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Thanksgiving Day

Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Why is it so difficult for us to say “thank you”?  One of the things that is very difficult for people to do after some celebration or giving gifts is to sit down afterwards and write thank you notes.  In fact, I’ve received thank you cards many months later, long after the event and I had already forgotten completely about whatever it was that we had given so and so.  And of all people I am just as guilty at that.  I remember growing up my mom would have to be on me hovering over my shoulder reminding me to write thank you notes after my birthday or Christmas.  Why is it so difficult for us to say “thank you”?  Or perhaps the better question is: how do we solve this?  Well, wherever there’s a problem, a solution, (not necessarily the right one), is provided on…the internet.  Believe it or not, there are companies that you can tell who to send a thank you note to and some will even hand write a note for you, sign your name to it, and drop it in the mail for you!  All for a nominal cost!  Ah!  A solution right!  But I submit to you that the problem goes much deeper than that : ).

In our text for this Thanksgiving Day we see a certain man who said, “Thank you” to Jesus.  Instead of reading it through all at once, we’ll kind of walk our way through the text.  The time is a few weeks before the final Passover week when Jesus would be betrayed and go to the cross.  Apparently Jesus is on His way making a slow and round about trip towards Jerusalem.  We’re told that, “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.”  Kind of a strange place to be traveling.  If you think of the area of Israel, Galilee is in the north (where Jesus grew up) and Judah is in the south (where Jerusalem was), but in between was this area called Samaria.  Most Jews avoided Samaria at all costs and wouldn’t come near a Samaritan.  Samaritans were half-bloods, imposters, former Jews who had intermarried with heathen nations.  If Jews were traveling down to Jerusalem in the south they avoided Samaria and usually traveled miles out of their way to avoid the area.  Perhaps Jesus is about to meet up with some more people on their journey down to Jerusalem for the Passover, but perhaps more likely Jesus is on His way through there because there are 10 lepers who need His divine assistance.

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him.  They stood at a distance.”  10 unfortunate souls.  Can you imagine contracting the dreaded disease leprosy?  Finding out you had leprosy was like a death sentence.  Perhaps similar to receiving the news: you have terminal cancer, you won’t recover.  Leprosy was a skin disease that produced white, porous scabs across the body, very painful, it ate away at a person’s flesh, caused sleepless nights, caused the toes to curl, the infected body parts would actually die and fall off the body, and there was no known cure.  Add to that the social aspect.  Since they were “unclean” they had to live outside of society, couldn’t associate with family or friends, ate food from pre-arranged places where people would leave it for you.  And finally there was the spiritual agony.  Many viewed this horrible disease as a consequence of a heinous sin you committed instead of just an effect of living in the sinful world.  In all cases, leprosy was horrible.

Well as they stood at a distance they saw Jesus approaching and “called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”  From somewhere, from someone they had heard a glimmer of hope: Jesus.  Jesus who had the power to do the seemingly impossible.  Someone who could help them when no one else could.  They didn’t tell Jesus what to do, but simply asked for His mercy, His pity, His compassion on their desperate situation.  “When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’”  Hmm…imagine their situation.  They must have stood there, looked at each other and wondered.  Certainly not what they expected Jesus to say.  They were to go to the priests in order to be inspected to be declared clean from leprosy.  They were to go, when in fact, they had yet to be healed!  What should we do??  Add to that the likely place they would have had to go was all the way to the temple in Jerusalem, a day or two journey away.  (Possibly there would have been a local priest somewhere closer, we’re not sure.)

But what is Jesus doing?  Leprous as they were they were to go to their priests like clean men to be pronounced clean!  They had to simply take Jesus at His word, trust in His words, trust in His power to heal them.  Jesus gave them His word and it moved them to act.  Far more concerned is Jesus about their souls and their faith than their physical well-being.  The whole point of this miracle is that they are led to see in Jesus not just a miracle worker, not just someone to give them physical blessings, but to see in Him their Savior.  Jesus is after their hearts.

And as they went, they were cleansed.”  Miraculously as they went on their way, their skin was transformed from ugly scabs to health, their toes were straightened, their flesh previously eaten away was restored.  Can you imagine them on their way pausing and looking at their newly restored skin?  Now the question presents itself…what do you do?  Keep going?  “One of them,” a Samaritan knows.  He knew better than anyone else what it meant to have leprosy and now to be cured.  He didn’t need a priest to examine him and tell him that!  Now there was something of utmost importance: thanking Jesus.  But what about the rest?  Follow the Samaritan?  Or go to the priests to get on with their lives?  Go back to Jesus?  Or waste no time enjoying their new healthy condition?  The Samaritan leaving them was an invitation to follow.  But there’d be plenty of time to do that later, right?  A day traveling to Jerusalem, 7 day wait period for a clean pronouncement from the priest, a few days to offer the prescribed sacrifices, a day back to where Jesus was.  But would they find him?  Even if they would have it would be like telling someone happy birthday two weeks late.  No, the time is now.

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.”  He saw, he praised God, he thanked Jesus.  He saw and he thanked.  He saw what Jesus had done for him and nothing could contain his joy and gratitude to God.  Thanking Jesus was his top priority, everything else could wait.

Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”  The other 9 probably Jews, people who boasted to be God’s chosen people, were nowhere to be seen.  Wherever they were, they weren’t there thanking Jesus.  Jesus was on His march to His death and so many in Israel all they wanted were Jesus’ material blessings but they closed their hearts to who He is and the greater blessings He had to give them.  The nine…where?

Why is it so difficult to say, “Thank you”?  Only 1 out of 10 returned to thank Jesus for the wonderful gift He had given them.  What do you think you would you have done?  What would I have done?  Does this Samaritan put us to shame?  Well, the fact is, gratitude and thankfulness are unnatural to us.  Each one of us by nature are complainers and whiners.  It comes natural to us to complain about our circumstances, to gripe about things, to be cold and unthankful, not only to the people around us, but most of all to God.  We are born into this world sinful and therefore hard-wired to be unappreciative and ungrateful.  And even when we do receive things we’re inclined to an entitlement attitude, “I deserve this,” “I’ve earned this,” “they ought to do this for me, they ought to give me this.”  That’s why it’s so difficult for us to say, “Thank you.”  Each one of us is infected with a disease far worse than leprosy, sin.

So, the fact is, none of these lepers deserved anything from God.  The fact is also, that none of us deserve anything from God either.  The only thing we deserve from God is to be punished for our daily and many sins.

But what did Jesus do?  He healed all ten.  Fully knowing that each of us is fully capable of taking His gifts and running, running far from Him, God still blesses us beyond compare.  What!  Why?  Would you do that?  Would I do that?  Why in the world would GOD do that?  You see, the answer lies in the very fact that here in our text Jesus is on His death march.  He has set His sights on Jerusalem, He’s on His journey to that cross in order to pay all sins, to pay for our sins of ungratefulness and un-thankfulness!  You see, that difficulty to say “Thank you” slowly disappears when we open our eyes to see.  Just think, each of us has received a multitude of blessings from God, most of us luxuries far superfluous of our needs.  We have refrigerators and pantries stuffed with food, many of us are going home today to eat a feast, we have homes and shelters to live in, jobs to work in, vehicles, beds to sleep in at night, air to breathe, water to drink, family, friends, a church to gather in, etc. etc.

And far more important than all of those things, which can come and go so easily, God’s blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ!  You see, everything that we have, everything that we enjoy is due to the continual mercy and love of our Lord.  God doesn’t owe us anything, but He’s given us everything that matters: the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins, peace with God, access to God in His Word and prayer, His promise of His presence and continual protection, His promise of divine working of all things for our good, the joy of salvation, of an eternity with Him!

That leper stopped, he saw, and he thanked.  Today stop, see the blessed gifts God has given you and thank Him.  Thank and praise Him.  Fall before Him and worship.  Not just today, but every day!  Live a life of thankfulness to God and to all those He uses in your life to bless you.  Look to your Savior and you can’t help but say, “Thank you.”  Amen.