I have this theory about Thanksgiving. It might be a conspiracy theory, but it’s a theory nonetheless.
The theory? Thanksgiving Day was invented by moms.
Because moms love for their kids to be thankful.
When you get a piece of pie, say “Thank You.”
When someone says, you are looking ‘so big,' say “thank you.”
When you get a gift, sit down and write a Thank You card…
Thank you SO MUCH for the socks. I love them! They fit my ankles perfectly.
Thanksgiving must have come from moms. “Let’s invent a day in which everyone is reminded all day long to say thank you for the things I do and make – ALL YEAR LONG.”
But you know what’s sad? That we even have a Thanksgiving Day. If we had listened to our moms, we’d be thankful each day of the year. 364 days of Thanksgiving!
Instead, it’s more like 364 days of complaining, begrudging, and bemoaning.
One day of mom enforced, halfhearted, turkey basted, “football-is-on-so-let-me-get-it-out-of-the-way” thankfulness.
Today we want to focus in on a section from God’s Word in which a group of men learn an important lesson about giving thanks. As we look at the lesson from Luke 17, we’ll be reminded that mom was right. Giving thanks is super important! Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Ten Healed…One Thankful
It was a strange version of a Thanksgiving dinner.
The men sat around a fading fire. Each had a make shift seat from the surrounding landscape.
A pile of leaves.
The fire was slowing roasting the last bit of quail that they had taken down with a slingshot. Divvying it up for a group of ten hardly removed their hunger – in fact, it was just enough to get them thinking about how they were hungry for more.
But…what could they do?
They were quarantined.
These men had a terrible, ancient disease called leprosy. Leprosy was a skin disease that slowly ate away at your skin from the extremities inwards. Leprosy caused your skin to grow deathly pale. It started to flake off. They’d lose finger tips and tips of ears and the cartilage on their nose.
It was severely painful.
And there wasn’t any cure.
And it was fatal.
And it was contagious. Extremely contagious. That’s why they were quarantined. When it had been discovered that each man was leprous, each of these men were sent away – from their families — from their spouses – from their kids – from their parents – from their friends.
As a result, they had become their own hodgepodge, strange, death expecting colony.
As they quietly chewed their meat and were mesmerized by the crackling of the fire – something – anything to take their mind off of the loneliness and sadness of their estate. They heard a crowd coming.
There off in the distance was a large line of people. They appeared to be chatting and listening to a leader – a man who commanded respect. A man who looked full of love. A man who seemed to be very popular.
Wait…Guys…Do you think this is that…Jesus guy?
They took a few steps forward and looked from a distance.
Yeah, I think so.
Suddenly they started shouting. Which isn’t that uncommon for lepers when they saw others coming. They were supposed to shout out: “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN! Don’t come near us; we’re UNCLEAN!” It was supposed to be a warning – a human siren to let them know they were getting to close to the deadly, contagious disease.
But that’s not what they shouted this time:
JESUS! MASTER! Have pity on us. (Luke 17:13)
The man stopped the crowd. He turned and looked toward them. Then, he called back to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (v.14)
Now the priests were important in ancient culture. The priests were kind of like doctors. They were educated and were able to determine health of individuals better than others. They were the ones who determine if someone was sick. They were the ones who determined if someone had leprosy. They were the ones who determined if someone should be quarantined – or if they were cured.
But…Jesus hadn’t done anything. He simply told them to go to the priests.
And yet, there something about his voice.
The men turned – all ten of them – and began to walk away from Jesus. They began to walk toward the priests.
Would this really work? Did this Jesus just need a second opinion? He hadn’t come near them. Maybe he needed the priest to confirm that they indeed had leprosy before he could cure it. That wasn’t very impressive. If he was the Son of God that many said he was, shouldn’t he have known?
One of them was so upset by this that he beat one of his hands into the other. If only we hadn’t listened, if only we hadn’t…wait.
He had felt that.
For the first time, in a long time, he had felt his fingers.
He looked down. No longer were they missing skin at the tips.
No longer were they a pale white.
No longer were they leprous.
Avram – Avram – check it out!
The excitement soon spread as each one of them realized what had just happened.
As they all realized that they had been healed.
As they all realized that they were no longer sick!
An energy overcame them like never before. Partly because of their new found health and partly because of adrenaline. They rushed off to the priests. He inspected each of them. They ran away from the temple. They immediately began celebrating – one found his mom and gave her a big hug. Another went to the local bar and ordered a round for everyone. A third found his lifelong crush – We can get married now! I’m healed.
They all began to celebrate. They all began to move on with their lives.
Except for one.
When he found out he was healed, he turned around.
He headed back towards the hills.
He wandered around until he found Jesus.
He came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet—and thanked him. (v.15-16)
He helped him to his feet.
He gave him a hug.
But then, Jesus stopped.
He looked around.
He pulled the man back.
Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (v.17-18)
The non-Jew? The one who doesn’t know any better? The one who wasn’t taught to “Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever?” (Psalm 118:1)
Rise my friend and go…your faith has made you well. (v.19)
II. Adding to that One
This story fits so well on Thanksgiving. In it, ten men receive an incredible blessing. But only one of them remembers what his mom had to say – only one of them returned to say Thank You.
But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this one guy is the strange one.
Because the Bible gives the impression that they had gone a ways before they realized they were healed. And it doesn’t record that Jesus made a plan to meet up with them afterwards. Plus – this was so incredibly exciting! They had been healed! It was time to do the things they couldn’t do before.
But this guy says --
I know it’s a long walk back.
I know I don’t have any idea where he is.
I know there’s a ton of other things I probably could be doing.
But I’ve gotta find Jesus. I’ve gotta thank him.
Jesus gives the reason behind this man’s thankfulness.
He gives the reason behind this man’s decision to delay his new life.
He gives the reason for this man’s marathon back to him.
Here’s the truth. Thanking God is the response of the faithful to the Faithful.
Think about that again: Thanking God is the response of the faithful to the Faithful.
Was God not faithful to the others? No. They were healed. Jesus even draws out that point. But…were they faithful to him? Not so much.
Which is so interesting, because when everything was going poorly, when they had no other choice, when they needed his miraculous healing power – they all turned to Him!
But the moment they were healed – See ya Jesus! I’ve gotta get on with my life.
They had a faith problem.
What about you? Are you faithful to the Faithful? Of course – I’m here at church, aren’t I?
Yes – but that doesn’t mean your thankful. It could just mean that someone else dragged you out of bed to get here. Which isn’t that impressive.
Do take note – it wasn’t the lifelong churchers that impressed Jesus. It was a Samaritan. A guy who didn’t grow up learning about God. A guy who didn’t grow up with stories of God’s goodness. A guy who didn’t grow up a part of God’s people.
Yet his thankfulness outshined all those who did!
What’s interesting about Thanksgiving is that it really is a secular holiday. It wasn’t necessarily started by the church. As a result, there will be all kinds of people who don’t believe in God – who barely believe in God – giving thanks to him today.
What about you?
Will unbelievers out thank you today?
Will non-church goers give more heartfelt thanks than you?
If so, there’s a faith problem.
If you’re only showing thanks just to try and beat the unbelievers at giving thanks – there’s a faith problem.
In fact, if I could diagnose you for a second – you may be sick.
With something much worse than leprosy.
Something that no doctor can cure.
Something that is so contagious every person on earth has it.
Something that is fatal – eternally fatal.
Something called sin.
But Jesus lived perfectly, when you could not.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the of forgiveness of all your sins.
Essentially healing you! You will not die, but live!
You don’t need to sit in your sinful, God hates many, leper colony of loneliness anymore.
God loves you.
You are in his kingdom.
Thankfulness is the response of the faithful to the Faithful.
So, dear faithful; be faithful.
There’s a lot of different ways to do it.
This man – put his life on hold – he ran all the way back through the wilderness and searched for Jesus until he could throw himself as His feet.
How will you be thankful? There’s a lot of ways:
Faithful attendance at worship.
Belting out the next song as loudly as you can.
Saying a special prayer today before you eat.
Quiet time with God tomorrow morning after the tryptophan wears off.
Telling others – at your meal later today – at the shopping mall tomorrow – that Jesus has healed you and inviting them to church to hear the same thing.
However, you choose to do it, do it daily. Listen to your mom’s words and be thankful to your Dad. Amen.