November 25, 2009
"On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.' When he saw them he said to them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went they were cleansed. 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,'"
Luke 17:11-19, ESV.
I would like us to consider three quick points from this text as our society celebrates a day devoted to giving thanks:
First, Be Thankful for Being Needy – We can begin to give pure thanks only when we see our great need. The lepers in this story are outcasts. They are in great need of healing. So are we in our hearts. Jesus can only work with those who see their need of his salvation – and he does not work in the lives of those who are arrogant or self-reliant (in the language of everyday life, those who “aren’t that bad”).
Second, Be Thankful for the Gospel – Jesus changes everything about us through the Gospel of love. The reason that the one could return with thankfulness is because of the work of Jesus. The story is only secondarily about the “faithfulness” of the one who returned to give thanks. Too often, however, in our response, we follow the way of the nine who were thankful they were healed, and were not ready to get on with their lives. Sadly, this same type of insincere gratefulness is often expressed at Thanksgiving. Our gratitude is often directionless, and we can easily have vague and unfocused thankfulness – almost as if we are thankful for being thankful!
Third, when by the Spirit’s work we see ourselves in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we respond with humble thanksgiving. In contrast with vague thankfulness, through the Gospel we respond as the one did, to see how Jesus has radically changed us so that our hearts are now welling with praise. For those who have been forgiven much, live in greater love and thankfulness; but those who are forgiven of little (who deem themselves to be “not that bad”), are miserly with their love and thanksgiving (cf Luke 7:47)
May the next few days be a Gospel-centered, Christ-focused time of thanks in our hearts, homes, and evident to those in our web of relationships.