Who Bothers to Thank God?
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My mother, as well as Tanya’s, taught us to write “Thank You Notes”.
If ever I missed, a lecture would follow and sometimes punishment.
I wish I did a better job of writing thank you notes.
So, if you ever receive a “thank you” from the Stenzels, it probably came from my dear wife.
This evenings Gospel reading is a continuation of our mini-series, “Lord, Increase Our Faith.”
And, the faith challenge for us today is to return to worship to say “Thank You” to Jesus for cleansing us from sin.
Unfortunately, apathy sets in, causing us to take for granted what it cost our Lord to cleanse us from sin.
So, I urge you this evening to hear the disappointment in Jesus’ voice when only 1 out of the 10 cleansed lepers returned to worship Christ for His cleansing gift.
The question for us this evening is the question Jesus asks in chapter 18: (Luke 18:8) “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
You see, our Lord Jesus deserves our thanks and is looking for our thanks.
Since Jesus went to the cross to cleanse us from sin, we should give thanks to Him at every opportunity.
Jesus Deserves Our Thanks
Think of all He did to cleanse us from sin.
Today’s Gospel reading begins with, Luke 17:11 “On the way to Jerusalem...”
This is the second time Luke makes this notation.
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem where the cross awaits him
He is heading there to atone for the sin of the whole world, to cleanse from the leprosy of sin all who have faith.
Jesus deserves our thanks because, like the 10 lepers, He cleansed you and me from the leprosy of sin with a simple word.
This is exactly what happened with the 10 lepers.
Jesus started to enter their village when He passed by them
They lifted their voices, probably together.
You see, this nasty disease not only robbed them of their life, because they were wasting away, It attacks their vocal cords.
They probably cried out to Jesus together, because separately they could hardly make a sound.
These 10 were on the outskirts of town, because regulations required that their contagious condition be kept away from those who have been delcared clean.
I’m sure we can relate to this when “social-distancing” was enacted.
Of course, the edge of town is where Jesus meets them.
One theologian put the situation like this: “The raising of the voice (ἦραν φωνήν) carries the sense of prayer and that the cry for mercy was itself a prayer, showing that the ten lepers came to Jesus in a state of worship desiring salvation from him.”
Fitzmyer, Luke X–XXIV, 1154)
Jesus speaks six simple words: “Go, show yourselves to the priests”
But the account doesn’t end there.
Luke goes on to record, “As they went, they were cleansed” (Lk 17:14).
The 10 men were cleansed by trusting Jesus and by trustfully crying out to Him.
But only one returned to give thanks.
He was a foreigner—a gentile.
The personal work of Jesus was intended for the Jews, but the nine Jews take His blessing an go on their way.
Only one of the ten, this gentile Samaritan, breaks away and returns to Christ alone.
This gentile Samaritan was healed by trusting Jesus and by trustfully crying out to him.
So, indeed, were the nine.
But the faith of the nine produced nothing but the cry for mercy; their cry soon faded even as they were now far from Jesus and remained away from him.
But the Samaratian’s trust remained, and brought the fruit of gratitude.
Jesus, indeed deserves our thanks for all that He has done for us, but He is also looking for it.
Jesus Looks for Our Thanks
Note His comment to the Samartain: Luke 17:17 “Were there not ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?”
Do you hear the disappointment in Jesus’ questions?
Jesus has so much more to give than the cleaning.
The Samaritan returned to Christ to worship Him; he prostrated himslef as Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him for cleansing him.
Being cleansed from this dreaded disease, overcame the Samaritan.
So he lay at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him with all his soul.
The other nine had the same wonderful cleansing given to them, but it made no impression on their hearts.
Whatever faith in Jesus’ power had that had made them cry for mercy at first, quickly left as they walked away.
Like a promising bud on a plant, their faith stopped growing, then it began to wilt, and finally died.
The nine Jews did not go back to Jesus, not even after they had seen the priests to offer the proper sacrifices; the record would have mentioned their return.
And even if they came back later, that would have been vastly better than no return.
Likewise, Jesus looks for our thanks.
His completed work on the cross completely atoned for our sin.
We, too, are cleansed from the leprosy of sin when we believed and are baptized.
But . . . is this faith in Christ being nurtured regularly?
Do we return to confess our sin, in order for faith to be strengthen in hearing of the promises of Christ, and to eat His flesh and drink His blood?
When our only concern is to enjoy what has already been given us, thanksgiving is stifled.
It sees no cause for gratitude
Unless we receive what we think is best at the time we prefer?
Faith in Christ is not nurtured regularly when one believes God’s good treatment is something they have earned for themselves.
This type of righteous pride will not fall at Jesus’ feet and give thanks to Him.
It rarely returns to give glory to God for His incredible gift of mercy
Unfortunately, many who have been cleansed from the leprosy of sin do not see the need to return regularly to give thanks.
Their fondness for the outdoors convinces them that they can worship God in the woods just as well as in a church building.
But the tragedy is they separate themselves from the community of faith, just like to lepers had to be separated.
The house of God is one, and there can be no salvation to any except in the Church.
Cyprian of Carthage
Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the church.
How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith in him is unless he knew where his believers are?
It is in the Church, you see, where God’s gifts are found.
God has rescued you from the dominion of sin and Satan by giving faith in the saving work of Christ.
The event in this evening’s Gospel happened while Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, to lay down His life as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The guilt of our selfishness and pride rested on His shoulders.
The hands that healed with a touch woere soon to be nailed to the cross in payment for our ingratitude and lovelessness.
The voice that told the lepers to show themselves to the priest woudl soon cry out in pain and agony, “I thirst,” and “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
But that same voice would sound forth again after His resurrection, announcing that forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to the Jews adn Samaritans and all the nations of hte earth.
Only the pwer of the resurrected Christ, reeived by us through faith, can purge our hearts of the spiritual leprosy called selfishness and pride and ingratitude and sin.
Only in the strength that He provides in His Word and Sacraments are we able to overcome our sinful inclination toward ingratitude.
We then turn to Him in thanksgiving, glorifying His Holy Name.
Through faith in Christ, the Samaritan leper received cleaning in his body, and motivated by that faith, he returned to give thanks.
As that Samaritan leper knew, it is not at all a bother to return and give glory God for who He is.
The expression of heartfelt thanks to God with our lips and our lives is a joyous privilege that God provides fo rus here in time and hereafter in eternity.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.