THANKFUL PEOPLE AND UNTHANKFUL PEOPLE
Key Verses: 17:17-19
"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.'"
Thank God for enabling us to remember what God has done in our lives, in America, and in this world thus far. Celebrating thanksgiving, it is always good for us to remember the purpose of God’s creating us in his own image. If not, what happen to us? Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Our thinking becomes futile. Our hearts are darkened. Why? It is because we forget to give thanks to God.
In today’s passage, Jesus heals 10 lepers. After healing 10 lepers, he asks one leper who came back to Jesus in order to thank him, “Where are the other nine?” Why does Jesus ask about other nine lepers who move on living their lives in their society after being healed from leprosy ? Was it not free of charge when Jesus healed 10 lepers? Did Jesus require them of their giving thanks before he healed them? Not at all. Then, why does Jesus look for the other nine? Jesus’ question “Where are the other nine?” is quite challenging, even hurting our feelings since his question divides people into two categories; His question does not divide people into the rich or the poor, nor into the young or the old, nor into the power and the powerless, but into thankful people or unthankful people. More surprisingly, Jesus blesses one leper who came back for giving thanks to him more by saying “Your faith has made you well.” Jesus’ blessing upon one thankful leper makes us see how Jesus takes our attitude of being thankful very seriously.
First, Jesus heals 10 lepers (11-14). Look at 11. “ Now on his way to Jerusalem,Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.” It says, “Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.” The purpose of Jesus’ traveling to Jerusalem at this time was to become a lamb of God who took away the sins of the world as John the Baptist prophesized. Even though it was the will of God upon Jesus to die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice, Jesus must be bracing himself for the sufferings to come. It would be the very moment for anyone to be extremely selfish or self-centered with overwhelming sorrows and pities upon himself or herself, thinking of the upcoming death. Indeed, the power of death is too strong for anyone to stand strong and unselfish, rather make all helpless and sorrowful without limit. But Jesus refused to remain selfish, rather he was marching on his way to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission.
What was happening while Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem? Look at verse 12, 13. “As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distanceand called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” First of all, here we see some people who lived together in the border line. They were lepers. They were lepers from Judah. They were lepers from Samaria. They were all sorrowful lepers because of their leprosy. When they were normal, they hated each other because of prejudice. When they had something in their pocket, they fought to grab more in their hands. But when they became lepers, they had to live together in no-man’s land since they lost all they had. Once they were divided by hatred. But now they lived together since they had to survive with their leprosy. The only way for them to survive in no-man’s land was to live together, helping each other. They were sorrowful lepers. The sorrowful 10 lepers met Jesus. Since he was on his way to Jerusalem for his upcoming death, it was the last chance for them to meet Jesus. Upon hearing Jesus’ route to Jerusalem, they decided to come to see Jesus. When they saw Jesus at a distance, they shouted in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (13) They did not mind revealing their leprosy in public by shouting in a loud voice and putting themselves in the danger of being stoned by people. When they saw Jesus even at a distance, they shouted in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” The leprosy in the Bible is compared to sin. Like leprosy, sin makes man sorrowful and miserable. Like leprosy, under the power of sin, sinful men have to live lonely, being separated from God’s community. We are all sinners who shout in loud voice like lepers, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Where should we hide our shames of being sinners? There is no place of our sins to be hidden! Upon hearing Jesus’ coming into our hearts, we should shout in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” in our testimonies.
How did Jesus help them? Look at 14. “When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. It says, “Jesus saw them.” Jesus saw ten men with leprosy. Nobody want to see the lepers even in a long distance since they looked so ugly and horrible. But Jesus did not pass them by. Like a hymn “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior”,(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr-o-kVcR6E) Jesus does not pass us by when we ask him for help since he is gentle Savior. Jesus is the God of mercy who never pass by anyone who cries for help.
Jesus not only saw them, but also he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” Here, Jesus did not say “Be clean.” Instead, he told them to go and show themselves to the priests. It was a great challenge for them to obey Jesus’ words since they did not hear “Be clean” first. Without faith that they were healed from their leprosy, it was not possible for them to go and show themselves to the priests. According to the law, it was required to be examined by the priests for people with skin diseases to go back to community for normal life. How did they respond to Jesus’ direction? Verse 14b says, “And as they went, they were cleansed.” As they went in obedience to Jesus’ direction, what happened to them? They were cleansed. Jesus’ words have the power to heal the leprosy from ten lepers. Jesus’ words can work mightily to forgive our sins when we listen to his words with obedience.
Second, thankful people (15-16) Look at 15. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” There were 10 lepers who came to Jesus for help. But after being helped, one out of 10 lepers came back. Who was he? Look at 16. “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” The one man out 10 lepers who came to Jesus for giving thanks to Jesus was a leper from Samaria. He praised God in a loud voice so that many people might hear what happened to him. It was God’s miracle of healing lepers from the incurable disease of leprosy. After praising God in a loud voice, he threw himself at Jesus’ feet to thank him. His action of throwing himself at Jesus’ feet reveals that his thanks to Jesus was not lip service, but out of his deepest heart. He thanked Jesus from the bottom of his heart. Luke comments that he was a Samaritan. In this way, even a Samaritan decided to belong to thankful people.
After being lost in our sins, it is not natural for us to give thanks to God. It is so natural for us to complain about everything to grab something with our hands. In order to belong to thankful people, we need to make a decision of faith to carry out our own divine duty to give thanks. In the Bible, to thank God is our divine duty. So Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Paul defines, "to thank God in all circumstances is the will of God for us." If we have this kind of thanks and praise to God, we can recognize ourselves as truly great men in the sight of God. When we have a thankful heart in any situation, God is most pleased.
Third, unthankful people (17-19) Look at 17, 18. “Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Why did Jesus ask for the other nine? Is it because Jesus needs the offering money from them? Jesus was very surprised by their attitude of taking God’s grace for granted. The disease of forgetting how to thank God is more serious disease than the leprosy. From Jesus’ perspective, people should not be divided by hatred, prejudice. People categorize themselves by education, jobs, region, mostly annual income. But Jesus draws a line between thankful people and unthankful people. How can the other nine of lepers who are healed be unthankful? Maybe, they might say, “Oh, no! I was so thankful, but I was so busy.” Then, is it ok of being too busy not to remember how to thank God? Of course, it is not acceptable for Jesus. Jesus asks, “Where are the other nine?” Why?
In Mark 12:1-12, there is the parable of the vineyard which explains the fundamental reason of making excuses of being busy and of being forgettable to thank God. The owner of the vineyard made a beautiful vineyard and its environment like a Morrell House and gave it to his tenants to take care of it. Here, the tenants refers to his chosen people. At first, the tenants thanked the owner for his arrangement in the beautiful environment. The owner of the vineyard gave them the vineyard to take care of it. But he wanted to maintain the spiritual order and the love relationship and a thankful mind between the owner and his tenants. So, many times the owner sent his servants to see if they were doing well and to see if they had a thankful mind. The tenants, however, only thought about such a beautiful vineyard and its fruits. When they only saw ever-growing and sufficiently abundant grapes, greed came into their hearts. Then Satan began to control their hearts. Each time the servants came from the owner, the tenants sent all the servants back empty-handed and badly injured. Nevertheless, the owner sent his servants again and again. Finally, the owner sent his own son. They also killed the owner's son. The owner could not believe that the tenants killed his own son. Here we learn that when man forgets how to thank God, he becomes a devil.
Fourth, Jesus’ blessing upon thankful people (19). Look at 19. “Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Here we see that Jesus blesses the thankful leper more with his faith when he put his priority in thanking Jesus. When we try to count God's graces one by one, we learn that God's grace is uncountable. We also learn that our sins are uncountable.
In the year 2015, I am thankful to God for his Jehovah Jireh (Gen 22:14). Jehovah Jireh is Abraham's life testimony. Abraham started his life of faith at the age of 75. God promised to make his name great and to make him a great nation and a blessing to all people. Abraham simply believed in his promises. All of a sudden, he said to his wife, "Quick, quick, pack up, Sarah! We are going to leave our hometown and relatives and go to the promised land." At that time, Sarah was barren. She could have said, "What are you talking about?" But she did not say so. She just followed Abraham. After 25 years of Abraham and Sarah following God’s direction, God gave them Isaac. God wanted to see if Abraham loved God more than Isaac, God's blessing to him. So God commanded him to give Isaac as a burnt offering at Mount Moriah. Isaac really wondered. Everything was there, but there was no sacrifice. So Isaac asked, "Father, where is the sacrifice?" Abraham said, "God will provide (Jehovah Jireh)." When Abraham determined to make Isaac a burnt offering, there was a voice from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham. Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son" (Gen 22:10-12). On the mountain of the Lord, God prepared a ram in the place of Isaac. In this way, God provides everything to those who believe in his promise. There are so many people who are slaves of future security. Even if they have mountain-like money, their future security problem erodes their souls. So Jesus said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Mt 6:33).
In the year 2015, I am thankful to God for his Ebenezer which means “Thus far the Lord helped us.” "Ebenezer" is Samuel's life testimony. Samuel belongs to the time of Judges. To Samuel, his life of shepherding seemed to have been a complete failure, and he cried. But when he prayed, he realized that God had used him thus far preciously. During his time of shepherding, his people had undergone one hardship after another. He and his people could have been destroyed by the enemies. But God always helped them. When Samuel remembered the God of Ebenezer, he understood that God would help his people as before. Samuel thought that he had suffered enough to shepherd God's flock. He was bitter. But when he remembered how much God had helped his people thus far, Samuel was overwhelmed by a thankful heart to God, and he cried. Sometimes we think that we live our lives with our own effort. But without God's help we perish, as the crops perish without morning dew and rain in season. We must thank God that he has helped us. We must believe in the God of Ebenezer.
When we look back on God's graces upon us, they are countless. But we do not remember; rather, we are bitter because of hard life and one or two things that made us bitter. These kinds of people are petty men. God does not want us to live a life of petty. We must thank God that he has led us thus far. We cannot do much for his flock. But we must thank God for the privilege of praying for them, in the hope of raising them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
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