I usually read this story in Luke 17 with a smug sense of indignation for those nine ungrateful turkeys. Looking down on them gives me a sense of moral superiority because I cannot imagine doing the same if I were healed of a terminal disease. Jesus said, “Where are the nine? Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Yet, a closer look has me identifying more with the nine who ignored Jesus afterwards than the one who returned.
All 10 Lepers Were Desperate and Dying (v.12)
Leprosy was not only incurable, it was also highly contagious. Lepers were officially ostracized from society; forced to live outside of the city gates. These desperate men were forbidden from coming within six feet of a healthy person (50 feet if the wind were strong). “They stood at a distance and raised their voices…”
It would be dishonest for us to over-identify with these guys. Most of us didn’t grow up with a terminal, communicable disease, yet probably all of us have known what it is like to be an outsider. Surely, you haven’t forgotten what it was like to live without the hope of Christ in you. Maybe we should take time this Thanksgiving weekend to remember our time on death row, so that we will make time to thank Him again for healing and delivering us.
All 10 Lepers Exercised a Measure of Faith (v.13)
Their collective cry for “mercy” was a simple cry of faith. Apparently it was enough faith to be healed. Faith still pleases God today, and apparently it doesn’t that take much to please Him and elicit a positive response (Hebrews 11:6).
When is the last time you asked God to do something that you couldn’t do for yourself? Did you take the next step by adequately thanking Him for answering your prayer?
All 10 Lepers Demonstrated Obedience (v.14)
Jesus told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests. And while they were going, they were healed.” Their healing was not immediate; rather it was in the process of obedience that Jesus answered their prayer. I’m not taking the side of the nine turkeys who didn’t take the time to go back and thank Jesus, but I am reading this story in a more honest and reflective way this year.
To their credit, these lepers not only reached out to the right Healer, they demonstrated enough faith and obedience to have their lives completely turned around. Sound familiar to your own faith story? Every Christian has experienced the miracle of healing at the holy intersection of God’s amazing grace and our childlike faith. What happens next after our salvation is what determines who we are in this story of the ungrateful lepers.
Only One Gave Glory and Gratitude to God (v.15-19)
Gratitude sets this one man apart from his peers. They all shared the same illness and demonstrated the same faith and obedience, but this man “with a loud voice, gave glory to God.” My reluctance to demonstrate my faith publicly and enthusiastically arrests me at this point. I’m not shy about my faith from the pulpit, but I am shamefully bashful, and thus less thankful, outside of the relative safety of Sunday worship.
His public display of appreciation would go to yet another level: “He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan” (v.16). No man-to-man, eye-to-eye firm handshake here. His gratitude was rooted in deep love and humility.
Feeling thankful is not the same as giving thanks is it? I’ve heard it said that the only thing that God cannot create for Himself is our praise. Although I do not pretend to understand the theology of that statement, I get the bottom line: Only turkeys are ungrateful at Thanksgiving.