The Sweet Grace of Thankfulness

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The Sweet Grace of Thankfulness
Ten Men Healed; One Man Saved
Luke 17:11–19 (ESV)
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
There never as a people had so much and been so ungrateful.
Ungratefulness, though it has always been endemic to the human soul, is flourishing throughout our culture.
And Christian culture is not immune.
The contemporary diseases that afflict others attach to Christians as well, so that in some cases, apart from perfunctory prayers of thanks at meals,
no one would ever know they are grateful people, much less recipients of divine healing grace.
This ought not to be. Scripturally, thankless Christians are a contradiction in terms (Philippians 4:4; cf. Romans 1:21;
2 Timothy 3:2). 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
The account of the ten lepers in Luke 17 addresses the question in a powerful way.[1]
"We should thank God for everything. All thanks be to God who saved us and loved us. Do we thank God, though, as much as we should?"
But you may struggle with that, you may think, "Should I really thank God for everything?"
how about a dreaded disease like leprosy? Would there be any reason to thank God for that? what if leprosy was the dreaded disease that led you to Jesus? And you’re eternity was forever changed because you met Jesus? Would the leprosy be worth it? Could you thank God for it?
Illustration
Corrie Ten Boom, who with her sister Betsy and her father were arrested by the Nazis. They were Dutch, and they were harboring Jewish fugitives, and for that they were arrested. They were put into the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, one of the worst concentration camps in all of Germany, and it was a devastating trial in their lives and they struggled with it. There were all kinds of physical issues. Corrie and Betsie were in the woman's compound. The area was so infested with lice and fleas that as soon as you walked into the structure, they would swarm on you and begin to bite you. It was absolutely disgusting. It was a rough place, a place of physical torture, place of death, as they well knew.
They would labor long hours for nothing.
When the Occasional care package would come the women would fight like wild beasts to get whatever was inside that. It was a brutal life and very, very difficult.
Betsie was constantly urging Corrie to give thanks to God, to be thankful. Just continually thank God for everything. And Corrie was having a hard time. She was depressed. She was struggling with her attitude, as well you can imagine.
Corrie said, "One thing I will never thank God for are the fleas." And Betsie said, "Corrie, you should even thank God for the fleas. Even for the fleas." Somehow, they had smuggled somehow a Bible in there, and these women were courageously having Bible studies within their dorm area. They were risking their lives because they would be executed if they were found with a Bible and having these Bible studies.
So they're very timid and very quiet about it, but the longer it went on, they noticed that they were never bothered by the guards at all. As a matter of fact, the guards never came into the women's area.
One day Betsie came with great excitement to Corrie and said, "I want you to know I've finally discovered the reason why the guards never come in here, the reason is, and I overheard the guard saying, it's the fleas, Corrie. They don't want to get bitten with the fleas, so thank God for the fleas."
And from then on, she did, she thank God for the fleas. It gave them an opportunity to have a ministry in the name of Jesus Christ in one of the darkest places on the face of the Earth, maybe in all history, a Nazi concentration camp, and it was the fleas that God used to carve out a place of peace where they could do that ministry.
So we should be thanking God for everything. And if we should thank God for the fleas, how much more for those things that are counted by everyone to be blessings? Everyone knows that they're blessings.
We should be, above all people, the most thankful, but as I look in my heart, I don't find that attitude dominating all the time, not like it should.
I don't find my heart as thankful as it should be, and so they say that you preach the best sermons that you preach to yourself.
So I'm just going to preach to myself, and if you all want to listen, that's fine,
but I went to Luke 17 because I found there the issue of both thankfulness and thanklessness, and I thought it would be a good sermon to preach to myself, okay?
So I'm going to preach this to myself, and as they say, "If the shoe fits, then wear it," alright?
Mass Healing (vv. 11-14)
Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem.
Before arriving there for the final time at the beginning of Passion Week,
the Lord made three brief visits to the city and its vicinity. As Jesus enters this unnamed village, He was confronted with an all too common scene: ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him.
MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (p. 390). Moody Publishers.
It's a tragic illness. Of the ancient illnesses that we know leprosy is the most feared above all. They feared this one.
Total Desperation
1. leprosy a tragic disease
2. attacks the nerves, reduces sensitivity, produces degeneration of the cells
3. leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves,
limbs and eyes
4. skin lesions are the primary external symptoms
5. Leprosy is probably the most dreaded disease of the ancient world.
lepers were outcasts,
unable to join in society
6. in Israel, they were considered permanently unclean, excluded from the people
of God… cut off from their family, friends, neighbors… they were isolated
among groups of other lepers
7. there was no cure in those days… it was a totally desperate situation
… the emotions should rise in proportion to the black despair that the lepers had faced for years
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village,
he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
14 When he saw them he said to them,
Jesus simply told them, leprous as they were, “Go show yourselves to the priests” (v. 14a). The command was to do what a cured leper would do, following the regulations stipulated in Leviticus 14, which required examination by a priest.
If they were cured, they would joyfully undergo an eight-day ceremony and then be reunited with their families.
In the type of stunning understatement that describes most of Christ’s miracles, Luke merely notes that as they were going to show themselves to the priests as He had commanded, the ten men were cleansed.
There were no spectacular, dramatic words, or special effects, just a complete, instantaneous cleansing of all traces of the disease that had infected and disfigured their bodies.
Ironically, the very priests who vehemently rejected Jesus would have to validate the undeniable fact that the lepers had been healed.
They would be forced to confirm His supernatural power and strict adherence to the law, and thus become reluctant witnesses to His deity. And during the eight days that their healing was being validated, the men themselves would be living witnesses to Christ’s divinity
“And as they went, they were cleansed” (v. 14b). It was a mass healing!
There were no mirrors to reflect the dramatic change, but they saw it in each other instantly.
From cadaverous faces reemerged ears, noses, eyebrows, lashes, hairlines. Feet—toeless, ulcerated stubs—were suddenly whole, bursting shrunken sandals. Knobby appendages grew fingers. Barnacled skin became soft and supple. It was like ten new-births. The dust of a wild celebration quickly[2]
Solitary Thanks (vv. 15, 16)
"One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice; he threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him ­– and he was a Samaritan."
What distinguishes the one from the nine is that he “saw that he was healed. [3]
Up to this point, the ten men had acted in unison.
All had pled for Jesus to heal them;
all had obeyed His command and started on their way to the priests; all had been healed.
At that point, the uniformity was broken as one of them, surely full of joy, amazement, and wonder when he saw that he had been healed, turned back toward Jesus.
Recognizing that he had been in the presence of God incarnate, he wanted more than a mere physical healing; his heart longed for salvation from the divine Healer. The Jews knew that the Old Testament taught that God was primarily a Redeemer and a Savior .
He understood the reality of his sinful alienation and need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
Three things that reveal the longing of his heart for that reconciliation.
First, unable to restrain his joyful praise, he began glorifying God with a loud voice.
Luke used the phrase loud voice to convey the idea of strong emotion, such as that displayed by Elizabeth (1:42), the followers of Jesus at the triumphal entry (Luke 19:37), and even demons when they were confronted by the Son of God (4:33; 8:28).
This may have been the first time in years that he was able to speak above a rasping whisper, since leprosy sometimes affected the larynx.
Second, he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet in worship.
That was an affirmation of Christ’s deity.
since the Old Testament taught that only God was to be worshiped (Ex. 20:3–5; 34:14; Deut. 5:7–9).
Third, he gave thanks to Jesus.
The other nine no doubt intended to worship God in the temple. This man, however, did not worship Him through religious ritual at a temple from which God had long since withdrawn His glory.
Instead, recognizing the manifestation of divine power and grace he had witnessed, he worshiped God in Christ, the true temple; the one in whom “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).[4]
Now he knows that he's healed, but he also knows something else that healing came through a person, it was relational, there was an individual responsible for it.
Like the leper, our healing has been mediated to us through the person of Jesus Christ.
We owe Him our thanks.
We ought to thank him. And the leper knew that. And so he comes back relationally. Didn't your mom teach you this when somebody gives you something, come back and say, "Thank you"?
This Samaritan apparently had a good mom that taught him these things. I don't know about the other nine
this one knows that this healing has come to him through a person, and you thank people for things that they do. Our healing has not come to us impersonally, it's not come from a medicine bottle, it's not come from a vending machine.
Our cleansing, our spiritual healing came when a person named Jesus Christ stood in our place and took our lashing and took our condemnation, our sentence of judgments, and took our ridicule, and our crown of thorns, and took our nails and took our death on himself.
Jesus died in our place. He suffered under the wrath of God. He shed his blood, and he died for us, that we might have forgiveness of sins.
When the healing occurred, the Samaritan was seized with “an irresistible emotion of gratitude” and, captive to this spontaneous gratitude, put off going to the temple to rush back to Jesus. The ceremonial clean bill of health could wait. His spiritual obligation overrode his ceremonial need. So the Samaritan and the Jews parted company.
Convicted of Thanklessness (vv. 17–19)
Jesus’ Questions
“Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (vv. 17, 18).
What separates the one from the nine, then, is not the nature of the salvific benefits received. Rather, the nine are distinguished by their apparent lack of perception and then, by their ingratitude.
More evident in the distinction between the behavior of the one and the nine, though, is the failure of the latter to recognize that they had received divine benefit from Jesus.
evidently the other nine lepers were so caught up in their new wholeness that it did not occur to them to return to Jesus.
This is understandable at one level. After all, Jesus had told them to show themselves to the priests. Of course they were thankful.
How could they be otherwise? And they were deeply happy. And they were eager to get back into everyday life.[5]
Why didn't it occur to the other nine to turn back and give Jesus thanks for what he'd done?
Why the thanklessness?
Could it be the same root is always the same root, is all of our problem – self-centeredness?
"Look at me, I'm cleansed, I'm healed. I can go back and be with my family. I am happy. I'm going to go show them myself to the priest.
I am I am, I am." Focused on his own individual situation. Forgets about the one who gave it to him. And so off they go, forgetful.
Perhaps at a deeper level, we do not thank God because we think we deserve the blessings that he's lavished on us.
By this way of thinking, any adverse problem, anything that causes us difficulty is an aberration, something noteworthy. We talk about it much. It's called complaining.
And many times we don't expect problems and difficulties , like there's some strange thing that's come in our life.
We expect the good; we're shocked by the bad.
The good things we get, we feel that we've earned them or deserve them in some way, and we forget how totally dependent we are on God for life and breath and health and everything else.
I know it happens to me.
In Deuteronomy 8, God said to Moses, “Beware, when you enter the Promised Land and you begin to eat food, a harvest that you didn't plant and drink from vineyards you didn't plant and live in homes you didn't grow, that you will forget God and think that you deserved it all.”
I think that's a danger for American Christians. It may be one of the reasons we don't give thanks.
I think the text is calling us to repent.
Don't judge those nine that ran off happily to the priests. Find yourself there, that's all. Let Jesus' question search your heart.
Note Jesus’ final question: Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (v. 18).
Only the foreigner, the Samaritan, gave praise to God! The other nine were so earthbound, so like the shrewd manager and the rich man of the preceding parables, that they missed the spiritual dimension altogether.
Vague gratitude to divinity was not an adequate response to what had happened.
Christ wanted their hearts!
By failing to glorify God and returning to thank Jesus, they missed the greatest possible moment of their existence.[6]
Jesus’ Pronouncement
“Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (v. 19)
As much of a foreigner as he might be, this man is now sent off by Jesus as a person who has experienced the salvation that Jesus came to bring.
None of the others, despite their new-found freedom from leprosy, receives this special blessing.”8[7]
This man alone out of the ten who were miraculously healed received the second miracle of salvation from sin. His trust, gratitude, humility, commitment, love, praise, and worship mark his faith in Jesus as the faith that saves.[8]
Jesus’ words were clear: only the Samaritan who returned to praise God and offer thanksgiving to Christ himself had saving faith.
Indeed, his gratitude and praise to God were signs of his saving faith.
Closing Reflections
This incident is not merely the story of ten individuals. The one who was redeemed and the nine who were not are representative of the general attitude toward Jesus.
The nine represent unbelieving Israel, who had only a superficial interest in Jesus. The people wanted what they could get from Him—healings, food, deliverance from demons, rescue from the oppression of Roman rule—but refused to acknowledge Him as God and worship Him.
The penitent man pictures the believing remnant among the Jews and any non-Jewish repentant sinners who will enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 21:31–32). Both groups enjoyed the benefit of Jesus’ power and basked in the wonder of His teaching and miracles. But the majority were content with the superficial, temporal benefits they could get from Him. Only a few humbled themselves, glorified Him as God, worshiped Him, and desired that He transform their hearts.
All people face the same two choices.
They can be content with experiencing the common grace of the God who “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45).
Or they can embrace Jesus Christ as Master and Savior and cry out in penitence, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Only the latter will be justified and enter God’s eternal kingdom.[9]
[1]Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (pp. 169–170). Crossway Books. 2 John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Word, 1993), p. 846. [2]Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 170). Crossway Books. [3]Green, J. B. (1997). The Gospel of Luke (p. 624). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. [4]MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (p. 393). Moody Publishers. 3 Frederick Louis Godet, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, n.d.), p. 192. [5]Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (pp. 171–172). Crossway Books. [6]Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 172). Crossway Books. 8 John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, Vol. 2, p. 848. [7]Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke: that you may know the truth (p. 172). Crossway Books. [8]MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (p. 395). Moody Publishers. 9 David Gooding, According to Luke: A New Exposition of the Third Gospel (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 1987), p. 288. [9]MacArthur, J. (2013). Luke 11–17 (p. 395). Moody Publishers.
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