“Just to Say Thanks”

On Sept. 23, Pastor Jim preaches on Luke 17:11-19.

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

When I was a teenager in San Antonio, my pastor was Malford Cauthem Hierholzer. He was a tough old German who loved God and preached the social Gospel. His theology was earthy and addressed life in the real world.

One of his oft-repeated preachments was, “Have an attitude of gratitude.”  I doubt that the phrase originated with him, but Mal certainly made it his own.

I suppose that one might consider it quaint, folksy, or even simplistic. I mean, we get it, it’s nice to be grateful. It’s good manners.

Actually, there’s much more to gratitude than that. Real gratitude is a lifestyle. It’s a policy. It’s an expression and affirmation of faith. The word “gratitude” comes from the Latin word “gratus,” which means “pleasing or thankful.” It’s a good thing and a God thing.

Psychologists have discovered that gratitude, or the lack thereof, directly impacts a person’s enjoyment of life and overall well-being. It makes sense. Have you ever known an ungrateful happy person?

This week we will think together about the time when Jesus healed 10 lepers. He met them on the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee.

As they approached they cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He did and sent them away to visit the priests. Today he might tell them to follow up with their regular physicians. You see, the priests were the only ones qualified to diagnose them as leprosy-free. At that point they could rejoin their communities and reconnect with their families.

According to the text, as they departed, they were all healed. Nine of the 10 continued on their way to the priests; however, one turned back toward Jesus. As he came, he praised God with a loud voice. I can imagine that the other ex-lepers heard him. The man then fell down before Jesus and thanked him.

Jesus told the man that his “faith” has made him well. I think it’s safe to assume that by “faith” Jesus meant “gratitude.” He could just as well have said, “your gratitude to God has made you well.”

He also expressed disappointment toward the nine who did not come back. In his marvelous Hebrew way Jesus made a statement by asking questions: “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?”

He then asked a question that was directly connected to the strife and prejudice ever present on the border. “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

This statement of Jesus and the point intended was radical. In the minds of his own people, there was no such thing as a good foreigner, especially a Samaritan. This event fleshed out his parable of the good Samaritan, which revealed a Gentile as the hero.

He had something that pleased God, something that was the catalyst for his own healing. What did this foreigner have? You guessed it: gratitude.