Jesus was a master artist with words. He could take words and form a picture into which we can find ourselves. Today’s text is an example of that statement. In that text, Jesus is talking to the lepers. Without a doubt, we can place ourselves in the story Ð not as one of those who suffer from leprosy, but from ungratefulness.
Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem when ten men with leprosy stopped him. They stood at a distance (for they were not allowed to go near anyone who was clean while they were unclean). They cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
Jesus looked at them, had pity on them, and told them to show themselves to the priest. As they went on their way, they were healed. But only one returned to throw himself at Jesus’ feet and thank God. That man was a Samaritan, who was considered to be an outcast of His chosen church. He didn’t think he had any relationship with God at all! Yet, there he was, praising and thanking God, while those who claimed to be God’s own had merrily gone on their way.
Perhaps the others were anxious to hug their children Ð they hadn’t be able to do that for a long time now. Or perhaps they were just plain needed to get home and check on the farm. Surely Jesus would understand. How ironic it was that the only one who took time to thank Jesus was an Samaritan!
Drawing a conclusion from this story, one could say that those outside the church can reveal a more thankful spirit than those of us who are in the church. That is the lesson being taught there. We can be quick to ask and slow to thank.
Place yourself in that picture. I often hear myself speaking with an unthankful spirit. Complain, complain, complain. Awhile back I went in to see my doctor and told her my legs hurt. She said to me, “Did it ever occur to you that you are 89 years old?” When I went home later that night, I thought of all the many places my legs have carried me. Now here I was complaining about them! It is easy to forget about the good and complain about the not-so-good situations in life.
I live in a very nice retirement home where we receive a very good meal every night. One evening, I listened to the three other persons at my table complained unsatiably. I know them quite well and was felt comfortable in saying to them, “You know, since we sat down here at this table, we have done nothing but complain. The Bible tells us that we are not very happy people if we are complaining. And besides, all this complaining could cause some indigestion.” (I was kidding, but with a note of seriousness about it.)
One of the men then shouted back at me, “Our food shouldn’t be prepared this way!”
Now I felt I had more liberty to be speak freely, so I said, “Did you see that program on tv the other night? They showed little boys who only ate three meals a week. If they were lucky, they would get more. And you can be just as sure that hunger exists just a few miles from us. Yet, here we are, pushing good food away, simply because we don’t like the way it has been prepared.”
Is this where we find ourselves in the text?
What about our political leaders? Following Syria’s bombing of her own people Ð many of whom were children Ð our President worked hard to know the appropriate punishment we should give Syria’s leader, who ordered the attack. Some felt we should blow him off the map; some felt we should do nothing. What is the right answer? It is easy for us to be critical of our President concerning his decision in this matter and not be thankful for those who are doing their very best to find an answer amid this dilemma.
So, people can’t satisfy us, cooks can’t satisfy us, our government leaders can’t satisfy us. Many of us have to put ourselves in the category of “difficult to satisfy.”
We are sinners, and when we examine our own lives, we realize we often are not too good. However, God has come into this world in the person of Jesus Christ to take away those sins. Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, He has made atonement for our sins. Our sins can be taken away, even the sin of unthankfulness. If I bring these cares to Christ, He will forgive me and even promises me eternal life!
One night a few months ago, my wife was suffering greatly. The night came when nothing more could be done for her. My three children decided then to stay with their mother until she had drawn her last breath.
It wasn’t long before our son said to her, “Mother, I want to thank you for all you have done for me. But above all I want to thank you that you have led me to Jesus Christ.” The other two repeated those words. Then I looked into her face and said, “Eunice, you have been a great partner. I would never have gotten half as far in the ministry as I did had it not been for you.”
Her breathing became very labored, then, and suddenly quieted. So I said to her, “We are going home now, and so are you. We’re going to our earthly home, but you are going to your heavenly home. In just a matter of seconds, you will look into the face of Jesus, Eunice!” Shortly thereafter, her breathing stopped. But oh, the joy of being able to know, beyond all doubt, that she has really and truly gone home!
We don’t know when that day will come for the rest of us. Life can be very short and unsuspecting. But that night, as I traveled home knowing my wife was in the presence of Jesus Christ Ð did I have any right to be unthankful? No.
I urge you to let Jesus lead you through this word picture. He wants you to learn something from it, whether it be thankfulness or something else. There are plenty of things he wants to tell us. When we are open to His leading, we will be drawn closer to Him, and we will be happy people, for thankful people are happy people.
Will you use this text in this way? I hope so.