Thankfulness That Leads To Praise
November 12, 2023
In this three-week Thanksgiving series we are going to focus on
DEVELOPING A HEART OF GRATITUDE TO GOD THAT LEADS TO GENEROUS GIVING.
Thankfulness is not an occasional act but a lifestyle of intentional and spontaneous appreciation that leads us into the presence of God, empowers us to be grateful in all circumstances, and generates an overflow of generosity.
I want to begin by talking about Thankfulness.
Folks, I want to invite you to turn to your neighbor, either side, or behind or in front of you and I would like for you to tell them something that would make you shout for joy at the top of your voice?
What would make you fall on the ground—yes, flat on your face!—in front of someone?
NT Wright tells of a true story of two explorers lost in the South American jungle not long ago.
For nine months they wandered about, not knowing where they were or how to get out.
Finally, after many adventures and often giving up hope, they were found and rescued.
They probably didn’t have enough energy to shout, but they would have felt like it.
Certainly their relatives back home did.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
THANKFULNESS IS AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE FOR ALL GOD HAS DONE IN OUR LIVES.
Jesus and his disciples are on the move.
Since Luke 9:51, Jesus has moved the focus of his ministry south from Galilee, getting closer and closer to the final confrontation in Jerusalem.
Here Jesus is traveling in the border area at the south extremity of the province of Galilee, and at the north end of the area where the Samaritans lived.
The storyteller reminds us that this took place in a racially-mixed area, so we will be ready for the punch line at the end of the story: “– and he was a Samaritan.”
Leprosy in Biblical times was a terrible thing.
Leprosy could have been anything from psoriasis to full blown leprosy where you fingers and toes rot off.
Whatever it was, once a person caught it, it was considered incurable, and those diagnosed with leprosy were banned from society.
This banning from society was first introduced by God in Leviticus 13:45-46, “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.
While early Israelites didn’t operate on the Germ Theory of disease, they understood something about infectious diseases, and those suspected of leprosy were kept isolated until their diagnosis was confirmed (Leviticus 13:5).
But the loathing directed at lepers was not merely fear of a disease.
Leprosy made a person ceremonially unclean.
Meaning they couldn’t go to church, they couldn’t worship with others
To touch a leper defiled a Jew almost as much as touching a dead person.
In a sense, leprosy was a sign of God’s disfavor.
Later Jewish practice prescribed that while lepers might attend synagogue, they must be the first to enter and last to leave, and must stay in a special compartment to isolate them from the other worshippers.
No less than a distance of four cubits (six feet) must be kept from a leper.
To the rabbis, the cure of a leper was as difficult as raising a person from the dead.
In all Biblical history only two people had been cured of leprosy — Miriam, who had leprosy for seven days as a punishment for speaking against Moses’ leadership (Numbers 12:9-15), and Naaman, general of the army of Aram, a heathen from Damascus (2 Kings 5).
When he obeyed Elijah’s instruction to wash seven times in the Jordan River he was healed.
Healing a leper had not been done in Israel for seven hundred years, and was thought to be an earmark of the Messianic Age (Luke 7:22), when leprosy would no longer afflict people.
So as Jesus is entering this village he meets this group of lepers.
It wasn’t uncommon for lepers to group together.
They couldn’t have much social contact with the “clean” members of society, so they formed their own society of the “unclean,” the “untouchables.”
Being just outside a village would be common, since they probably obtained food from family members or those in the village who had pity on them.
Since they have no land to till, no livestock to look after, they are dependent upon others.
When Jesus and the disciples draw near, the lepers immediately recognize him and call out his name.
The lepers ask for pity, a familiar cry that they have been uttering ever since they were diagnosed with leprosy and cast out of the village.
The word falls easily from their lips, they are used to saying it all the time.
The phrase “have pity” is from the Greek root word, ἐλεέω, and it means to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need.
Notice they don’t ask for healing but for pity, for whatever Jesus might give them — food, clothing, shelter, whatever he decides to offer.
They know Jesus’ reputation for compassion.
But do they really ask for and expect healing?
The text, at least, doesn’t indicate so.
Verse 14 is one of those verses that we don’t want to hurry past.
Jesus’ response to the lepers after they said, “have pity on us”, seems most unusual.
His response, “Go show yourselves to the priests”
The significance of the priests in Jesus’ instruction, is that only priests, according to Jewish law, can declare a person healed of leprosy — clean and fit to re-enter society (Leviticus 14).
Jesus doesn’t say that they are healed, but certainly implies it.
Therefore, they must go to receive a clean bill of health from the official who can grant it.
The second part of verse 14 is the key to understanding what happened.
“And as they went, they were cleansed.”
The Greek construction uses the preposition en, which can mean “in, when, while, during.”
Literally, “in the going, they were cleansed.”
The word “cleansed” is in the Aorist tense, which signifies action at a single point of time in the past tense, rather than action over a period of time as would have been indicated by the Imperfect tense.
So, what all this means is that there came a point — as they began to obey Jesus — that their healing took place all of a sudden.
Now, had they disbelieved Jesus and laughed at his command as foolishness they wouldn’t have been healed.
But they believed him — that is, they had faith — and received their healing as a result.
Even though we talk about someone who “believes,” belief doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Faith is exhibited in what we actually do.
Because these lepers believe, they begin to obey and go to the village where the priests live.
As Jesus’ brother James says, In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17).
We’re not told how they discover that they are healed, but it probably doesn’t take long for them to realize that they are healed.
I imagine it may have gone something like this.
Hey Jimmy, your face is looking clear, Bob, your fingers are back on your hands. Harry, your not bald anymore…no wait that’s hair loss not leprosy.
What a celebration as they continue toward the priests’ village.
“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.” (17:15-16)
All ten lepers realize they are healed, but only one comes all the way back to Jesus, praising God for his mercy in healing him.
The word translated “praising” is the Greek word δοξάζω, It always means “to have or to give a share in a praise.
Notice the “loud voice” in verse 15 in relation to the 10 loud voices in verse 13.
The lepers called out loudly to ask for mercy; but only this leper offers loud thanksgiving and praise.
Is our thanksgiving as loud as our clamoring requests?
Notice the thankful leper’s response.
He throws himself at Jesus’ feet as a sign of utter humility.
He touches Jesus, no doubt, and Jesus doesn’t recoil from him as if he had “cooties.”
Jesus receives his thanks graciously.
The leper (1) gives glory to God and (2) thanks Jesus.
The thankful leper may not know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, but certainly he credits Jesus as being God’s instrument for his healing.
The account concludes with Jesus’ departing blessing:
“Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'” (17:19)
The phrase “made you well” is the Greek word sōzō, the word commonly translated “to save.”
Sōzō in this context means “to preserve or rescue from natural dangers and afflictions, save, keep from harm.
This passage hints at the fact that Jesus offers this leper more than others.
They received healing, but this Samaritan receives a deeper salvation in addition.
His faith has prompted him to return to the feet of Jesus in thanks, and that personal contact, that personal submission signifies a soul healing that is more than skin deep.
LESSONS FROM THE LEPERS:
What are we, disciples, supposed to learn from all this?
Perhaps most obvious is that
OUTSIDERS ARE SOMETIMES MORE RESPONSIVE THAN GOD’S OWN PEOPLE.
Sad to say, but being a certified believer can sometimes result in spiritual deafness.
Consider some of the long-time “Christians” you know.
Are they necessarily the most spiritually mature or deep?
We are wrong if we assume that Christians are the only ones who have spiritual acuity.
Jesus is in the business of saving sinners.
He doesn’t discriminate on the basis of their religion or lack of it.
Another equally important lesson is,
THE FAITH THAT HEALED THE LEPERS WAS THAT THEY ACTED ON JESUS’ WORDS.
Jesus said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” implying that they were healed.
If they had done a quick physical check to see if they were healed before they headed off to the priests’ village, they never would have started.
The healing didn’t take place until after they obeyed.
We sometimes want instantaneous healing before we’ll believe that Jesus heals us.
But the faith here is shown in the going.
“Your faith has made you well” (17:19b).
I don’t recommend throwing away pills, firing doctors, or discontinuing treatment before the healing is manifest.
That isn’t what Jesus asked the lepers to do.
Rather, we can turn from a fear-filled faith to an expectant faith.
We can turn a corner to a new way of seeing what God is doing and will do.
And perhaps we should make an appointment with the doctor — the modern-day equivalent of going to the priests for a physical exam.
These can be acts of faith.
Another clear lesson is that,
JESUS EXPECTS US TO SHOW GRATITUDE.
In the account of the Thankful Leper, Jesus is clearly angry at the unthankfulness of the nine lepers who didn’t return.
We must train ourselves to show thanks, to give thanks, to be filled with thanksgiving.
I don’t know if you ever pay attention to parents but they are constantly telling their kids to say thank you…when I take candy to kids in back, teachers remind kids thank you
Without being thankful disciples we won’t be pleasing to Jesus.
But this thankfulness is sometimes time-consuming.
Sometimes it requires going out of our way, delaying some of our urgent appointments.
A life of thanksgiving is a life of prayer.
Before going to the priests to be declared healed.
Before the things we have to do.
Before we get immersed in our everyday activities.
Give thanks first.
GRATITUDE IS AN IMPORTANT COMPONENT IN OUR SALVATION.
Were all ten lepers healed? Yes.
Were they all saved? Yes, in the sense that they were rescued from their disease.
But not in the sense of drawing close to God in thankfulness and dependence.
The nine were saved physically but not spiritually.
“Where are the other nine?” Jesus asks.
Healing that doesn’t bring a person to Jesus is incomplete and stunted.
The Scriptures instruct us to give thanks to God with all of our heart: “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).
I want to share with you a couple ways you can express your gratefulness to God.
First, we can express our gratefulness to God through,
That is, we can set aside deliberate times and practices to give thanks to God such as the following:
- Keep a gratitude journal by writing out five things each day you are thankful for.
- Set aside time with God exclusively devoted to thanksgiving and praise.
- Thank God for everything…When you pray over meals, take time to give thanks to God for things other than the food, such as family, friends, and other blessings of God.
- Write God a thank-you note for his goodness and loving-kindness.
Another way we can develop an attitude of gratitude is through,
This was the response of the one leper who returned to Jesus.
Spontaneous thanksgiving is developing an ongoing practice of giving thanks to God as you go throughout your day.
In 1967, at the age of 17, Joni Eareckson Tada was injured in a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic and in a wheelchair, without the use of her hands.
During her rehabilitation, Joni spent long months learning how to paint with a brush between her teeth.
Her high-detail fine art paintings and prints are sought after and collected.
To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for people with disabilities.
Her life has been hard, but if there is anything Joni personifies, it is joy.
She states, “Today, look around you. Surely there are small blessings, little joys, tiny hints of God’s favor, for which you can be grateful. Don’t take things for granted today. Take them with gratitude!”
So, how do we do this: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you give thanks as you go throughout your day.
We have the ability to choose, through the grace and strength of Jesus, a grateful attitude.
Chuck Swindoll reminds us how we can choose our attitude in the following video quotation:
In our story, Jesus heals all ten lepers; however; only one returns to give thanks to Jesus.
Would you be one of the nine or would you be the one who returns?