Give Thanks (Luke 17:11-19)
When I was about Wil’s age, there were two things I wanted for Christmas: a new aquarium and a board game where you tried to put plastic hamburgers together faster than anyone else. My mom’s mom always got us what we wanted when it was within her price limit. Within the limit she had set, Nannie could buy both of these things, and I was going to be happy, happy, happy come Christmas Eve. We go to Nannie’s on Christmas Eve and I get the hamburger game, a couple other small toys and clothes. To say that I’m disappointed would be a huge understatement. I wanted that aquarium, and honestly, I’m a little angry I didn’t get it. I sulk the rest of that evening and a good bit of Christmas Day.
Dad’s parents come down on Christmas Day and they bring their gifts. Guess what was the first thing my dad’s dad carried in the house!? A box that was just the right size to hold the aquarium I had been wanting. I can remember at that young age being very embarrassed and feeling real shame at the way I had been so disappointed.
Thankfulness is a hard lesson to learn in our modern world. How many of you have ignored some blessing until it was too late? Did any of you ever take your health for granted only to learn how fragile good health can be? Did any of you take a loved one for granted only to have that dear person leave this world too soon?
How thankful are you? When is the last time you thanked someone for a kindness shown? When is the last time you spent time in prayer thanking God for His bountiful blessings? Thanksgiving is to be a way of life for those of us in Christ. “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Col 3:15). “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:18). While God commands thankfulness, I fear that too often I’m not nearly as thankful as I should be toward God and toward others.
It’s Thanksgiving week and that should mean far more than a good meal, football, and great sales. While we don’t ever want to confine thanksgiving to this one week a year, it’s right that we pause to remember our bountiful blessings. In this morning’s text, Jesus encounters some folks who aren’t nearly as thankful as they should be. Jesus heals ten lepers. Nine go their way, but one returns to offer thanksgiving. That grateful leper teaches us to “Give Thanks.” And, he teaches us that “Thanksgiving is an act of faith.”
Scripture (Luke 17:11-19)
- verse 11:As Jesus was going to Jerusalem, He passed through Samaria and Galilee. The location of Jesus is going to play a big role in the rest of this narrative. Luke doesn’t tell us where this event took place–“a certain village” (v 12)–but it sounds as though this is very near the border between Samaria and Galilee. We know that at least one leper is a Samaritan, and it seems that at least some of the others are Jews.
- verses 12-13:Ten men who were lepers met Jesus. You know how horrible leprosy was.
- You know that these men were segregated from society. You know that they could not approach Jesus–Leprosy was far too contagious, and the Law required these men to stay away.
- Most Jewish leaders blamed lepers for the disease. It was an issue of sin. The prevailing logic of the day was that these men had sinned greatly and they were being punished by God.
- Notice another clue about how bad leprosy was.You know that Jews and Gentiles had nothing to do with one another–It was a racial barrier that neither side, on the whole, wanted to cross.But here are lepers who are Jew and Samaritan. This disease has broken that social barrier. These men are such outcasts that they need to stick together.
Notice the humility with which they approach Jesus. They remain afar off and they lift their voices. In Jesus’ day, Jews expected to approach God with the utmost humility. I greatly wonder if Luke isn’t drawing that parallel and saying, “Jesus is God.”
- verse 14:Jesus tells these men to go show themselves to the priests. That’s straight from the Law–Leviticus 14:1-32. Jesus is showing His respect for the Law and urging these men to obey it.As they go, they discover that they are healed. The examination by the priests and the sacrifices they offer are going to be vastly different.
- verses 15-16:One of them was healed and returned praising God with a loud voice. Who wouldn’t be praising God with a loud voice after being healed of such a dreadful disease?The man falls at Jesus’ feet and thanks Him. The falling at Jesus’ feet likely indicates that this man recognizes Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. He thanks Jesus. He understands the importance of giving thanks. He understands that his healing came, not from a man, but from God.He was a Samaritan–that’s what provides a punch to this narrative. No Jew returned to give thanks–only a “foreigner,” as Jesus calls him–gives thanks.
- verses 17-18:Jesus’ rhetorically asks where the other nine lepers are. Only this Samaritan has returned to thank God.
- verse 19:This leper is told to arise and go his way–apparently, he has already been to the priests.This man’s faith has made him well. I would suggest that there were two times in this text that the Samaritan showed great faith. The first is when he comes and implores Jesus to heal him. He understands that Jesus is the Son of God and has power to cleanse his leprosy. The second, I think, is when he returns to give thanks. He understands it’s God who healed. He understands it’s God who gives all blessings.”Thanksgiving is an act of faith.” Thanksgiving acknowledges that I didn’t grow that food–God made the seed, the sun, the dirt, the rain. Thanksgiving says that I’m not so special that I can go and earn a living–God gave me the abilities to be able to do so. Thanksgiving says that I can’t give myself good health–God can. Thanksgiving acknowledges God’s sovereignty, His control and His goodness.
Since “Thanksgiving is an act of faith,” how should we live?
- You need to recognize what God has done for you.Understand that God has given you everything. You have nothing because of your own goodness or merit. God has been so very good to each one of us.
- If we’re in Christ, we have spiritual blessings galore.“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). Think about the vast spiritual blessings we have: the forgiveness of sins, answer to prayer, the privilege of being part of the family of God, and the promise of a heavenly home.
- We also have an abundance of physical blessings.“You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, For so You have prepared it” (Ps 65:9). “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” (Js 1:17).
I want you to spend time this week thinking about what God has done in your life. The Samaritan in our text understood quite clearly what God has done, and if we’re to thank God appropriately, we need to understand what He has done. Make a list of 20 blessings (that shouldn’t be too difficult, after all). Make a list of ten spiritual blessings. What has God done in your life? Make a list of ten physical blessings. What material things has God given you?
To help us understand what God has done in our lives, spend some time this week thinking about where you could be. Paul understood exactly where he could have been — 1 Corinthians 15:8-10. What would have happened if you hadn’t agreed to that Bible study, what if your parents hadn’t been godly people, what if you hadn’t married your spouse? Think about where you could have been so that you can see the hand of God and give Him the glory.
- You need to express thankfulness.In the Scriptures, thankfulness is a big component of prayer. “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:25). “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Phil 1:3-4). “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Tim 1:12).Spend serious time in prayer this week thanking God for your multitude of blessings. Make sure to let your request be made known to Him. But, focus on thanking Him for His multitude of blessings.
Where would the world be if people understood that “Thanksgiving is an act of faith“? There’d be far less pride — People would recognize God as the source of their blessings. There’d be more people willing to worship God — They’d want to honor Him for all that He has done. There’d be more people willing to live for God — Through their lives they’d show their thankfulness to God.
How thankful are you this morning? Does your thankfulness show your faith in the Creator? Does your life show your thankfulness?