2011-11-20 Thanksgiving: Expressing Appropriate Gratitude (Luke 17:11-19)
–Our Daily Bread, February 20th 1994
Submitted by Wilma J Stirl
For those of us who are experiencing “bad days” as of late, here is something to re-direct our woes.
Even though I clutch my blanket and growl
when the alarm rings, thank you, Lord, that I can
hear. There are many who are deaf.
Even though I keep my eyes closed against
the morning light as long as possible, thank you,
Lord, that I can see. Many are blind.
Even though I huddle in my bed and put off
rising, thank you Lord, that I have the strength to
rise. There are many who are bedridden.
Even though the first hour of my day is
hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned and
tempers are short, my children are so loud
thank you, Lord, for my family.
There are many who are lonely.
Even though our breakfast table never looks
like the pictures in magazines and the menu is at
times unbalanced, thank you, Lord, for the food
we have. There are many who are hungry.
Even though the routine of my job is often
monotonous, thank you, Lord, for the opportunity
to work. There are many who have no job.
Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate
from day to day and wish my circumstances were
not so modest, thank you, Lord, for life.
Luke 17:11-19 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you. ”
How many of you were encouraged by your parents to write thank you notes to grandparents, aunts and uncles and other family friends who sent you gifts of money or some other remembrance on your birthday or for graduation or some other accomplishment?
- Wasn’t it a pain? It’s still a pain, but it’s the right thing to do.
- Why did they spend so much time and energy cajoling, bribing or threatening to get us to sit down, write, address, seal up, stamp and mail that card?
- It’s because an attitude of gratitude is the right response when we are blessed in some way by others.
- From our parents we receive food, shelter, clothing, music lessons, the opportunity to participate in sports, go on vacations, love, discipline and encouragement
- From others we receive friendship and fellowship
- From still others we receive training, jobs, advancement and opportunities to grow in our field of work
- Most importantly, we receive the gift of faith through the life, death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf
- All these are ultimately gifts of God to us through others.
- Jam 1:17 (NKJ) says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
This passage tells us first, how Jesus is the source of our blessings, and second, what our response to his blessings should be.
- HOW JESUS IS THE SOURCE OF OUR BLESSINGS
- Jesus intentionally breaks into our world in order to bless us
11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.
- On the last leg of his journey to his eventual trial and death in Jerusalem
- Jesus and his mostly Jewish entourage skirted the border between Samaria and Galilee much like the Muslim-American students recently arrested allegedly sought to skirt the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Jews in Jesus’ day avoided Samaria and Samaritans because they were considered to be ceremonially unclean because their ancestors had intermarried with various pagan peoples during the Assyrian occupation in 722 B.C.[i]
- However, the exact path of Jesus’ journey that day is left ambiguous by the text. The implication is that as they travelled they might be as likely to meet Galileans as Samaritans along the way.
- Jesus was known for crossing socio-cultural borders to the amazement and exasperation of his disciples and the fury of the religious leaders
- The woman at the well as recorded in John 4 was a Samaritan, and likely a prostitute – Jesus intentionally hung out at the well while his disciples went for food, where presumably he knew women like her frequented at that time of day.
- He called Zaccheus, a despised, cheating tax collector, down from the tree and invited himself to his house
- He joined a party held in the home of Matthew, also a tax collector who invited his friends, presumably mostly tax collectors
- He commended the repentant prostitute who washed his feet with her tears and wiped them dry with her hair
- Jesus did this so often he developed a reputation for being a “friend of tax collectors and sinners”
- He left his throne in heaven to seek and save the lost, whether rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, male or female, sick or whole
- Jesus possesses and uses the authority and power of God to bless us
12-13 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
- Jesus enters an anonymous village. We don’t know whether it’s a Jewish or Samaritan village. It’s identity is ambiguous.
- He is met by a group of ten lepers have joined forces. They could not associate with other more normal members of society but they had formed a group of their own, presumably for mutual support.
- It is said that animals driven to the crest of a hill by surging flood waters, live temporarily in relative peace, when normally they are sworn enemies
- Similarly these lepers who may have had little otherwise in common, hung together for support
- They cried out to Jesus because of this condition when perhaps normally they would have ignored him
- Sometimes Jesus allows things to happen to us to make us aware of our true need for him.
- “The OT Hebrew word is not a precise medical term referring to a specific disease. Rather it seems to refer to a whole range of disfiguring conditions that resulted in rejection by a society that, in its ignorance, attributed such afflictions to punishment from God”[ii] and Jewish law considered them not only diseased, but also ceremonially impure.
- Therefore, they were required to maintain a safe distance from those who did not have the disease, and to announce their presence as they moved about from place to place by crying out “unclean, unclean.”
- However, at the approach of Jesus, they cried out something very different. They cried out for the master to have mercy on them. They had apparently heard of his healing power even and assumed he had some sort of authority over the disease that afflicted them
- Jesus’ healings illustrate the salvation that his kingdom brings. His authority and power over illness and physical death demonstrate the same over sin and eternal death.
- WHAT OUR RESPONSE TO HIS BLESSINGS SHOULD BE:
- It should be an obedient response
14 And seeing them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And it happened as they went away, they were cleansed.
- Jesus crosses a socio-cultural barrier by acknowledging and conversing with the lepers.
- Others might have passed by on the other side pretending not to see and not daring to speak or associate with the outcasts of their society
- Jesus sends them to the priests of the temple who were designated to certify whether or not they were fit to return to ordinary society.
- However, they were apparently not yet healed when they were sent on their way.
- It was a test of their faith. They were healed as they went in obedience to Jesus’ word. Like Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19), they were sent to perform an act of obedience before their healing was manifested.
- Unlike Naaman, however, they passed the test immediately.
- They responded obediently in faith and headed to the temple.
- It should be a timely response
15 And one of them, seeing that he was cured, returned,
- Apparently all were healed, but only one, when he perceived that he had been healed, responded in a manner that was unique among the group
- He returns immediately to the source of his healing, presumably before he presents himself to the priest
- It should be a God-glorifying response
15 …glorifying God with a loud voice;
- The leper glorifies God as the source of his healing
- It should be a humble response
16 He fell to the ground (at Jesus’ feet)
- The leper humbles himself before Jesus by falling to the ground at his feet
- It should be a Christ-honoring response
16 (He fell to the ground) at Jesus’ feet,
- The leper honors Christ as the means by which he was healed
- It should be a thankful response
16b…thanking him for what he had done.
- He thanks Jesus who is the means of his healing
- It is an expected
16c …And this man was a Samaritan.
17 And answering Jesus said, “Were not the ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
18 Were not any found returning to give glory to God except this foreigner?
- Jesus comments on the irony of the situation. Only the Samaritan returns to give thanks.
- What is implied is that the others who did not return are Jews. As Jesus’ countrymen they would have been more likely to return thanks.
- The Samaritan, however, being a foreigner, would have been unlikely to return and give thanks.
- Imagine doing a kind deed for a family member and a person of another country of origin.
- We would expect the family member to thank us before we would expect the foreigner to do so
- Jesus is disappointed that his own countrymen do not return to show their gratitude
- He is likewise amazed that a foreigner, who would be least expected to return thanks is the only one who does so
- All remained healed. Yet the one who returned thanks is commended above the others. Similarly, God sends his rain on the just and the unjust, but he places his call…?
- It should be a heart-felt
19 And he said to him, “Arise and go. Your faith has made you well.”
- Jesus acknowledges this man has received more than physical healing. He has received understanding of the nature of Jesus’ role in the in-breaking kingdom. As one commentator put it (Joel Green), he has been enlightened, which is a metaphor for redemption or saving faith.
- Like the other nine, many people are content with merely temporal blessings. God sends rain. That’s a temporal blessing. But they take these blessings for granted. They don’t see past these to the source of the blessings which is Christ. In him we live and move and have our being.
- However, for those who respond in timely, humble gratitude to Christ, evidence the gift of of saving faith that has been granted to them by the mercy of God.
Illustration of ingratitude turned to gratitude through understanding
There was a teenager who didn’t want to be seen in public with her mother, because her mother’s arms were terribly disfigured. One day when her mother took her shopping and reached out her hand, a clerk looked horrified. Later, crying, the girl told her how embarrassed she was.
Understandably hurt, the mother waited an hour before going to her daughter’s room to tell her, for the first time, what happened.
“When you were a baby, I woke up to a burning house. Your room was an inferno. Flames were everywhere. I could have gotten out the front door, but I decided I’d rather die with you than leave you to die alone. I ran through the fire and wrapped my arms around you. Then I went back through the flames, my arms on fire. When I got outside on the lawn, the pain was agonizing but when I looked at you, all I could do was rejoice that the flames hadn’t touched you.”
Stunned, the girl looked at her mother through new eyes. Weeping in shame and gratitude, she kissed her mother’s marred hands and arms.
(Source: Randy Alcorn. From a sermon by Billy Ricks, Suffering, 2/27/2011)
Illustration of thankfulness independent of daily circumstances
Too often our gratitude is dependent upon the circumstances of life. A beautiful hymn was written by Martin Rinkart during the thirty-year war to help us look beyond our circumstances and see the hand of God. Rinkart was a pastor in Saxony, Germany as the turbulent years of the war dragged on. For a time he was the only pastor in his town. His pastoral duties caused him to preside at nearly 4500 burials in 1637 alone. In the context of this sad situation and these unfavorable circumstances he penned the words to Now Thank We All Our God. It is a hymn of unconditional gratitude to God.
Now thank we all our God
With Heart, hands, and voices
Who wondrous things has done
In whom his world rejoices…
Thankful people don’t have to have everything going their way to rejoice.
Ways you can express appropriate thanksgiving at this season:
- Share a testimony of God’s grace in your life – in this service today
- Write a thanksgiving letter to Jesus, thanking him for all his blessings
- Ps 103:1 “Bless the Lord O my soul and forget not all his benefits…”
- Write a note of thanks to someone who has had a major impact on your life
- Person(s) who led you to Christ
- Person(s) who have been the most influential in your life
- Eg. those who got me started or helped me move to the next place in ministry
- Follow Jesus’ example of crossing socio-cultural barriers to bless someone who is different from you. Volunteer
- Pburg Heights Com Ctr
- Cherry St Mission, Tol
- Military Ave EPC, Detroit
- Habitat for humanity
[i] In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity. The invaders then brought in Gentile colonists “from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim” (2 Kin. 17:24) to resettle the land. The foreigners brought with them their pagan idols, which the remaining Jews began to worship alongside the God of Israel (2 Kin. 17:29-41). Intermarriages also took place (Ezra 9:1-10:44; Neh. 13:23-28). –from Hatred between Jews and Samaritans, http://www.Bible.org.