11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”
14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
In Jesus' day, “leper” meant a person with one of a variety of visible skin diseases. People thought all lepers were highly contagious, so they feared and shunned them. Jesus healed a group of ten such men—rejected and outcast due to their visible skin diseases. We see how isolated these sufferers were. They raised their voices and called to Jesus while “keeping their distance from him.” But of the ten, only one Samaritan came back to say, “thank you.”
Dear Jesus, you even cared about people everyone else avoided. Which means that no matter what my problems, you care about me, too. And for that I thank you deeply. Amen.
* Bruce Larson, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 26: Luke. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p. 250.
Today's GPS asks us to think about where the other nine men with skin diseases might have gone. The one came back to thank Jesus, but the nine disappeared from the story altogether. Luke seems to like doing this... leaving parts of the story open-ended for us to ponder.
I'd like to think that the nine went to the priests (as they were told to do) and then went home to celebrate with their families, telling everyone they knew about the miracle Jesus had done for them. From what we know, they may have left to be the greatest evangelists in the whole region!
Yet Jesus didn't seem to care whether they went on and proclaimed his greatness to the world – he only cared that they neglected to return and give thanks.
When it comes to gratitude, I am great at being thankful for what I have, but I often find myself holding onto it with clenched fists. I become possessive, even defensive, over the things I'm grateful to have. Perhaps because I'm so thankful for it, I can't imagine my life without it, so I cling to it with all the strength I have.
All ten men in our story clearly knew Jesus had power over their skin diseases, so I can't help but wonder if the nine didn't return to Jesus because they feared he might change his mind. After all, he'd told them to go show themselves to the priest – if they disobeyed, he might get upset and cause their diseases to reappear. They followed his command to the letter.
Only the one man took a risk and turned around, recognizing his need to lay himself – lay the very body that had just been healed – at the feet of Jesus. He offered himself in praise and risked losing everything he had just been given because he could not help but praise the one who had given it to him.
The gratitude that Jesus calls us to is not one that clings to the gifts we've been given. No, Jesus calls us to so cherish those gifts that the only response we can fathom is to offer them back to God.
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