Luke 17:11-19 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
In this passage we see many sick people. Ten individuals are consumed by an infectious disease that results in a miserable existence, continuous pain, and an unsightly death.
In this passage we also see many depressed people. Because they are dangerous to others, they are quarantined and isolated from society. This means they are unable to be soothed by their family and friends. In addition, they are unable to make a reasonable living in order to provide for those formerly under their care. Also, lepers are seen as spiritual outcasts by many. Most in their culture attribute their disease to some heinous sin; God is punishing them. And such individuals, because of their condition, are not even allowed to go to church. They are physically, financially, socially, and spiritually persona non grata. Perhaps we can better understand their plight if we think of the modern day reaction to those with the ebola virus. We don’t want them in our house. We don’t want them in our hospital. We don’t want them in our city. Frankly, we don’t even want them in our country. It is sad to see them suffer, but it is better than seeing my family suffer.
Additionally, we see many helpless people. They cannot help themselves, and any available and willing physician can only treat their symptoms.
Here we see many believing people. Stories have been told them about Jesus, and when they see the traveling teacher and healer passing by, they plead for mercy. They have faith that God can do what man cannot. They believe that with Christ, nothing is impossible — not even the curing of the incurable disease.
And in this story, we see many obedient people. Jesus gives the reverse altar call and encourages them to go. Strangely, he tells them to travel in their still-diseased-condition to the local priests. He does not touch them, spit on them, breathe on them, pray over them, or tell them to dip in a certain body of water. Instead, he tells them to visit the local minister, and they all obey the odd command of Jesus Christ. All ten of these men are to be commended for their faith and faithfulness.
As a result, we see many healed people. Somewhere along the way, the healing balm of the Great Physician kicks in. Ten lepers who were so physically, socially, emotionally, and financially troubled find themselves miraculously cured of their ebola-like disease. One-hundred percent of those who hear Christ’s call and respond properly are granted mercy.
However, sadly, we see only one thankful person. Many Jewish lepers are cured on that day, but only one foreigner returns, praises loudly, falls on his face, and expresses his gratitude. He is the one-out-of-ten who hears the benediction of the Savior. He is the minority faction proclaimed clean on the inside and outside. He is the appreciative exclusive individual applauded by Christ. He is the “Ten Percent.”
Therefore friends, how ought we to apply this passage?
Let us consider and confess our ungratefulness. Let us consider how much Christ despises the sin of grumbling or complaining. He hates it when men and women use their mouth wrongly to express their discontented spirit. In the Old Testament scriptures, the Lord harshly plagued the Israelites for their lack of contentment and gratitude. In the New Testament, lack of thanksgiving is characteristic of those who are targeted for eternal destruction by the holy and angry God. (Romans 1:18-21; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) But additionally, consider how much Christ despises the sin of silence. Were these lepers grateful for their healed condition? Were they thankful? One must conclude they were. They had to be fans of Christ who were most thankful for their new beginning. It is highly doubtful that they were not appreciative for the divine mercy sent their way. Therefore, perhaps their sin was not the lack of gratitude, but the lack of expressing their gratitude properly. Friends. Christ died for such sins and communion with the Spirit is made sweeter as we are daily cleansed from the residue of our transgressions.
Let us acknowledge the mercies of the Lord. Go ahead, let us grab a piece of paper right now and list the temporal and spiritual blessings which have come our way by the hand of Christ.
Let us — in spoken and sung prayer — express our gratitude. According to the model of Christ, meals are a great opportunity for us to give thanksgiving to God.
Let us gather at the stated times for worship. Thanksgiving is improved as the Holy Spirit uses the Word, prayer, the sacraments, and the fellowship of the saints to encourage appreciative thanksgiving. It is not enough for us to be grateful or thankful. It is the will of Christ that he hear or gratitude.
And then let us pant for glory. For thanksgiving is and will be a major part of our celestial experience. Listen to the words of John as he expressed the vision given him from Jesus Christ:
Revelation 11:15–17 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.