Gratitude of One

Gratitude moves us to a heart filled with intense desire, strong feelings, and the heightened sense of God’s importance in our lives. Worship happens beyond Sunday morning but the hour we give to God Sunday should be our very best expression of heartfelt love.

Luke 17.11-19

Traveling on the Way. Jesus is on the road traveling as he so often does throughout his ministry. Here we find him walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee on his way to the holy place of Jerusalem.

Faith Encounter of Ten Men. Jesus enters a border town, and ten men approach him. They approach him, but not too close. They stay at a distance and raise their voices to him, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!” The ten have what was known as an incurable disease called leprosy. Nowadays the bacterial infection is called Hansen’s Disease, and is treatable. Then the people were shunned by society as the disease disfigured the host.

When Jesus saw them, he would have seen their disease disfiguration. When he laid eyes on them, he immediately responded to their cry for help. “GO… show yourselves to the priests.” Going to show themselves to the priests was an everyday occurrence. It was nothing out of the ordinary to show themselves to the priests. Jesus was not asking them to do any great thing, nor does he pronounce the healing. But Jesus invites the lepers to live into the experience of everyday obedience.

The men in our story knew they were in need of healing. The ten lepers, as they are often referred, possess faith from the very beginning of their encounter with Jesus. They came expectantly into the encounter with Jesus. They called Jesus by name, and asked for mercy! Faith calls us to ask God for mercy. There is a moment of clarity here in the text when Jesus sees those calling to him in the distance. Jesus sees their suffering even from a distance, and responds with mercy. And, the results of their faithful response were immediate.

A Parallel Story. There is story in the Old Testament about a healing of a foreigner with leprosy. Naaman was a man with leprosy from the country of Aram. The King of Aram sent Naaman, the commander of the Kings army, to the prophet Elisha in Samaria, the capital of Northern Israel. The amazing teaching in the story was not that God might heal even a foreigner with leprosy, but that those who are willing to obey God’s small commands will find great reward in their lives. It’s when we are looking for the big things that we fail to find God’s reward.

…And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, with a loud voice glorifying God; and he fell upon his face at his feet, giving him thanks… (Luke 17.15-16).

Humble Response of One. There are detailed steps that the One takes. Upon realizing he is healed, he turned back to Jesus. The Samaritan recognized that Jesus was the Priest. Next the One cries out in a loud voice to give God the glory for his healing. Last the One falls upon his face positioning himself and bowing low at Jesus’ feet uttering his thanksgiving. To be sure humility should define our relationship with God: modest, lowly, meek, plain, simple, unpretentious, unassuming, and the like.

Across the pages of Scripture we observe how people fall prostrate face down in response to God’s presence (Numbers 24.4, 16; Deuteronomy 9.18, 25; 2 Samuel 15.5, 16.4, 19.18, 1 Kings 18.39, 2 Kings 5.18, 2 Chronicles 29.20, Job 14.10, Psalm 36.12, 38.6, 72.11, 88.5, 86.9, 99.5, Isaiah 14.2, 15.3, 29.4, 49.7, 51.23, Jeremiah 46.15, Daniel 2.46, 8.17).

The Story of One. When I served on staff at a church in Danville, KY, a man came to the church one day to sit in the sanctuary. As he left after spending an hour in prayer, he shared his salvation story with me. He explained that each year on his salvation birthday he liked to come and sit in the church where he experienced immediate healing from his alcohol addiction some 40 years prior. He shared that E. Stanley Jones, a famous evangelist in the Wesleyan tradition, had preached a revival at the church and revival fire fell upon the little church full of people. He was immediately healed from his alcohol addition, and had never touched it sense. He explained to me that he was so grateful to be free from his addiction because he often mistreated his family when he binged.

Becoming the One. There was once a preacher who was called to lead a revival in Maryland, but the night of the revival there came a storm. The preacher knew the crowd would be sparse, and he was tempted not to preach that night. However, he mustered up his determination and succeeded in leading worship that night. When it came time for the altar call, he half-heartedly gave the call of repentance not believing any One would come. But that night One did come, and that One was E. Stanley Jones. Jones grew up as a troublemaker, and intended to disrupt the revival service one evening. But instead of troublemaking, God troubled Jones! Jones became the One, and remained a One all of his life!

Jesus Offers Healing. Healing comes as a gift to those who ask, and are obedient to God’s direction. The healing happened on the way to their destination. The word used here to mean cleanse in the Greek is to cauterize. When we think about the meaning of the word cauterize, we think about the medical the painful practice of burning the skin to stop bleeding or infection. The main purpose is to stop gangrene, a flesh-eating bacteria, from setting into the flesh. Luke uses the word see again but this time it is not about Jesus looking at the leprous men, but the lepers looking upon themselves and discovering they are healed.

My biggest concern for the church at-large is the healing component in this story. Today we would have a hard time asking God for help, and being willing to be obedient to do the simple things he asks of us to become well. Or, perhaps we would not even notice that we have been touched by God’s healing hand. We are often so busy in doing for God that we fail to receive from God the gift of grace he has for us. It takes great humility and a willingness to admit our need! But salvation comes to those who admit their need, and recognize the gift giver.

Salvation comes to those who have hearts are willing to experience it. Sozo salvation means to rescue from destruction, to save from suffering, restore health, preserve from danger, and to save from evil (deliver from evil). Those that find the Kingdom of God are willing to look beyond the religious norms of their lives to discover God.

Jesus Commissioned the One. The most challenging part of this text for you and me is Jesus’ response …weren’t all ten healed. Of course, this is a rhetorical question. Jesus knew all were healed. The question was asked of the One who returned. Then Jesus gives the command much like the command given with the Great Commission, “Get up and Go! Your faith has healed you” (Luke 17.19)! The same language in the original Greek is used here and invites us to see this story as a commissioning of the One to go forth to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

The recipe to become the One is simple with four ingredients. The main ingredient in our everyday discipleship journey is faith! Add to faith the three ingredients of humility, healing, and gratitude to create the perfect recipe for discipleship. Making cookies is an everyday kind of thing at my house. The story is like preparing your favorite simple recipe. Let’s think about my family’s favorite peanut butter cookie recipe. The recipe calls for just four ingredients: 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 egg, 1 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Now after putting these four ingredients together you really have to have faith that your cookies are going to come together and be edible!

Becoming the One is a choice to believe, become humble, receive healing, and live in gratitude. As I have grown in my own faith journey, being the One has become an important part of my discipleship experience. Everyday I intentionally look for those moments that people are doing something beautiful for God, and I respond with an affirming word or I offer a prayer of thanksgiving for their lives. I have to choose daily to exercise my faith, live in humility, receive healing from God, and express gratitude.

Becoming the One means we must go! There are three kinds of go in the text. Go see the priest. Go acknowledge Jesus. Get up and go. To be sure the Kingdom of God comes as we go and lose ourselves for the sake of the “none” in our lives. When we remember the statistics of the growing number of “none” in our communities, we must learn the spiritual disciplines of faith, humility, healing and gratitude. We are commissioned to go!


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