Last Saturday’s warmer than normal temperatures were atypical, and made the possibility of Christmas shopping with our grandson Wyatt, nearly impossible. But after some careful negotiating, and more than a few grimaces from Pappy, Wyatt agreed to visit the two gift shops in Beaver Dam for a few minutes, in exchange for some playtime at the park.
The Christmas Open House made the first store crowded, with “excuse me” and “thank you” spoken often in the narrow aisles and slim walkways. I noticed Wyatt studying the merchandise carefully, as if looking for just the right gift. He finally asked, “Isn’t it Thanksgiving? I don’t see any thanksgiving decorations?”
Wyatt’s very good questions remind me of a question Jesus asked in Luke 17:12-19. “Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.”
So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”
And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Jesus often taught His disciples, and others, with parables, but this was an actual event on the road to Jerusalem as He passed through Samaria and Galilee. Lepers were considered “unclean” to society and even forced to live away from their family. Leprosy was a torturing death sentence; painful from a physical, physiological and spiritual point of view. This would explain the desperate and humble plea to Jesus for mercy as He entered the village.
What do we know about this situation, and how can we apply it to our lives? We know the ten men wanted to be obedient by running to the priest before they were even healed. We know nine of the men were religious, while one was a common sinner from Samaria. We know all ten men knew the power of Jesus, and believed He would have mercy on them, and heal them. We know that Jesus has pardoned these ten men from their death sentence from leprosy. We know without the “all clear” from the priest these men could not return to their families or participate in society.
But I believe the question from Jesus offers us an important lesson for our lives, “But where are the nine?” Obviously Jesus knew the answer before He asked the question, so what is He pointing out to us? I believe the Samaritan, and his actions, offers us the best reasons for asking the question. All ten men had been healed in like manner, and while I presume, it seems highly plausible all ten men were similarly thankful for their transformation. And yet only one returned in thankfulness. Not only thankful but “with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.” It seems to me the other nine men had allowed the “acceptance of man” to cloud their thankfulness to God. Yes, you can say they were being obedient to Jesus, but obviously, by His question, He desired their thankfulness first.
We all want to live in right relationship with our fellow man, and be considered acceptable. We also want to be obedient to God. The actions of the Samaritan lead me to believe his healing was not limited to the physical body but to the spirit as well.
We must all face the reality that our relationship with God has been impacted by a sort of “spiritual leprosy” called sin; and without the sacrifice of Jesus, an eternal death sentence for all mankind. Before we can truly experience the right kinds of relationships with our fellow man, we must be healed by Jesus. This healing will cause a spontaneous combustion, an “explosion of thankfulness,” the kind of thankfulness demonstrated by the Samaritan. His cleansing power will purify our hearts, and prepare us to better serve God and our fellow man.
Colossians 3:15-17 encourages thankfulness, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Jesus encountered the ten lepers at the half way point of His trip to Jerusalem; let’s remember to go all the way in our thankfulness to God. Then, through our thankfulness to God, we can be prepared to encourage others.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4.
This Column appeared in the Owensboro Messenger Inquirer November 19, 2016