Read Luke 17:11-19 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
From a recent “Americans for Prosperity” newsletter: “Travel around Thanksgiving is notoriously expensive, but the average round-trip flight in the United States for Thanksgiving is nearly 50% higher than it was last year, up by nearly a third from pre-pandemic levels.
“If those prices leave many balking at jumping on a plane, driving isn’t much better. Gas prices are up over 11% from where they were at this time last year. And it costs a whopping 44% more to fill up than it did in 2019.
“But getting there is only half the battle. Families still have to buy the food for the feast. The price of a turkey is up by 23%. The cost of white potatoes is up, too, while the cost of several essential ingredients for pie — flour, butter, and eggs — have jumped by between 17 and 32%. And to top it off, rising energy prices make it more expensive to cook, too.
“These price increases leave the Thanksgiving meal as a whole costing over 13% more than last year — a price jump that simply makes this holiday impossible for many: One in four Americans plan to skip Thanksgiving entirely.”
While it may be OK to skip the holiday of Thanksgiving, it is definitely NOT, as this passage shows, NOT OK to skip the practice of giving thanks. Giving God glory means we demonstrate our gratitude for all He has done for us, which is everything, after all. So much hangs on our having an attitude of gratitude it must be a daily practice of prayer & worship.
Gratitude is the only appropriate response to grace.
CONTEXT – In verse eleven we learn this event occurred near a VILLAGE on the BORDER between Judea and Samaria. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the group of lepers would include a Samaritan. Since only one of them is identified as a Samaritan, we may assume the VILLAGE was on the Galilean side of the border. Also, Jesus referred to the man as a FOREIGNER, which he would’ve been in Galilee but not in Samaria.
1. These men needed to be healed of their illness and relieved of their social estrangement.
The Law of Moses required lepers to stand at a distance from healthy people and cry out, “Leper!” as a warning. Lepers were forbidden from entering the temple. (12) This was a highly contagious disease, so part of the reason for this command was to halt the spread of the illness.
Lepers lived together in “colonies” a distance from human settlements. Unable to work, they were entirely dependent on the charity of healthy people for survival. The life of a leper was often short and filled with misery.
Somehow, these lepers had heard Jesus was coming and knew of His reputation as a healer. They called Him JESUS and MASTER and they cried out to Him for MERCY. (13)
2. Jesus healed them.
Notice how this healing is different from the healings Jesus had bestowed. (14) As appropriate to the situation, this was a “no-contact” healing. Jesus touched others to heal them, but He did not touch the lepers.
Jesus did not pronounce them healed but instructed them to do what the Law commanded when a leper was healed: have it verified by THE PRIESTS (as required in Leviticus 13:1-46; 14:1-32). If a priest judged the leper healed, he carried out the sin and guilt offerings required by the Law and the person was restored to their community.
Jesus’ command was an implied promise that they were going to be healed; otherwise, it would be a waste of time looking up a priest. Also, Jesus did not challenge the Law here, but kept it. Going to a priest was exactly the right thing to do in this situation.
Finally, Jesus required them to do something first, to receive their healing. It was an act of faith to turn around and head for the local priest. AS THEY WENT, THEY WERE CLEANSED OF THEIR LEPROSY.
What is most important is that they were healed because they were obedient to Jesus’ command. We may observe the same condition for our own healing without mistaking it for a guarantee.
3. Only one of them responded with gratitude.
One of the lepers SAW THAT HE WAS HEALED (undoubtedly the others did too) and responded appropriately. (15-16) He came back to Jesus and shouted, “PRAISE GOD!” The Grateful Samaritan fell before Jesus and thanked Him for his healing. We need to see this as one continuous action because it shows this man believed Jesus was God. This was a demonstration of his faith, the faith Jesus commended in verse nineteen.
The man clearly felt joy and relief at receiving MERCY, but he didn’t let those feelings get in the way of being grateful to the One who had shown him MERCY. He did exactly the right thing and gave glory to God.
The other nine? We know they were all healed, but what happened after that we don’t know because they didn’t come back to glorify God. (17-18) It’s possible Jesus’ comments were thrown at the backs of the nine as they continued down the road. It’s more likely Jesus directed these comments to the people He’d just been teaching, using the “teachable moment.”
The grateful Samaritan’s faith was affirmed by Jesus. (19) The other nine did not experience the added blessing of Jesus’ affirmation.
Jesus also commanded the Grateful Samaritan to STAND UP AND GO. The STAND UP part is obvious; he’d knelt before Jesus and needed to get up. The GO part is Jesus commissioning him to be a witness to his people.
Gratitude is the only appropriate response to grace.
Winston Churchill loved to tell the story of a little boy who fell off a pier into deep ocean water. An older sailor, heedless of the danger to himself, dove into the cold water, struggled with the panicked boy, and finally drug him to shore, both of them exhausted.
Two days later the boy’s mother came to the pier seeking the sailor who’d saved her son’s life. Finding him, she asked, “You dove into the ocean to bring my boy out?”
“I did,” the sailor replied.
The mother quickly demanded, “Then where’s his hat?”
That is NOT what you’d call an “attitude of gratitude!” More like a case of misplaced priorities.
Real thankfulness has God at its center. Gratitude is best expressed as worship of God first, praise of people second. Let’s not be heedless ingrates like the nine deadbeats who missed the greater blessing of glorifying God. Follow the example of the Grateful Samaritan and make it your practice to praise the Lord FIRST.
“Will You Give Thanks?” a sermon by Rev. Travis Peterson, delivered at Olney Southern Baptist Church, on Nov. 22, 2009.
Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 12, Luke, 2006, Allison A. Trites