Sunday Sermon: ‘Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart’

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The Bible says – “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Sometimes it is very easy to give thanks. We can look down at our long list of blessings and rejoice over all the good things that we have to enjoy. But sometimes, life isn’t so easy. Sometimes there’s some gaps in our list. Sometimes life isn’t going the kind of way we had hoped and therefore it’s a little bit harder to be thankful. Yet the Bible doesn’t say, “for” everything give thanks. The Bible says, “in” everything give thanks. If we look very carefully we will find that in almost every situation, there are some reasons to be thankful.

As I have spent time this past week praying and studying over this message, two words have stood out in my mind. The first word is ‘thankful’ and the second word is ‘grateful.’ The words thankful and grateful mean pretty much the same thing. However, there is a subtle and importance difference. Often when we use the word ‘thankful’ we say – “I am thankful for…” and then we pull some tangible thing from our list for which we are thankful. But when we use the word ‘grateful’, we say – “I am grateful to…” and then we add a name. Thankfulness often focuses on the blessing and gratefulness often focus upon the one who has blessed us.

This morning I want us to take a look at a familiar passage of scripture that I think helps to explain what I am saying.

Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

 I. Ten Men Who Had a Need

 A. The Physical Suffering Associated with Leprosy

I have read that leprosy is the oldest disease known to mankind. It dates back even to the time of the Pharaohs in Egypt. It is interesting to note that there is no mention of leprosy in the Bible until the time the children of Israel were in Egypt. Perhaps it was during their time there that they picked up this dreaded disease.

What is leprosy? WebMD describes leprosy as: an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms and legs. Pictures of those who have leprosy show victims who have nodules or lumps under their skin that range from minor to grotesque. Many have nothing but nubs for fingers and toes. I have also read that there is sometimes a certain odor associated with those who have leprosy.

 B. The Emotional Suffering Associated with Leprosy

But there were also other ways which those with leprosy suffered. The leprosy of Jesus’ day was thought to be highly contagious, therefore those with leprosy were forced to leave their family and friends and live in isolation. Sometimes they joined together and lived in what was known as a leper colony. Jewish law prohibited a leper of coming within a hundred paces of another human being. A hundred paces is roughly the length of a football field. In addition, they had to wear ragged clothes that revealed their destitution and they had to hang a piece of cloth over the lower part of their face and cry out – “Unclean! Unclean!”

Luke 17:12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

C. The Spiritual Suffering Associated with Leprosy

Lepers also suffered spiritually. Leprosy was considered by many to be a curse from God on someone who had committed a terrible sin. Lepers were not allowed to come anywhere near a synagogue or the Temple.

  II. Ten Men Whose Needs Were Met

I’m sure when the lepers first saw Jesus and His disciples, they cried out ‘Unclean!” as they so often did. But once they began to realize who this was and what many said He could do, their cry quickly changed from ‘Unclean!’ to “Master! Have mercy on us!” Why did they cry out to Jesus for mercy? There are at least a couple of reasons.

 A. Jesus’ Ability to Do the Impossible

Luke chapter 5 tells us of another time when Jesus healed a man who had leprosy. The Bible says that the man fell on his face before Jesus and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus said, “I am willing. Be clean!” And immediately the man was healed. (see Luke 5:12-13)

Just the thought that Jesus might be able to cure them gave these ten lepers hope. The Bible says that they called Him, “Master.” There are several words in the Bible that are translated as – Master. The most common word used is a word that refers to someone as your teacher. The rich young ruler said to Jesus, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18) Or in other words, “Teacher, teach me how to earn my way to heaven.” Another word that was sometimes used is the word from which we get the title ‘Rabbi.’ A rabbi was a teacher, but he was more than just a teacher. He was an honored teacher. Some say that the title Rabbi means: “great one.” In Matthew 23 Jesus condemned the religious leaders of Israel for wanting to be called ‘Rabbi’ or ‘Great Ones.’ “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Mt 23:8)

The ten lepers didn’t ask Jesus to teach them a lesson. They were not just extolling Jesus as someone who is great. The word they used for master referred to someone who had notable authority and power. Up until this point, only the disciples of Jesus has used this word when addressing Him. Apparently the ten lepers chose this word because they had heard of the many miracles Jesus had performed. Here was a man who could heal any disease and even raise the dead. He could calm a raging sea and He could even drive out demons. By calling Him ‘Master’ they were saying, “Jesus, you have power and authority over everything. You are the Master of the universe. Therefore we beg of You to heal us.”

 B. Jesus’ Willingness to Do the Improbable

These men believed that Jesus not only had the ability to do the impossible; they also believed that He was willing to do the improbable.

No one ever came near a leper. No one fooled with them. Once a person was diagnosed with leprosy, there was no hope. They were abandoned to live out the rest of their lives suffering from this disease. Yet rumors had it that Jesus not only had the ability to cure leprosy, He was willing to cure them. Again we refer to the story in Luke 5.

Luke 5:12 …and he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

Jesus not only healed the man, He touched him. The ten lepers asked Jesus to show them mercy. The word ‘mercy’ refers to kindness that is shown to someone who is need.

Luke 17: 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

Jesus healed all ten lepers.

III. One Man Who Was Grateful

Luke 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

 A. Nine Men Who Were Ungrateful

You cannot read this story without noticing that nine of the ten men failed to give thanks and show gratitude for what the Lord had done. Though Jesus was gracious enough to perform this great miracle and in many ways give their lives back to then, nine of the ten men failed to acknowledge His grace and to give Him thanks.

Even Jesus noticed their ingratitude. “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” Without hearing the tone of His voice it’s hard to know whether Jesus said this out of amazement or anger. Was Jesus shocked that these men could receive such mercy and yet fail to show gratitude, or was He angry?

Why did the nine fail to return and give Him thanks? Perhaps they didn’t because they got caught up in their healing and forgot. Perhaps they couldn’t help but to run home and show their families. It’s not hard to imagine the joy and excitement that they and their families must have felt as they were reunited. Maybe there’s another reason they didn’t return. Maybe they didn’t return for fear. Let me explain.

Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. Why the priests? According to Law of Moses, it took a Jewish priest to determine whether or not someone had leprosy and it took a Jewish priest to determine whether or not someone had been healed. What do you suppose happened when the nine men interacted with the Jewish priests?

“Sir, there are some men here to see you who say they have been cured of their leprosy.”

“Impossible, send them away.”

“But sir, they insist they have been healed and I can’t see any sign of leprosy on them. Their faces are as clean as yours and mine.” “Very well, send them in.”

“So you men say that you have been healed of leprosy. How do I know you’re telling me the truth?”

“Sir, would we have claimed to have had leprosy if we hadn’t. Even the suggestion that we might be lepers would have forced us to be banished from our friends and family. And as far as whether or not we have been healed, look for yourselves.”

No doubt the priests checked them from head to foot, yet there was not even a hint of leprosy. Their skin was as clean as a baby’s.

“How did this happen? How were you made clean?”

“A man they call Jesus healed us.”

What do you think happened the moment they mentioned the name ‘Jesus’? Many believe that this miracle occurred after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. If that’s so, then we know from scripture that the Jews were plotting how they might kill Jesus, and for that matter, they wanted to kill Lazarus as well. I’m sure that as soon as the name Jesus was mentioned, a dark cloud entered the room.

Here’s what else I think might have happened. We know that the priests and Pharisees often tried to say that Jesus was a sinful man and blasphemer and that He performed His miracles by the power of Satan. Perhaps the Jewish priests told the nine lepers that Jesus was an evil man and an enemy to the nation of Israel, and if so, they probably commanded them that they go home and tell no one.

Sometimes people don’t show gratitude because it’s not cool or convenient. I heard a story once of an old farmer that went to town and entered into a fancy restaurant to purchase a meal. After they delivered his meal he bowed his head to give thanks. Some young men sitting nearby noticed what the old man did and asked him, “Hey hayseed!” “Does everyone back on the farm do what you just did?” Without even looking up the old farmer said, “The hogs don’t.”

 B. One Man Was Grateful

Ten men had a need and all ten men had their need met. But only one of the ten men returned to give thanks.

Luke 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

 1. Why Did This Man Return to Give Thanks?

The first question I find myself asking is – Why did this man return to give thanks? What was there about him that made him different from all the rest? I think that Bible gives us a clue. The Bible says – “…and he was a Samaritan.” Most of you know that a Samaritan was looked down upon by the Jews. In the eyes of the Jews, there was only one thing that could have been worse than being a Samaritan man with leprosy; that would have been being a Samaritan woman with leprosy.

This poor Samaritan man who had been healed of his leprosy was humbly grateful. The Bible says that he not only returned to give Jesus thanks, he fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus to give Him thanks.

There are two words in our vocabulary that we often use in regards to giving thanks. One is the world ‘thankfulness’ and the other is ‘gratefulness.’ What is the difference in thankfulness and gratefulness?

Probably most would say that there’s very little difference in these two words. Even in this message I have used the two words interchangeably. Yet I believe that there is a subtle, yet very important difference in them.

It seems to me that the word ‘thankfulness’ often refers to our reaction to the blessings we have received. In other words, I have been blessed with a lot, therefore I am very thankful. But what if I’m not blessed with a lot? Should I not be as thankful?

Whereas the word ‘thankful’ sometimes seems to focus upon the blessings, the word ‘gratitude’ seems to focus more upon the fact that we have been blessed. Actually the definition of the word ‘grateful’ is – {to be deeply appreciative of some kindness that has been shown to us.} It’s good to be thankful for our blessings, but it’s even better to be grateful to the God who blesses us.

I believe that the man was not only thankful for his healing, he was grateful that the Master of the universe would be gracious enough to care about him.

 2. How Did This Man Return to Give Thanks?

Luke 17:15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

The Bible says that the man not only fell on his face at the feet of Jesus, he also with a loud voice glorified God. This man openly and without shame acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God. We’re not told what all he said, but I wonder if part of his worship and thanksgiving did not sound very much like what Simon Peter said. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

How did Jesus respond to this man’s humble gratitude?

Luke 17:19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Many believe that Christ’s reference to this man’s faith was not in the fact the he had faith that he could be healed. All ten men demonstrated that kind of faith. This man’s faith went much deeper. This man not only believed that Jesus could heal him; he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. Many also believe that the result of this man’s faith was his salvation. Not only did this man receive physical healing that day. He also received spiritual healing as well.

CONCLUSION

Many of us have good reason to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We have warm homes, food to eat, and more than enough clothing to wear. But even more so, we have good reason to be grateful. The Bible says –

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

The greatest blessing anyone will ever receive is forgiveness of their sins and an eternal home in heaven. Paul expressed his thankfulness with these words – “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15 The word ‘unspeakable’ means – “indescribable.” Thanks be unto God for His indescribable gift. I’m sure that many of us can give God thanks just like this poor Samaritan man. We can fall on our face at the feet of Jesus and with a loud voice, glorify God!

God bless you my brethren during this Thanksgiving season.

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