The gratitude of one, a lesson in faith

Easter 2023  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:15
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You don’t know what you have until you have nothing!
Perhaps this is why we struggle so much with having an attitude that is thankful towards God for all that we have and especially for our salvation.
Almost everyone in this room has so much and has never been in the situation where you have nothing at all.
For most of us having absolutly nothing is inconceivable.
And for those who have been in a situation where everything was taken away, perhaps this explains why you are so grateful for your salvation and for what you do have.
I think this is why the passage from Luke 17: 11-19 can be so hard to truly appreciate.
You can read it and see the point, but not really get the depth of the response that this one man makes.
He was a double outcast.
Firstly he had leprosy, an incredibly cruel disease that made a person perpetually unclean, isolated from society, not allowed to join in and literally shunned and kept at a physical and emotional distance.
He was also a Samaritian as verse 16 tells us and Jesus’ own words in verse 17 make it clear that he was seen as an outsider as a result.
Yet here he is on the edge of this village, one Samaritian amongst nine Jews.
The horror of leprosy had thrown these men together, men who would normally avoid the one Samaritian accept him in their midst because now they, like him, are outcasts.
These men truly had nothing.
So when Jesus comes along their actions are completely understandable.
They stand at a distance, as they were required to do, and cry out for Jesus to have mercy.
Calling out for mercy would have been a common thing to do to passing people, they were in reality beggers dependent on the generousity of passers by.
Most likely they also had relatives in the surrounding villages who would come and leave food for them.
But their situation was precarious and calling for mercy from pasing travellers fits with their situation.
Now we don’t know the name of this village and it appears that Jesus wasn’t taking the most direct route up to Jerusalem.
Perhaps in coming this way he was intending to meet up with the pilgrams coming towards Jerusalem from the region of Galillee.
Perhaps Luke isn’t following a stictly chronological order and has put this encounter here because it fits with the material that is recorded before and after this passage.
Material that deals with attitudes towards faith in Christ and the Kingdom of God.
None of the other Gospel writers record this incident so it stands alone.
Men who had nothing calling for mercy as Jesus passes by.
Men in a village in an area where Jews and Samaritians might mix more than in other places.
Men who like us have nothing without Christ.
Because like it or not that is actually our reality.
When we examine things from a spiritual perspective we are actually just like these men.
If we do not know Christ we are lost and without hope.
1 Corinthians 12:2 NLT
2 You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols.
Ephesians 2:11–13 NLT
11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
I believe that if we are to really grasp this passage we need to see ourselves as these men were.
Lost and without hope without Christ.
We need to see what was going on for them in thier hopelessness.
We need to see the depth of the gratitude of the one man who came back.
And we need to hear Jesus’ disappointment that the other nine did not.
Because here is the lesson.
Where is our gratitude for what Jesus has done for us?
These 10 men cried out to Jesus to have mercy on them.
They would have known about Jesus and his healing ministry.
Passers by would have told them that Jesus is coming.
The implication is clear, they are asking for healing from the one who is known to be able to heal.
Ten men cry out for mercy and Jesus doesn’t say you are healed.
He doesn’t ask God to heal them.
He doesn’t touch then as he has done for others.
He simply says go and show yourselves to the priests.
This was the law of Israel.
If you had a skin disease and believed you were healed you had to show yourself to the priest who would make the decision.
This person is clean and can resume their contact with society.
Or this person is still unclean and must remain seperated.
The fact the men all got up and went to see the priests as verse 14 tells us is a clear indication that they believed that they would be found to be clean.
They left their place on the edge of the village in hope.
Jesus the great healer had shown mercy.
All of them had faith otherwise they wouldn’t have headed off.
Anyone who doubted would have stayed where they were.
After all every step on feet that have been ravished by leprosy risked further injury and decay.
Every step, every brush up against something risked an injury which they would not feel.
This injury would turn infected and this in turn would result in rotting flesh.
The fact that they went to see the priests shows they had faith that they have been healed
And they were healed as verse 14 tells us.
But only one came back!
Do you see the problem here.
This account is sandwiched between two other stories where Jesus is asked about faith.
In both cases he is addressing attituides towards questions of faith.
Luke 17:5-10 talks about attitudes.
About simply living in obedience to what our faith in Christ asks of us.
Luke 17: 20-37 also talks about attitudes towards faith.
About living each day with the expectation that Christ could return at any time.
That there isn’t time to muck around and delay.
So if we should live in obedience to everything that Christ asks and if we should get on with living for him and not delaying our decision to follow him, doesn’t it also follow that we should be showing gratitude for what he has done for us.
Just as the one man did and the nine did not.
Jesus’ disappointment at the lack of gratitude shown by the nine is very clear in verse 17.
Luke: An Introduction and Commentary Q. The Ten Lepers (17:11–19)

All were cleansed and had an equal motive for gratitude. It might have been expected that all would give praise to God. But apparently the nine were so absorbed in their new happiness that they could not spare a thought for its source. The one exception was this foreigner, a man who did not even belong to the chosen people. His behaviour shows up that of the healed Jews.

Jesus’ words show that of the ten it was the other nine who shoiuld have been the ones who understood the need to give thanks for what he had done for them.
It is “this foreigner” who has returned to give thanks.
Clearly he has understood where those who should have haven’t!
This is another case of faith shown by a person of whom it wasn’t expected.
Just as Jesus praises the faith of the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8:10 and says that he hasn’t seen faith like this in all of Israel, so here too we see a man who wasn’t expected to act in a way reflective of true understanding doing the very thing that was missed by the other nine.
As the Tyndale New Testament Commentary says, apparently the nine were so absorbed in their new happiness that they could not spare a thought for its source.
Where is our gratitude for what Jesus has done for us?
It is so easy to forget that which is truly important and get caught up in our own situation, just as the nine others who were healed were.
It is so easy to get distracted by our own circumstances and worries and hurts and forget that we actually have so much to be grateful for.
It is so easy to focus on the things of this world and the worries of each day and to simply forget that Christ has saved us from a hopeless eternity.
Ephesians 5:15–20 NLT
15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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