Today Pastor Mickey Stonier led us through a passage from Luke 17, which highlights the teachings of Jesus to His disciples in the last days leading up to His death. In this chapter, there is a sense of the tension of the suffering awaiting Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem. These teaching moments with His disciples, are, His last opportunities leading up to his death, so the importance of these lessons is evident. He challenges His disciples with some foundational concepts to prepare them for the life in ministry that awaits them: forgiveness (v.1-6), faithfulness (v.7-10) and thankfulness (v.11-19).
Beginning in verse 11, Jesus has an encounter with ten lepers. Leprosy is a disease that kills nerve endings in the body, killing the nerve endings, leaving a stench of dying flesh and, making the voice hoarse, and requiring a person to live away from others in order to contain contamination. Leviticus 13 required lepers to dwell outside of the community for health and safety reasons and if anyone approached a leper, he had to call out, “Unclean!” so that others would know to keep their distance. Imagine the loneliness and despair that the afflicted would feel, not to mention the burden of guilt they carried, because at the time, illness was associated with sin.
Now on his way to Jerusalem,
Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going
into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and
called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw 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. (v. 11-18)
In the midst of their suffering and isolation from community, Jesus tells the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests, who were the inspectors that could pronounce these lepers as clean again. On their way, Jesus heals them, removing their sores and restoring their cleanliness that would allow them to reunite with their family, friends, and community. All ten of these individuals have felt the long-suffering of judgment, shame, pain, and loneliness, and all ten have been healed. It is likely that all ten feel grateful for this incredible miracle, yet only one – a Samaritan – returns to Jesus to do something about it. He falls down at Jesus’ feet in gratitude, giving glory and thanks. (Because Luke distinguishes this one as a Samaritan, we can assume that the others may have been Jewish and therefore, those whom we would expect to give thanks to God.)
Jesus’ point about thankfulness is giving here, using the Greek word “sozo,” which implies that this man has been saved not only from his illness, but also his soul for eternity:
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” ( v.19)
Some of us view God as an angry judge who is mad at us. Yet over and over Scripture reveals to us a loving Father who longs for an intimate relationship with us through His Son, Jesus.
Leprosy is thought to be a metaphor for sin, because just as leprosy separated people from their friends and family, sin separates us from God. Reading this passage again with that in mind reveals how willing God is to cleanse us from that which separates us and how He longs to draw us back to Him. Some of us view God as an angry judge who is mad at us. We may try to please Him, driven by guilt and shame. Yet over and over Scripture reveals to us a loving Father who longs for an intimate relationship with us through His Son, Jesus.
All ten lepers received God’s goodness, but only one fell down and worshipped with gratefulness for who Jesus was. This is the type of heart God desires for us – one that acknowledges who He is and what He has done. Rather than simply attending church on Sunday and experiencing the goodness of God for yourself, God desires that you truly experience to Him, express what He is doing in your heart and act on the love and gratitude you feel.
The writings of hospice nurses who spend time with people in their last days reveal the top five things that people regret as they are dying. These are their sentiments:
- I wish I had lived a life for a purpose greater than me.
- I wish I hadn’t been so busy rushing through life, but that I had slowed to savor the moments.
- I wish I had expressed my feelings more openly and given my love and appreciation for people more freely.
- I wish I had spent more time laughing with family and friends.
- I wish I had invested my life with eternity in mind.
Frustrations, anger, and grudges can get in the way of our relationships with God and others, but today we are offered a fresh start and a new opportunity to become people full of gratitude.
Scripture tells us that just experiencing God – coming to church or reading our Bibles – isn’t really enough.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will say to tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!' Matthew 7:21-23)
Just as the ten lepers all received God’s goodness, but nine went on their way without turning back, many of us are consumers of God and we focus on thoughts of ourselves and our own desires. We are called to a life of action, not just feeling.
Pastor Mickey encouraged us to act on this lesson of thanksgiving that Jesus shares with us:
- Say "thank you" as many times as you can. Don’t just make a point – make a difference by valuing the people around you.
- Show you’re thankful not just by words, but by what you do. Love is an action: devotion + motion.
- Live thankfully. We are most joyful when we are emptied of ourselves.
- Worship God with thankfulness. Acknowledge and appreciate Him for who He is.
If you have never entered into this relationship with God, or you carry the burdens of shame, guilt and judgment, or if you are not sure where you are headed when this life is over, today is the day to come to Jesus’ feet. God is reaching out for you and longs for you to be restored to Him!