitude. Ephesians 5:20 says, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 adds, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
With heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices
Who from our mother’s arms,
Hath blest us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.”
Do you see? Whatever your circumstance, you must rejoice. You must live an attitude of gratitude. And you must praise God. The one leper who returned came worshiping and glorifying God, and that is what we must do.
Bruce Larson asserts: “It’s at the level of praise where I suspect God’s power can break through in the most dramatic way.” Do you think he might be right?
As we close, let me ask you, as Warren Wiersbe does: “How is your GQ? – that is, your Gratitude Quotient?” Psalm 107:8 says: “Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”
That is what God wants. He wants us to be grateful. Are you? Jesus healed ten men of one of the most terrible diseases known to man. He gave them back their lives, but only one returned with thanksgiving. The other nine missed Thanksgiving. You be the one with the grateful heart. Don’t you miss out on Thanksgiving.