Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family this past week. During this holiday we naturally think about the things for which we are thankful. If I were to ask you, "Why are you thankful?" I'm sure most of you would say that you are thankful for family, friends, a job, good health, etc. And I'm sure many of you would say that you are thankful for Jesus Christ and this church community. But these are all gifts and blessings that we have received. In my question today though, I want to put a little different spin - this season, think about why are you thankful? Are you thankful for the gifts and blessings or for the Giver and the Blesser? How can you tell?
Our passage this morning comes from Luke 17:11-19 about ten lepers that Jesus healed. All ten were thankful for the healing, but only one leper was thankful to the Healer.
As Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem, between Samaria and Galilee, these lepers called out to him "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" The word they used for "Master" means "chief commander" and emphasizes the authority of the person addressed. The lepers knew that Jesus was totally in command of disease and death and they were asking Jesus to use His authority to heal them.
When Jesus saw them, He told them to show themselves to the priests. In Leviticus 14:1-32, God gave the priests elaborate rituals and sacrifices for those who had been healed of a skin disease. A priest was required to assess whether the disease had cleared up before the leper could be readmitted into society. Instead of waiting for the priest to come and examine them, Jesus told them to go to the priests, indicating that their healing would happen. And as the lepers went, they were healed!
But the story doesn't end there. In many of the gospel stories, Jesus healed as evidence to the Jews that He was the Messiah (Matthew 8:1-4). But this story is also a story of salvation. Luke 17:15-16 tells us that one of the lepers, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God and fell at Jesus' feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan.
Jesus made it a point: "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?" Because of their mixed race heritage, Samaritans were considered as foreigners to the Jews.
It was this foreigner who was not only thankful for his healing but was thankful to the Healer. In recognizing and acknowledging Jesus, this man also received salvation. In Luke 17:19 Jesus told him, "Rise and go, your faith has made you well." The Greek word for "made well" is also the word for "saved." The leper was not saved because he was thankful but because he returned to Jesus and acknowledged who He was.
Why are you thankful? Are you merely thankful for the blessings you have received? Or are you truly thankful for the Giver of those blessings? How can you tell? I believe there are two ways that we can tell whether we are just thankful for the blessings or thankful for the Blesser:
1) The response of returning/repentance - the Samaritan returned to Jesus. Repentance is about turning from our sin and turning toward God. When we have a heart that always seeks to return to Jesus, to turn from our sins and turn toward God, it shows that we are thankful for the Blesser rather than just the blessing.
2) The response of praise and thanksgiving: the Samaritan returned to Jesus to give God praise and thanks. The emotion and joy comes not just in the blessing but in the character, power and authority of the Blesser. He is worthy of our praise and thanks.
3) The response when those blessings disappear. In this world the blessings of health, financial security, possessions and family can fade. If we are merely thankful for them, when those things are taken away so is our reason for gratitude. But when our focus is on the Giver, then no matter what happens, we can still thank and praise God. Job 1:21 "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."
In this holiday season, what is your response to Jesus Christ? Are you truly thankful for the Giver and not just the gifts? Will you respond to the blessing of salvation by declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord and the authority in your life? Will you make time for God each day and give Him thanks for who He is as well as your blessings?