Degree: BS, Chemistry
From: Johannesburg, South Africa
Gospel Reading: Luke 17: 11-19
As Jesus made his way to Jerusalem, he went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. He was going into a village when he was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin disease. They stood at a distance and shouted, "Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!" Jesus saw them and said to them, "Go and let the priests examine you." On the way they were made clean. When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself to the ground at Jesus' feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. Jesus spoke up, "There were ten who were healed; where are the other nine? Why is this foreigner the only one who came back to give thanks to God?" And Jesus said to him, "Get up and go; your faith has made you well."
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The passage that was just read tells the story of 10 men suffering from leprosy – a bacteria-induced disease that damages the body’s ability to feel pain. The disease begins with sores erupting all over the body, it leads to disfigurement of the body until eventually the sufferer’s fingers, toes or even a whole foot (in severe cases) falls off.
Leprosy was quite the vicious disease of that time. Without the medicine we have today, lepers were removed and isolated from their community because of fear of infection. They were victimised, they were considered “unclean” and “unapproachable” – if they were seen on one side of the road, people would change sides to avoid any contact with them…and to think, it wasn’t even that easy to contract the disease. The lepers had to beg for assistance from a distance.
In the words of Luke, we’re reminded of just how powerful, life-changing and inclusive the compassion of Jesus really is. Here we see Jesus taking care of the marginalised – the outcasts – and treating them as His own. We also see that He has a faithful recognition to the one that returns to Him – he made him “well”.
Now allow me to take a slight turn and talk about the three levels of thankfulness we learn from this passage.
The first one is the Thankfulness of Faith.
We get an indication that the ten men were long-time sufferers of leprosy – living their lives in loneliness, rejection, hopelessness and unsure of what tomorrow will bring. At some point in their lives, they were healthy men – fathers, husbands, workers and community members. But the next they got infected by a disease that cost them their families, friends and jobs. It’s no doubt that their physical pain was only outweighed by their emotional pain.
Surely, their hope was diminishing day by day – until that one special day when they met Jesus Christ on His journey. They asked earnestly – shouting from a distance – “Master, Jesus – have mercy on us.” Did they think that Jesus would raise His hand and they’d be healed instantly? Maybe, maybe not. But they did as they were instructed and stood up to go see the priest in order for them to be examined. Miraculously, as they were on their way, their bodies were renewed. They were clean and healed.
The Thankfulness of Faith is that we need to be thankful even in our darkest hour. We need to constantly acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and He loves us all the same. In order for any change to occur in our lives, we need to – as the 10 men did – start walking in faith. We need to give all of ourselves to Christ – all our problems, all our anxieties and doubts. He will take us willingly and renew us.
Our God is a loving God; He continually gives us opportunities to be thankful to Him – even when, at face value, there isn’t much motivation to do so. Looking at biology, we see more and more that we have been created by a perfect God – and our human system is a prime example of this. Everything in our body is so well-controlled, so well-maintained and the balance is just right – if one thing tipped the balance, our bodies would not work. And yet, here we are functional, active and vibrant individuals. The perfection of our human body alone is a big motivation for why we need to be thankful each and every waking moment in our lives.
The second is the Thankfulness of Worship.
Among the ten healed men, only one returned – a Samaritan. Only one man returned to loudly proclaim his gratitude and praise for God. What’s interesting about this man is that it was probably the first time in years that he spoken without pain in his voice – in his heart. He could’ve yelled at the people on the streets who shunned him when they walked passed. He could’ve ran up to people saying “in your face…im healed”. But he didn’t – he did not seek their approval in the slightest – instead he ran back to his healer – Jesus Christ – just to express how grateful he is.
Another interesting thing about this man is that there’s a significant change between his first and second meeting with Christ. The 1st was when he was with the ten men – the mood was sombre – filled with pain. He was fearful of approaching Jesus and kept his distance as the social norms of the time required. But the 2nd meeting was completely different, he comes in close to lie down at Jesus’s feet – with humility, reverence and joy. This shows us that the healing not only cured his leprosy, but it created a yearning for intimacy with Jesus Christ. We see that faith lured him into a relationship with God that is intimate, healing and dependent – the man has found where he belongs.
The final level of thankfulness is the Thankfulness of action.
Can we say that the other 9 men had no faith? I think they did – they had faith enough in Jesus to start walking and they were healed. Did Jesus say that they must return to thank Him? No, all ten men did what they were instructed to do, and only one went beyond that and did what was expected of him.
One would say difference between the Samaritan man and the nine was that the man had manners to say thank you. But in all honesty, he couldn’t just leave – his life had changed. Jesus had renewed his life. He was not obliged to return but the man contained his excitement – at the point of healing, he could’ve done a number of other things: perhaps rush to his family. Instead, he had a burning passion, an uncontrollable rush and excitement to see his redeemer – Jesus Christ – and to be in His company. The thankfulness of action is an expression of our need for God. The man’s response to this urge was to follow what he was meant to do – his purpose.
Jesus’s response to the man is “Get up and go on our way; your faith has made you well.” So what does this mean? The phrase “made well” means a number of things – particularly in this context. What Jesus is saying to this man is that “You are now complete you are now of good quality and you are new creation in me.”
To conclude I’d like to say that we need to constantly acknowledge the Living God – He gives us life and strength. We need to be thankful to Him through our actions, worship and in faith. As in Hebrews 12, we need to run the race that the Lord laid before us with determination. We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends. Jesus, himself, did not give up because of the cross. So, we too, should not let ourselves become discouraged and give up.
In a journal written by George Fox, he says to be made well, to live well, is to always stay by Jesus. In our lives as Christians, we’re expected to return in praise, in thanks, in humility, in service, in gentleness and mercy to our Lord: the Lord that heals us and makes us whole. Hope always takes us back to Jesus; Faith takes us back to Jesus. It is not because it is polite to say thank you to Him. It is because we love Him and we cannot stay away from him.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for Your Son. Guide us through Your mighty Power. Teach us to know Your voice when You speak to us. As we are about to enter a time of communion, give us an opportunity to reflect on these three levels of thankfulness – of Faith, Worship and Action – so that we walk in truth to the glory of your name. But most importantly Lord, we ask that you stir up a passion for Your name in our hearts so that we may be made complete through you. Amen.