Here’s the text from my sermon from this morning on thankfulness – or you can click here to download the audio:
We’ve lost the rugby so clearly the World Cup doesn’t matter anymore, and at least we won the cricket as that has the Ashes. So instead it’s time to watch Strictly Come Dancing again, which inspired me to play you a bit of our local schools harvest song:
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Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!” John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.” “But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ’O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’”
If there is one sin that most prevalent today, it is the sin of ingratitude. God does so much for us. Our debt to him is enormous and yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what he has done. In fact, most of us professing Christians don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We are much like the little boy who was given an orange by a man. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.”
For a child of God thankfulness is not confined to a day or a season, it is an attitude that we should have everyday and every hour. As we reflect on thanking God at harvest time I want to magnify this point by examining the account of the ten lepers in Luke’s Gospel and see some important truths concerning an attitude of gratitude.
The Position Of All!
Look at verses 11 and 12. “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance”
We see here the position of the lepers. Firstly,
- They Were In An Awful Position:
Luke says here they stood afar off. The disease of leprosy was a painful disease but the physical pain was not the most terrible part of the disorder. Lepers were separated. They were shut out and cast off. It seems here that these lepers were shut out to an area away from everyone else. They were shut out from their family. No one knows how long it had been since they had felt the touch of their wife or the kiss of their children. They were shut out from their friends. Friends no longer came round or invited them to go somewhere with them. They were shut out from fellowship of the church.
Notice that Jesus on his way to Jerusalem entered into a certain village and there met the lepers. The religious crowd had no room for these leprous men. But most awfully, they were shut out from the Father. Here is Jesus, the only way to the Father, and they stood afar off from him. Sinners are not near God, they are afar off. And they cannot and will not draw near on their own. Do you know what kept them at a distance? The Law. The Old Testament law shut them out. The law set forth the conduct of lepers. The law said when you pass one, pass on the other side and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” Sin puts us in an awful position. And they were all in this awful position.
- They Were In An Approachable Position:
Here are these men living shut out lives. But I am grateful this morning that where the law says man cannot go, Jesus goes. What the law declares off limits, Jesus barges in. When the law passes on the other side, Jesus makes it a point to make contact. Jesus came to save sinners. He went this way on purpose because even in the awful position sin puts us in, Jesus is able to reach us and to save us. My family can’t help me, my friends can’t help me, the church can’t help me, but Jesus can. And while we stand afar off from him, he does not stand afar off from us. When they could not get to Jesus, Jesus got to them. When they could not come to him, he came to them.
But they were all in the same position!
The Prayer Of All!
Now look at verses 13 and 14. “And [they] called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.”
All ten utter the same prayer. Notice two things here quickly.
- Their Observation:
They saw and they sensed their need. You don’t pray and call out for help unless you feel your need. The reason sinners don’t come to Christ for salvation is that they don’t sense their need. But the loneliness and the pain of this disease were evident to these ten lepers. They knew they needed help and there was none to be found except maybe in this one called Jesus, whom they heard healed the sick. There is no doubt they need help, so they cry out for mercy.
- Their Obedience
Prayer without obedience is useless. Jesus tells them to go to the priest. Now the priests had no power to cure but they had the authority to declare the one cured clean, to issue the certificate of cleanliness so that all would be sure of his healing. But do notice that they were not healed immediately instead they were healed as they went. As they obeyed the command of the Lord they were healed.
- The Praise Of One!
Verses 15-19, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Here is the key to the whole issue. All were in the same awful position. All prayed and all were healed. Yet only one of the ten returned to offer thanksgiving. Notice:
- The Opportunity Of Praise
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back. He saw a reason to praise. He saw a difference Jesus had made. He saw a change made by Christ. He saw an opportunity to praise God. Many see their need to pray but don’t see their need to praise. I don’t know how it happened, we are not told here. But maybe as they walked toward the priest’s house. He began to notice his skin loosing that scaling white appearance. Or maybe they passed by some people and he expected that they would run to the other side and yell, Unclean! Unclean! But it never came. I don’t know how he came to the conclusion but when he saw that he was healed he stopped going the one direction and made a bee-line to Jesus Christ. He had reason to praise God. They all had reason to praise God, but only one saw it.
- The Object Of Praise
Where are the other nine? I have no doubt that after they were declared clean by the priest they made their way to be with their family and their friends. To hug and kiss the wife and the children. To visit Mum and Dad. To talk with friends. Their minds were occupied on all that the blessing brought to their lives. But one. One loved his wife and children just as much as the others. One wanted to hug and kiss his wife and children just as much as the others. One wanted to spend time with his friends just as much as the others. One wanted to enjoy the blessing just as much as the others. But one had his priorities in order. One did not get so wrapped up in the blessing that he forgot the blesser.
The other nine couldn’t see beyond the gift of the miracle of healing to the one who gave it to them. They never saw the giver. Do you remember the Aesop fable, Androcles and the lion? “Androcles was a young boy who wandered off into the forest one day. Suddenly he came upon a lion that was groaning in pain. Androcles turned to run away as fast as he could, and as he glanced over his shoulder to see how close that lion was, he noticed the lion had not run after him. So Androcles, sloped, turned back to the lion to see what was the matter. He saw that the lion had a huge throne in his paw. Androcles pulled it out and helped the lion to his den where the lion was healed.
A few days later, Androcles and the lion were captured. Androcles because he was a Christian and the emperor wanted some fun watching Christians being eaten in the theater, and the lion, because they needed one to do this deed. Androcles was pushed out into the big arena and the lion came charging from the cage on the other side. Androcles fell to his knees waiting for the huge mouth of the lion to devour him, but to his amazement, the lion stopped dead in his tracks, laid down and crawled towards Androcles , and began to lick his face and play with him. It was the same lion who Androcles had helped, the one who had the thorn removed. The lion saw beyond the act of help to the helper, and responded in likeness when the opportunity rose. Aesop always has a moral tacked on at the end of his fables, this one being: “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
One of the ten lepers put family, friends and fellowship on hold so that he could worship the blesser, the one that made his being with his family and friends possible.
Notice that with a loud voice he glorified God. With the same loudness and intensity he cried for mercy, he glorified God. Many times we cry loud for help and low with praise. But with the same zeal we sought help we should praise him. And he fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. Oh he was not a Jew, he was not worthy of this healing. He was not worthy to receive God’s help. But by grace he was healed and he comes to worship the one who unconditionally healed him. And he got more than the others did. They received physical healing from a distance. But this one not only received physical healing but he got close to God and worshipped him as Lord and received spiritual healing. God may chose to physically heal a man from a distance but spiritual healing comes only when we fall prostrate before the feet of Jesus Christ and worship him as Saviour and Lord. His faith did not save him but it connected him to the one who could save him.
There was a father and mother of a young man killed in the military in a little church. One day they came to the pastor and told him the wanted to give a monetary gift as a memory to their son who died in battle. The pastor said, “That’s a wonderful gesture on your part.” He asked if it was ok to tell the congregation and they said that it was. So the next Sunday he told the congregation of the gift given in memory of the dead son.
On the way home from church, another couple were driving down the highway when the father said to his wife, “Why don’t we give a gift because of our son?” And his wife said, “But our son didn’t die in any conflict! Our son is still alive!” Her husband replied, “That’s exactly my point! That’s all the more reason we ought to give in thanks to God.”