Luke 17:11-19 “Falling At His Feet, Giving Thanks” November 22, 2009
INTRO: On Halloween a few years ago some neighbors came to our door
with their little girl. We oohed and ahhed about her witch costume.
And after we put candy in bag, her mother said:
“Cabry, what do you say?” And the little girls said nothing.
We stood there and witnessed a battle of the wills on our front porch.
“Tell them thank you.” Still, silence.
“Say thank you.” Not a sound.
“If you don’t say thank you, we’re going to give your candy back.”
Maybe a little flicker of doubt, but she dug in her heels and said nothing.
“I’m going to count to three, if don’t say thank you, I’m taking your candy away.”
“One, two, three . . .”
And as the mother’s hand was going into the bag we heard a tiny squeak
that sounded like this . . .
At first glance, this story in Luke seems perfect for little girls and boys like her.
This would be a perfect for a Sunday school class full of little children
who won’t say thank you.
Boys and girls, look at these 9 men healed of leprosy.
Look at these men who didn’t say thank you to Jesus. Isn’t that a shame?
And look at this one man who was so good and said thank you.
Don’t be like those nine bad lepers who didn’t say thank you.
Be like that the one good leper—say thank you.
But that’s not what this story is about.
God didn’t give us the Bible to teach us little moral lessons like—say thank you.
Be grateful. Be thankful. Be good.
There are lots of books in the world that teach those things.
The Bible is a book about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
This is story is about how only the grace of God can save you and change you.
One man was saved and profoundly changed by God’s grace.
This story is about how you should look for and cultivate
and want those same evidences of God’s grace in your life that he had.
There is a strong theme of thanksgiving in this story.
Because of that, it’s a popular Thanksgiving sermon text.
That’s the reason I chose it. It’s very appropriate for this day.
I love this story. I’ve preached it before.
But we will see that even the thankfulness this man had was a particular
kind of thankfulness that only comes from God’s grace.
The problem with the nine men was not that they didn’t say thank you—
it was that they had not received the grace of God.
Even though their bodies had been healed of leprosy—
their souls had not been healed from sin.
When the one man came back, the Samaritan, Jesus asked some questions.
“Were not all cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
“Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
He was asking those questions for the benefit of his disciples.
Notice they didn’t respond.
Probably because the were convicted and bothered.
In Peter’s heaven there were no Samaritans, only Jews.
In John’s heaven, there were no Samaritans, only Jews.
Do you remember that other
time they passing through
rejected Christ and disciples said: Jesus, can we call down fire from heaven?
Can we, please! Jesus said, what do I have to do with you, Sons of Thunder?
So Jesus, by his questioning was forcing his disciples to look at God’s grace
to this Samaritan and then at themselves.
As you read this story, as one of Jesus’ disciples,
you are supposed to contrast the nine and the one—and compare yourself to each.
And the big question to ask yourself is not: Am I thankful?
But, have I experienced God’s grace in my life?
Do I see the evidences that this man had?
How can I grow in that grace?
Three evidences of God’s grace. Let’s look at each.
Give them to you in the form of a question.
MP#1 Do you cry out to God in worship with the same fervor that you cry out to him in want?
All the lepers cried out in a loud voice: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”
Leprosy was a terrible disease.
By law lepers were forced to leave normal society and live as outcasts.
These men had been cut off from normal contact with families.
It seems that nine of them were Jews and one was a Samaritan.
In normal life, they didn’t have anything to do with each other,
but as lepers they were cut off from society and banded together.
If you have ever seen the movie Ben Hur, you will remember that Ben Hur’s
mother and sister contracted leprosy and had to live in a leper colony.
Ask Adrienne and Eliza about the first time the watched Ben Hur
and what they thought of the lepers.
Well, these men had obviously heard something about Jesus.
They knew he had some kind of divine power.
So they cried out to him in a loud voice.
Crying out to God in need is a universal human response.
When people are desperate enough they turn to God for help.
The classic example is the foxhole conversion.
The bombs are whistling overhead, enemy getting closer, out of ammo.
The man prays: O God save me. Please get me out of this spot.
When a child is dangerously sick parents will cry out to God to save child.
When doctor gives a person a bad diagnosis, when a man loses job,
when airplane starts into a nosedive—people cry out “O God!”
That’s what these 10 lepers did.
But, only one man returned to praise God.
Isn’t it interesting that his worship is described in the very same way.
He cried out for pity in a loud voice and he praised God in a loud voice.
He worshiped with the same fervency.
Why did only one return shouting God’s praises?
That’s one of the questions Jesus asked.
The answer is not that he was a better man, even that he knew more of the Bible.
He was a Samaritan and the other nine were Jews.
The Jews had the true revelation from God, Samaritans did not.
God had poured out his saving grace on this man. He had been born again.
One evidence was that he cried out in worship, not just in want.
That’s an evidence of God’s saving grace.
Now, what about you. Do you cry out in worship like you cry out in want?
One day this week I was worried about something and prayed off and on all day
long. I kept getting distracted from my work, and asking God to please help.
That’s easy, to get worried about something and call out over and over for God
even to the point of being distracted from your work.
But I can’t ever think of a time when I’ve been distracted all day long by thoughts
of how good God is and constantly lifting up prayers of praise.
And what about the Lord’s Day? You’re in God’s house.
Are you singing with the same fervor as your desperate prayers?
Are you singing God’s praises with the same fervor as that prayer
in which you begged him for your business or your health?
Are you just as eager to meet Jesus at the Table in worship as you were for him
to come and rescue you out the problems you are now facing?
Story is told that when Thomas a Becket was a little baby he got sick and his
mother prayed a desperate prayer for his life. Cried out for God to save him.
Which God did—he grew up to become
Every year after that, as a baby, child—she would take him to marketplace
where there was a big scale, put him in a basket on one side,
fill up an empty basket on the other side with best food until tipped scales,
then she would bring it to church on Sunday for distribution to the poor.
That’s a heart changed by the grace of God. Fervor in worship, not just in want.
Can you see why the disciples didn’t say anything when Jesus questioned them?
This is so convicting. Crying out to God in want not indication of changed life.
But crying out to Him in worship is.
Even if your desire to praise God is weak—it’s evidence of His grace.
It’s something that you should exercise and cultivate.
It’s no mistake that when Jesus taught us to pray he said that we are first to say:
Our Father which art in heaven—hallowed be your name.
Do you cry out in worship with the same fervor you cry out in want?
By God’s grace you can and you should.
MP#2 Are you content with only temporal blessings, or do you crave eternal ones as well?
When the one man came back praising God and thanking Jesus—
Lord said: “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”
The Greek word is simply the word saved. Your faith has saved you.
It’s obvious that Jesus’ was speaking with a double meaning.
This man really had two diseases—and the least serious of the two was leprosy.
He other disease was his sin, inherited from Adam—all his many sins.
Leprosy will kill the body—Sin will kill the soul.
But by God’s grace, he was healed of both.
And he knew that he had received something much greater than healing
of his leprosy. He had received forgiveness and the new birth.
And that immediately makes you think of the other nine men.
They went their way thinking they were healed because leprosy was gone.
But the real killer disease at work in their souls had not been dealt with.
They had received a temporal blessing—temporal—in this life, temporary.
Healing from leprosy was temporary because one day bodies would die.
And they were content with that. That was enough for them.
They didn’t crave an eternal blessing. They didn’t crave forgiveness and new life.
Once Jesus had healed their bodies—they no longer sought him.
They happily went on their way, and never turned back to Jesus for more
The Lord pleased when people ask for temporal blessings.
We do it all the time. Requests about temporal things take up big part of prayers.
O Lord fix this problem, heal this disease, take care of that person—
Lord, give my business financial success.
Lord, bless my marriage with happiness.
Lord, help my kids get good grades and get a scholarship for college.
There is nothing at all wrong with praying for those things in themselves.
God wants us to ask. It honors him when we ask, if ask with the right motives.
But it is also clear that when the Lord answers prayers, and blesses temporally—
he wants that to whet your appetite for eternal blessings through Christ.
He want you to crave things that will last forever.
Eternal happiness, eternal healing. That all comes through Christ.
John Sartelle, pastor for years at Independent Presbyterian Church in Memphis
once told of a Memphis businessman he knew as an acquaintance.
Knocked on door of study—Business going down tubes—pray God will save it.
Yes. Started to pray. Man started coming to church.
God not only rescued his business, turned it around, gave him great success.
And he quit coming to church.
Dr. Sartelle said that he would bump into him occasionally.
If he asked him about his business man would say:
God rescued my business—I believe in prayer.
But that was where his desire for God’s blessings stopped, with business success.
Just wanted God to make his life comfortable now and that was enough.
He didn’t have eternal things in mind.
What makes up the bulk of your prayer requests?
Is it that your children are successful in school and with friends—
or that they walk with the Lord?
Is it that you land the job you need or that you are filled daily
with the Holy Spirit? That’s one question this story makes us ask.
But I think a bigger question is this:
When God does pile on temporal blessings. When he gives you peace in home,
and money in the bank—are you still craving more of Him?
Do you want deeper faith, greater love?
Jesus said: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness
It is the saving grace of God alone that makes you want eternal blessings.
It was God’s grace that bought the one man back to Jesus for something
better than the physical healing he had received.
If you have any desire for eternal blessings—that’s evidence of God’s grace
and you need to cultivate that, grow in it.
Takes asking for more. Praying without ceasing.
Using the means of grace to keep eyes on things above.
Are you content with only temporal blessings, or do you crave eternal ones as well?
MP#3 Is your thankfulness a general gratitude to God, or are you thankful to Jesus Christ?
Often in commentaries and sermons this story of the lepers is presented as I
mentioned a few minutes ago.
Don’t be like those nine ungrateful men. Be like that one thankful man.
But do you really think those men were ungrateful?
That’s impossible. They had to be incredibly grateful.
Nothing was as devastating as leprosy.
Not only did you have to leave family and live as an outcast.
Had to keep hair unkempt, wear torn clothes, cloth over mouth—
Shout whenever close to normal people—Unclean!
Over time as your fingers, toes, ears, nose decayed.
Imagine a businessman in Jerusalem. Bathing one day he notices a spot.
Goes to the priest—health inspectors. All in Leviticus 14. Jewish law.
He declares your spot leprosy.
That day your life as you have known it has died.
You say goodbye to wife, children, house, work.
You no longer shower, shave, put on suit and tie.
You are an outcast. And your companions are people who have become hideous.
And you know that in time you will look just like them
David and Eleanor Fiol have visited us on a few occasions.
are veteran missionaries in
And for years they’ve run homes for the children of lepers.
These homes were started by Presbyterian missionaries decades ago.
When woman with leprosy has child, child not infected. Child is born disease free.
But if a child stays in the leper community, he will become a leper.
So lepers will bring their children to the home, and that is where they grow up.
Once a year parents come to see their children.
Parents stand behind a low wall, about 20 feet away.
They can see their children and talk to them. But they can’t touch them.
I asked the Fiols, with modern medicine, is that really necessary?
David Fiol said, No. The parents could touch their children.
But the social stigma is so terrible, only hope for child to have normal life,
if never have any physical contact.
The stigma for Jews was similar. A terrible isolation.
So it was impossible that these Jewish men—after seeing healing of bodies—
then going to priest and being declared clean, healed—impossible not grateful.
Don’t you know hearts full of gratitude as they looked at family and friends.
They probably said many times, Thank God!
But their gratitude was not directed toward Jesus Christ.
And that makes all the difference in the world.
These 10 men knew about Jesus.
They knew the stories. That he had healed blind and made lame walk.
They knew he claimed to be Messiah. They knew the controversy.
But only one made the connection and fell in adoration at his feet.
The others were grateful, but their gratitude failed because they didn’t
see that Jesus was the Savior and thank him for his salvation.
Jesus asked: “Was none found to give praise to God?”
He was talking about himself. He was asserting his deity.
This man alone, by God’s grace saw Jesus for who he really was—
The Son of God and Savior of sinners—
And it was that—even deeper than the healing of his leprosy—
that brought him to Jesus in thankfulness.
If you can’t look up at Jesus and thank him by name for taking away your sin,
If you can’t say: Lord Jesus Christ, you’re my greatest treasure.
I love my wife, I love my kids, I love my work—but without you
I would be a hopeless outcast—then you’ve never really thanked God.
Because Jesus is the Mediator between God and man.
And it is this recognition of Jesus Christ as the ultimate source of blessing,
that makes our pleasure in all the good things of life honoring to God.
A Christian can enjoy a trip to the beach or a good ballgame or dinner with friends
because he is thankful to Jesus for salvation. The pleasure he receives
from all these passing things is sanctified by that great thankfulness.
And why was it that this one man thanked Jesus—and had the faith
to see him for who he really was? Was it because he was a better man?
No—it was because of the grace of God.
So if you have any gratitude for Jesus Christ—any thankfulness and amazement
at the great salvation he as accomplished for you—that’s evidence of God’s grace.
Cultivate it. Grow in it.
Use season of thanksgiving to praise God in a loud voice for Son, fall at his feet
John Calvin says that the most sober lesson in this story is that there is such a thing
as false faith, temporary faith.
But it doesn’t last. Roots not fixed by the spirit of regeneration.
“Above all, it is too common a disease that, when we are urged by strong necessity, and when the Lord himself prompts us by a secret movement of the Spirit, we seek God, but when we have obtained our wishes, ungrateful forgetfulness swallows up that feeling of piety. Thus poverty and hunger beget faith, but abundance kills it.”
There are people in hell who once cried out to God in want.
Asked him in desperation to give them some temporal blessing—
to heal their leprosy, to rescue business, to restore their marriage—and God did.
And they were grateful to God in a general sense.
But they never fell at the feet of Jesus Christ
as the Son of God and Savior of sinners—as their Savior.
And their greatest disease was never healed.
The biggest business of life was not finished.
May that never be true of you.
Where God has poured out his grace, fan the flame of faith in Christ.
What better place to do that than at the Table.
Come now with a heart fervent in worship—praising him for what he has done.
Come with a heart craving eternal blessings—Spirit, holiness.
Come with a heart full of thanksgiving to Jesus—in your private meditation
as you hold the bread and cup—“Thank you Jesus, praise you God, for all done.”