Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pentecost 20 - Proper 23

Luke 18:11-19
Who Bothers to Thank God?

Today’s Gospel reports the miracle of the healing of ten lepers. Ten men, afflicted with a disease that excluded them from normal society (see Leviticus 13:45-59) and inevitably brought death, sought help from Jesus. All ten were told to show themselves to the priest. (Leviticus 14:2-20). All ten were healed. But the fact that only one of the ten returned to give thanks to Jesus raises some interesting questions, among them: What happened to the nine? Who bothers to return thanks to God?

1. Not those whose only concern is to enjoy what has been them.
A. Ten met Jesus, Ten called Him “Master”. Ten were healed and undoubtedly rejoiced. Only one looked beyond the healing to the Healer. Giving thanks had greater priority for him than being certified as clean.
B. Like the nine, we also often display a selfishness that is enamored of things that benefit us and that cares not at all for the God who supplies our every need.
C. Beware! Such selfish myopia stifles thanksgiving. It sees no cause for gratitude unless we receive what we think is best, at the time we prefer, in the way we desire. When this attitude prevails, who bothers to thank God?

2. Not those who believe that God’s good treatment is something they have earned for themselves.
A. The text strongly emphasizes that the only man who returned to give thanks to Jesus was a Samaritan, a foreigner. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, a symbolic act of complete subjection. He realized that his healing was an act of pure mercy, not a payment that he deserved.
B. How much his views differed from those of the majority of people, both at Christ’s time and still today! How easy it is, even for us, to pin our hope for God’s favor on what we are or think or say or do. We desire and sometimes demand that God be kind to us and help us as a reward for our good church attendance or our righteous living or our delightful personalities.
C. Beware! Such self-righteous pride will not fall at Jesus feet and give thanks to Him. It gives no glory to God for His marvelous works of mercy, for it sees God only as a paymaster who distributes benefits to those who have earned them. When this attitude prevails, who bothers to thank God?

3. Only those whom God has rescued from the dominion of sin and Satan by giving them faith in the saving work of Christ.
A. The event reported in the Gospel happened while Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to lay down His life as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. The guilt of our selfishness and pride rested on His shoulders. The hands that in other cases healed with a touch were soon to be nailed to the cross in payment for our ingratitude and lovelessness. The voice that told the lepers to show themselves to the priest would soon cry out in pain and agony, “I thirst”, and “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” as Jesus endured the full punishment of body and soul that we all deserve. But that same voice would sound forth again after His resurrection, announcing that forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to Jews and Samaritans and all the nations of the earth.
B. Only the power of the resurrected Christ, received by us through faith, can purge our hearts of the spiritual maladies of selfishness and pride and ingratitude and sin. Only in the strength that He supplies are we able to overcome our natural inclination toward evil and truly give thanks and glory to God. Through faith in Christ, the Samaritan leper received healing in his body. Motivated by that faith; he returned to give thanks. For such as that leper, it is not at all a bother to thank God. The expression of heartfelt thanks to God with our lips and our lives is a joyous privilege that God provides for us here in time and hereafter in eternity.

Face of Christ

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