According to the Survey, Only One Out of Ten Was Thankful…

Posted: April 13, 2015 in Gospel of Luke

Luke 17:11-19 — Remember those toothpaste or mouthwash commercials that used to say 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed…I always wondered why that 5th dentist didn’t approve of the product. What was up with him? Was he some hippy dentist that didn’t want to give it up to the man? Was he some anti-establishment radical who eschewed anything monetary or that smacked of capitalism? It made me wonder! Here, as we move into a new passage from Luke today, we find the opposite in play. There were 10 lepers. All of them wanted to be healed of the dreaded skin disease, leprosy. All ten lepers were healed but only one came back to give glory to Jesus for having healed them. One out of ten lepers surveyed…

Leprosy was the most dreaded of all diseases in ancient times. People who contracted this disease of the nervous system that expresses itself in swelling, scaling and sores on the skin were forced to live in exile away from any population center. Many lived among caves. Their diseased caused them to lose all of their possessions because they were no longer able to find gainful employment. They would lose their families. They were reduced to begging for food. According to gotoquestions.com, “A leper wasn’t allowed to come within six feet of any other human, including his own family. The disease was considered so revolting that the leper wasn’t permitted to come within 150 feet of anyone when the wind was blowing. Lepers lived in a community with other lepers until they either got better or died. This was the only way the people knew to contain the spread of the contagious forms of leprosy.” To contract leprosy was considered a curse related to sins committed. To have leprosy in ancient times was a virtual death sentence.

Thus in this passage, it is why Luke mentions that the lepers were standing at a distance so as not to defile anyone who was nearby. Jesus had compassion on them and healed them. He instructed them to go to the priest and present themselves as clean so that they could return to normal society. At His word, they left to go to the synagogue even before they were cured. They were cured as they went along. Yet, only one of them showed their thanks to Jesus by coming to Him. One of out ten. There is much to learn from this passage about ourselves.

The first thing that strikes is the fact that often we cry out to God for help when we have no other option. It is puzzling that it often takes drastic circumstances for us to recognize that God even exists. In the history of Israel you can see cycles of obedience and disobedience. It often took disasters such as war, drought, famine, etc. to shake the Israelites back to their senses. We make fun of how stupid they were for not honoring God always but are we not the same today. Our nation was founded on biblical principles but with our success as a nation we continue to stray farther and farther from God. We believe our success is because of our own effort not because of the blessings of God. It often takes disasters to bring us back to the Lord. After the horrendous events of 09/11/01, church attendance spiked. Interest in spiritual matters skyrocketed. Subsequent to that, within months, church attendance returned to normal. Spiritual interest waned. Aren’t we individually like that too at times. We only cry out to God when things are bad. We spend much of our lives thinking we have things under control. Our prayer lives are non-existent or poor at best. But, boy, let something bad come along, we are praying like crazy. There’s a threat of losing your job, prayer is back in your life. About to lose your house, prayer is front and center. Death of a close friend, we seek God. Crying out to God is our fall back position when we can’t handle something ourselves. Why don’t we praise God when times are good? Why is that we are just like the Israelites? When things are good we stray from a close relationship with God cause we think we’ve got it all together. Let us resolve to praise God for the blessings of our lives rather than just calling on Him when we need Him to get us out of a jam or when something bad happens.

The second thing that strikes me about this passage is the fact that nine out of ten lepers do not return to thank Jesus. We sit and read this passage and think, “Man, how ungrateful can the nine be?” They were just healed by Jesus and they did not even as much as thank Him. They went on their merry way. Jesus got them out of a jam and they did not even appreciate it. First, aren’t many of us this way. We want God to get us out of jam and then we forget about him. Like after 9/11, church attendance bumped up briefly. When we get in personal jams, we cry out to God to save us but once the crisis passes and we get through it, we think then that we did it ourselves and we return to normal. It is like a child who rebels against his parent’s authority and seems to loathe them almost. Yet, when they get in a jam in which there is no way out, they call on their parents. They are thankful for a while but quickly return to their pre-crisis parental loathing. The nine lepers needed a miracle. They got one. Then, they go on their way as if nothing miraculous happened. They are just glad that the crisis is over and they can rejoin that which they had lost. Only one praised the source of the miracle and saw that the miracle was a gift not a right. Jesus blessed them all but only one appreciated that it was a gift. He was profoundly changed. Jesus gave all 10 a miracle. Nine did not appreciate it. Jesus did not condemn the 9. He celebrated the one. That’s the one that mattered.

Second, it reminds us that Jesus had compassion for those who did not appreciate His miracles. He healed but it is up to us to recognize the Healer. We can learn from this as Christians too. We often expect those that we help to recognize Jesus and be thankful. There are those out there that we help as Christians who simply think that they are entitled to the help you give them. They think that they deserve the help. They think that you helping them pay their power bill is something that they are entitled to rather than it being a gift. Let us remember to love without expectation of payback. Jesus did this. What people do with our help and the Christian love that they have been shown is up to them and God. We do our part anyway. We show them the love Christ without regard of what they do with the miracle. If we have to wade through 9 ungrateful lepers to get to the 1 who is so profoundly changed by the love that he had been shown that they come to know Jesus. That is why we do what we do as Christ followers. That is why we do what we do as LifeSong Church. Every show of love to the community is worth if one person comes to Christ because of it. We celebrate the one who comes back.

What this passage should teach us is that every day we are blessed by our Savior for having saved us from the sinners that we are. Every day God is there. We must recognize that it is Him that is the source of all things and not ourselves. We must recognize that God is God everyday and not just when life goes in the crapper. We need Him everyday. We must recognize Him as Lord over our lives everyday. We must thank Him every day for the every day miracles. We must thank Him every day for the provision that He gives us every day. As Christ followers too, let us not get caught up in whether the help we give others leads the masses to the cross. We celebrate the victories of the one who comes back. We pray for the nine that accept the love offered but go on their merry way. We keep loving. We keep celebrating the one who comes back. One by one we celebrate. Jesus died on the cross for all of us. He provided all of us a way back to God regardless of whether we accept it or not. Thus, we keep loving the world around us for the one out of ten who is profoundly changed by it. We do it all for the One so that one can come to Him just as was done for us when someone cared enough to lead us to the cross.

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