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May God’s love cover you like a warm blanket, and may the peace of God, given through Jesus, fill your hearts with contentment.
Today’s sermon reading comes from the book of Luke, and has to do with leprosy.
Leprosy isn’t something that most of us have any experience with. In the United States there are only about 100 cases of leprosy diagnosed every year. Cases of leprosy in the Bible probably cover a variety of skin diseases. But in preparation for today’s sermon reading, I’d like to tell you about the condition most commonly known as leprosy.
To begin with, leprosy causes sores to appear on the skin that don’t like to heal. Eventually all forms of leprosy cause damage to the nerves of the body. This means that people with leprosy can easily injure themselves without knowing it. Hands and feet can even be lost due to repeated injuries that happen because you simply can’t feel the pain of a burn or a cut or an infection. (https://health.google.com/health/ref/Leprosy)
In Jesus’ day, people with leprosy were required to communicate to others that they had leprosy by doing a number of things. They were to wear torn clothing. They were to cover the hair of their head. If you approached them on the road they were to cover their mouth and say, “Unclean, Unclean”.
Leprosy was seen as symbolic of the way sin infects and destroys people. Leprosy has a long incubation period. You can’t tell it’s there at first. But then the symptoms appear, and it grows steadily worse. Lepers were the walking dead. There was no hope for them. They were also considered ceremonially unclean, and were therefore not permitted to enter the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem.
Leprosy didn’t mean a person couldn’t worship the God of the Bible, just that you couldn’t worship Him in the assembly of believers.
Though leprosy is actually very difficult to transmit to others, lepers generally lived in colonies, apart from the rest of the world. They lived away from their families, away from their friends. For who could endure giving this disease to the people they cared for? No. It was better to live apart.
I suppose it was also easier to live with others who were disfigured and understood, than to endure the stares and the judging of those who were “clean”. You see, in Jesus’ day, many believed that leprosy was a specific judgment from God because of some sin the leper had committed.
Now that we have some feeling for what a leper experienced back then, let’s read our sermon text.
Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)
11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
There are a number of reasons Jesus healed these ten lepers. First of all, He wanted to help them. They had a horrible disease. It caused them a lot of pain. Jesus wanted to restore their health, so He did.
But there were other reasons. Jesus also wanted to restore their relationships. He wanted them to be able to go back to their families, their spouses, their children, their friends.
There was still another reason Jesus healed these lepers. He wanted God to be praised. And that leads us to the main point of our sermon today. It’s about thankfulness. Just what is thankfulness? Maybe that sounds like a stupid question, or at least a very easy question to answer.
But, when Thanksgiving Day rolls around in this country I think we are shown that the world doesn’t really understand thankfulness.
If you watch television today or visit Facebook, you’ll probably see a lot of people talking about things they’re thankful for. But, when they say “thankful” what they really mean is they’re “glad”. They’re glad they live in a free country. They’re glad they have a home. They’re glad they’re not starving. They’re glad that they have families and loved ones and friends and cars and jobs and so many other things.
And it’s good to be glad. It’s good to recognize, “Hey! I’ve got food, and shelter and all these good things.” But I would suggest to you today that thankfulness is MORE than gladness. Thankfulness is recognizing the source of the blessing, not just the fact that you have the blessing.
Maybe you disagree. Ah, pastor, you’re being a little too picky. Thankfulness can be just being glad. But how about this. What if you knew someone who was just getting back on their feet. They’ve been homeless for quite some time. But now, they’ve got a place of their own. They’ve secured a job that will enable them to keep that place. But the one thing they really need is a car to get to work.
You happen to have some money set aside in the bank, and you decide – I’m going to gift them a car. That’s a pretty big gift, right? And they are really happy when they get your gift. They go right out in that car, to the store, to buy a thank-you note. They write it up, and pop it in the mail – to your brother. Or to your sister. Or someone else who had nothing to do with the gift.
Are they thankful? Not to you. Are they happy to have something? Yeah. But are they accurately thankful? No they’re not.
Or take this example from the Old Testament. In the book of Exodus we hear about the people of Israel. They were slaves in Egypt, and called on God to rescue them. So God did. God sent Moses and his brother Aaron down to Egypt as his representatives. God did miracles through Moses and Aaron and the people were freed from their slavery.
You remember the story. God led them out of Egypt, parting the Red Sea so they could walk through. God sent those same walls of water down on the Egyptian army that was coming after them. God led the people of Israel through the desert to the base of a mountain called Mt. Sinai.
At Sinai, Moses went up on the mountain because God told him to. There he received the Ten Commandments and listened to all the future blessings that God had in store for the people of Israel.
But meanwhile, down at the bottom of the mountain the Israelites were getting bored. They said to Aaron, Aaron, that Moses guy who led us out of Egypt, we don’t know where he went. So, we’d like you to make us a god to follow and worship.
Who knows why, but Aaron actually did it. He said, Bring me your golden earrings. And he took that gold and melted it down and made a golden calf for the people to worship. Aaron even told the people that the golden calf was the LORD who had brought them out of Egypt. And they held a big celebration feast to thank the golden calf.
Was that thankfulness? God didn’t think so. God kinda figures that He should get the credit for the stuff He does.
That’s what accurate thankfulness is: recognizing the true source of the blessing. Praising the SOURCE of the blessing. Thankfulness is not JUST gladness.
Here at Redemption Church, God has enabled us to be accurately thankful because God has shown us who He is through the words of the Bible. He has shown us that He accepts us even though we are sinners, everyday sinners who don’t deserve His love. He has shown us that He accepts us because His Son, Jesus, died in our place. His righteousness has become ours. We know our sins have been completely forgiven already. And because we know this, we have the power to turn away sin and live God’s way. We can fill our new lives with accurate thankfulness. Praising God and thanking HIM continually as we walk toward the gates of Heaven that He was opened to us.
You know, there was at least one more reason that Jesus healed the ten lepers. He healed them to restore their health. He healed them to restore their relationships. He healed them so God would be praised. But there was one other reason Jesus blessed these people.
If those lepers recognized that it was God who had taken their leprosy, then perhaps they would trust His promise to take away their sins as well.
It’s such a great parallel. Leprosy was a disease that they could do nothing about. They couldn’t heal themselves. No doctor could cure their leprosy. They were as good as dead, until Jesus came along.
If they realized this, then perhaps they’d realize that it was the same deal with their sins. They couldn’t erase their past. They couldn’t fix their future. But God could, and did.
God had promised He would sent a Savior for the human race, and in Jesus He did. He cleansed them of their leprosy, and on the cross, He did the same with their sins, and ours.
This Thanksgiving Day we have a lot in common with those ten lepers. We’re going to have some health restored today aren’t we? We’re certainly not going to go hungry. We’re going to be filled with many good things. Today many of us will be reunited with family again. Many of us are going to get a chance to just sit down and be with people we love, and who love us.
But on this Thanksgiving Day I hope we have the most in common with that tenth leper, the one that came back. I hope we also can lay our hearts at Jesus’ feet and say, Praise God, and thank you, Jesus.
And above all, I hope that we can learn to view all the blessings we have in this way: If God can be depended upon to provide all we need for body and life, then He can certainly also be depended upon to provide eternal life, through the forgiveness of sins that came by Jesus.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving.