As we approach Thanksgiving this week, it is fitting that we take some time to look at being thankful for God’s mercies in our life. This passage in Luke is very fitting for where we find ourselves today.
The Horror of Leprosy
Leprosy was not the most horrific of diseases. It was a disease where you slowly wasted away, but life expectancy could be several decades. The true horror of leprosy was that you would be a societal outcast. You would be forced to stay away from all other people including your family. You would have to wear a face covering and shout out that you were unclean any time non-lepers were near. Imagine never touching another human being for the rest of your life. Twenty years without a hug, thirty years apart from your spouse and children. Never being able to watch your kids grow. Never being able to get married, work a job, etc. In some respects, leprosy was one of the most horrific things that could happen to a person in Jesus’ day.
Compounding this, there was a superstition that leprosy was a special punishment by God upon an individual for some horrific sin they had committed. Imagine being a social outcast constantly tormented trying to figure out what great sin you had committed. Lepers would sometimes band together, but even this “companionship” was horrible as a societal outcast that was looked at like the worst sinner people had ever encountered.
The Lepers’ Petition
Jesus comes across ten lepers as he journeys to Jerusalem. They stay far off because of their uncleanness, but they cry out to Jesus. They do not ask for healing, only His mercy. They have heard of Jesus and His miracles. Maybe He can help them? At the very least, maybe He will show them love and compassion that they have not received from anyone for years.
Jesus tells the lepers to go show themselves to the priest. This would have meant several things to the lepers. One, the priest was the one who could declare them to be clean. He would give them the ability to reintegrate back into society. Two, this would bring them back to the instructions that Elisha gave Namaan to go wash in the Jordan. Elisha did not have a conversation with Namaan, he only showed him how to be healed. The lepers rightly understood that Jesus was telling them that if they would go to the priest they would be healed of their leprosy, declared clean, and then be able to live a normal life.
The response of the lepers
The lepers immediately obey Jesus and began to hurry to see the priest. As they are going they are healed of their leprosy. Before we condemn them for their lack of gratitude, place yourself in their shoes. They will finally be able to hug their wives and children for the first time in many, many years. They can actually be a part of society again! They are overjoyed and cannot wait to be released from the nightmare they have been living.
The response of the one
One of the lepers realizes he has been healed and stops. He glorifies God with a loud voice and worships Jesus. Jesus is amazed that only one person has returned to give thanks. On top of this, the only one who returned was a Samaritan. The other lepers were Jews who would have been far more voiced in Scripture. This heathen was the only one who was grateful for what Jesus had done. In response to this Jesus tells him that he has been made whole by faith. The other lepers had their bodies restored; this leper had his entire being made new.
Sometimes we can be so desperate for God to do something that we look for the gift and neglect the Giver. We were not created for physical wellness, societal integration, marriage, family, etc.; we were created to glorify God. This one who was largely ignorant of spiritual things lived out his purpose by giving thanks. This is one of the primary ways we glorify God. He was more concerned about everyone knowing about Jesus, worshiping Jesus, giving thanks to Jesus, and glorifying God than he was in the gift of a new life he had been given. Others received physical healing; he received spiritual healing as well.
Being thankful does several things:
It glorifies God.
It points others to Jesus
It encourages those who serve Jesus to keep serving
It changes who we are. Our perspective changes. Our lives become filled with greater peace and joy. This is because we are actually living out our purpose.
It is a demonstration of our faith.