Thankful for Missions - Luke 17:11-19
Division #1: Jesus heals ten lepers.
Luke 17:11-19: 11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
As we talk about being thankful for missions, one story stands out in the Bible. Since Luke 9:51, Jesus had been moving around in the area, moving south towards Jerusalem. He was now traveling along the southern border of Galilee and the northern border of Samaria. Because of his location, he would have been in a very racially mixed area, with both Jews and Samaritans living in close proximity to each other, no doubt with much hostility.
It is interesting to note also that this story is not included in any of the other Gospels, so this story was unique to Luke. Perhaps it was because he was a physician and the healing of 10 lepers at once was cause enough for him to want to record it. Perhaps it was the result of the healing that Luke wanted to record, for history to know that physicians want to be thanked for the work they do. It also may have been that in all Biblical history up to this point in time, only two people had been cured of leprosy. In Numbers 12 Miriam had leprosy for seven days as a punishment for speaking against Moses' leadership, and in 2 Kings we learn Naaman had it and his obedience to Elijah's instruction healed him. At this point, according to the Bible, a leper had not been healed in seven hundred years! We really don’t know what cause was for this to stand out only to Luke, but we are thankful that Luke took the time to record this event.
As we start the lesson in verse 11, we see that Jesus took this road to meet these people. It’s important to remember that everyone who walks through the church’s door on Sunday is here to have a divine appointment with God. God set the appointment the moment He spun the universe into existence. Jesus had this meeting in mind when he started down this road from Galilee. Jesus knew these ten lepers would be here, and He was perfectly on time for the meeting He knew would take place.
As we read on, in verse 12 we are introduced to ten lepers who have camped outside of this village. We can take a break in the study right here and ask the question, why would God let people have leprosy? It is an awful disease where people lose fingers and toes, and finally they lose their lives. Why would God allow such a disease? By the same reason though, we could also ask the question why God would allow cancer or Alzheimer’s. We will save that lesson for another day, but the reality is that God has a good, wise and loving purpose for everything He allows into our lives, even pain and suffering. We can give thanks in the knowledge that He loves us and will never permit us any pain unless the ultimate benefit is worth the cost. That doesn’t mean we can understand His ways. We may have no idea how anything could be worth this much pain. But God’s Word tells us that it will be worth it. James 1:2-4 says:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
While leprosy is a disease of the skin, we all have a sense of spiritual leprosy, and that should make us very humble in all our approaches to Christ. We are impure and but for the grace of Christ, we couldn’t approach a holy Savior. We should be required to stand far off and yell “unclean” like these lepers. But Jesus’ words are clear, that even while we were unclean, He sought us out. Isaiah 65:1 says:
"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am.
As was the law of the time, anyone who had this kind of skin disease was required to stand and live outside the camp. They were not allowed in the camp or near other people, so as to not let the disease spread. It was because of these Levitical rules that kept the Jews safe from diseases like this. It is interesting to look at the morbidity and mortality rates of Jews during the bubonic plague of the middle ages. While Europe was plagued with “the black death” the Jewish people didn’t see near as many deaths. The reason for this was that they were still living under the Levitical law that kept infected people separate and apart from healthy people. These 10 lepers were obeying the law by standing “far off” and staying away from people. This however, did not keep them from calling out to people asking for food, money, or help.
In verse 13, the lepers call out to Jesus and ask Him to heal them. They heard that Jesus could heal them, and they asked this of him. They were not shy about asking this either. Scripture says they lifted up their voices. They did not sheepishly ask for healing, they shouted it, without pride or apprehension, they yelled to Jesus. They also did not beg for food or money as they would have for anyone else walking by, but they called him “Master” and asked if He would heal them. Now, they could have been treating Him as “any port in a storm” and might have asked any other Jewish rabbi to heal them as well, but it is important to remember here that they had to ask. How many times are we the subject of a spiritual attack, either at work or with our health or in a relationship, and because it happens, we blame God for it. How many times do we ask God to heal, rather than blame Him for it, and how often do we praise him in the midst of our ailments? Even while our bodies are attacked by an illness, do we praise God for who He is and what He does for us?
We also see something else. Many times in the New Testament, we see Jesus playing a role in a similar circumstance that happened in the Old Testament. Here we have a parallel story in 2 Kings 5:10-14, when Naaman came to Elisha to be healed of leprosy.
10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
Just like what Elisha did for Naaman, Jesus healed these lepers of their disease. Just as Elisha and Jesus were operating out of a sense of love and compassion, they were also being mission minded, working through heavenly power to show God’s love to those sick and afflicted, not just with viral disease, but also the disease of sin. As we operate with a heart for missions, and “as we go” we should share Christ with the world with which we come in contact. Our desire should be that we want the world to see that we have the cure for a disease much worse than leprosy, the disease of sin, and we want to introduce a lost world to Jesus.
Our last verse in this division gives us the instructions that Jesus gave to these 10. He told them to go see the priests. To understand this command by Jesus, we must go back to Leviticus 14:1-32 to see the law regarding being healed of a skin disease. When people were healed of a disease such as this, there were very specific rules they had to follow, to be ceremonial clean and be accepted back into Jewish society. They not only had to be examined by a priest to “certify” that they were indeed healed, but they had to offer different sacrifices to God and wait a certain amount of time. Jesus was reminding them of the law, which He is in the flesh. What joy it is to know that now, when we are healed of the disease of sin by Jesus’ Salvation; we are immediately clean in His eyes.
1: Jesus has the authority and power to heal, according to His plan.
Application Question: When have I been thankful for an ailment or issue, regardless if healing is done? When healing has happened, what did I do to show I was truly thankful for God’s divine deliverance?
Division #2: A Samaritan Returns to say “Thank You”.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, 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 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”
The Bible is FULL of giving thanks to God. The Bible points us to God as the giver of all good things, and we should be ever thankful to Him for everything he has done. We should be filled with Gratitude!!!!
Psalm 107:1 "O give thanks unto the Lord"
Romans 7:25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
1 Cor 15:57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
James 1:16-17 “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above…”
As verse 15 starts, we see one leper seeing that Jesus had healed him, and being thankful for this gift, calling out to Jesus in a "loud voice". He was not ashamed for everyone around to see how thankful he was to Jesus for his healing. The lepers initially called out loudly to ask for mercy, but only this leper offers loud thanksgiving and praise. Imagine what it would be like if our thanksgiving were as spirited as our prayer requests! Compare our own time and actions when we are fervently asking God for a miracle with how we act when the miracle happens. Do we spend as much time and energy thanking God as we do asking Him to grant our requests?
What does the Bible say about when should we show Gratitude?
To God - Psalm 50:14
To Christ – 1 Tim 1:12
Through Christ – Rom 1:8
In the name of Christ – Eph 5:20
In both Private Worship (Dan 6:10) and Public Worship (Psalm 35:18)
Remembering God’s holiness (Psalm 97:12)
Before eating (Acts 27:35)
Completing a big task (Neh 12:31)
In everything (1 Thes 5:18)
At all times (Eph 1:16)
People who are truly thankful don’t complain. They find a reason to be grateful. Matthew Henry, who wrote a commentary on every book of the Bible, was once robbed. The thieves took everything of value that he had. Later that evening he wrote in his diary these words, “I am thankful that during these years I have never been robbed before. Also, even though they took my money, they did not take my life. Although they took all I had, it was not much.”
To understand the dynamic here, we really need to understand what a Samaritan was. In this culture, being a Samaritan was much more than just being from a neighboring region, it meant something far deeper. Samaria was the old capitol of the northern kingdom (Israel), ie. the ten lost tribes of Israel. Samaria was overrun by the Assyrians in 721BC, and the invaders intermarried with the Jews there. They also were mixed with their religions. In 2 Kings 17:25, we get a history lesson of what happened after Assyria took control of this region. Assyria sent colonists there, but being from a pagan nation, they did not fear the Lord. To deter them from these new pagan religions, God got their attention by sending lions there to attack them. They rightly understood this was a divine judgment, so they sent off for a priest to teach them the things of the one true God, but when they learned them, instead of turning from their old ways, they instead mixed in Jewish ceremony with their old pagan gods as detailed in 2 Kings 17:29.
Because of this, people from Samaria were contaminated with foreign blood and foreign idols.
Understanding the relation between Jewish people and Samaritans, it is very interesting to see that a Samaritan was with Jewish lepers….. that tells us how “outcast” lepers were….. Jewish and Samaritan lepers were living together!
When we look back to 2 Kings, we also see a grateful Naaman.
2 Kings 5 - 15 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.”
Just like the Samaritan, in both these cases, it was the gratitude of a foreigner. Both foreigners were grateful for missions. More so that anyone around them, they had been touched by the healing power of God, and they were grateful for what He had done.
The next two verses include a rhetorical question from Jesus. I believe Luke included this as a cautionary warning to all of us not to take missions in Jesus’ name for granted. Jesus points out that while the nine lepers who had been there walked off after receiving healing, only one returned to say “thank you.” The nine who walked off were the nine who should have known better. They knew the law, they knew the scriptures, but they walked off receiving what they wanted without a thought to give thanks for Him who provided the gift. It was only the lowly Samaritan who returned to give thanks. It was the Samaritan whose background included a mish-mash of religion, an unholy mix of Jewish law and pagan religion, but it was only him who returned to say “Thank You” to Jesus.
This is also a clear lesson that Jesus expects us to show gratitude. In this passage, Jesus is clearly angry at the un-thankfulness of the nine lepers who didn't return. Verse 16 records that the leper fell down giving Jesus thanks. The Greek word used is eucharistos, which means showing thanks richly or to be filled with thanksgiving. Although it is hard, especially in the hard times of a family crisis or emergency, we must discipline ourselves to always live in a state of eucharistos to God, giving Him thanks at all times. We need to be thankful to Jesus not only for our daily bread, or for our innumerable blessings, but thankful for Him being the greatest missionary of all time and coming to save us from our sins, and giving us the same ability to go in His name and share that with a lost world.
EXTRA!! EXTRA!! GRATITUDE: The Greek adjective You-khar-is-tos is the word, it means grateful or thankful, this is the word used in Colossians 3:15 talking about being thankful. It comes from the root words Yoo (to be well off) and khar-id-zom-ahee (to show one’s self-gracious, or to give graciously) The noun here is the Greek word yoo-khar-is-tee-ah. It is used 15 times in the NT, and is best translated “Thanksgiving”.
2: Gratitude should be a constant expression in the life of a Christian.
Application Question: Who do I need to say “Thank You” to, and when will I do that?
Division #3: Jesus Speaks of the Samaritan’s Faith.
19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Finally, gratitude is an important component in our Salvation. Were all ten lepers healed? Yes. Were they all saved? Yes, but only in the sense that they were rescued from their disease, but not in the sense of drawing close to God in thankfulness and dependence. The nine were saved physically but not spiritually. "Where are the other nine?" Jesus asks. Healing that doesn't bring a person to Jesus is incomplete and stunted.
The Young’s Literal Translation of this verse reads “thy faith hath saved thee.” When we also look over at Ephesians 2:8 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God“
See Jesus’ response to him? “Your faith has made you well.” What did he mean by that? They had all been made well, so much so that Jesus had sent them to the priests to be examined and to offer their sacrifices of healing. They had all been healed physically. But what Jesus is saying to the one who returned was that he had also been healed spiritually. The others only received a temporary blessing of a physical healing but this Samaritan had received the spiritual healing that we all need for eternal life. The difference here is that the nine only cared about the healing, they didn’t care about the healer. Once their illness was cured, they had what they wanted. There was happiness and relief, but there was no gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation. They just took the blessing and ran. Their faith was limited to believing in Jesus as a miracle worker and that was about it. Though they should have, they did not recognize him as the giver of not just physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. The Samaritan who came back was “praising God in a loud voice.” He wasn’t just rejoicing over being healed; he was praising God as the source of his blessing. He knew that Jesus was more than just a miracle worker; he understood that Jesus had come from God.
This Samaritan had faith, not just in what Jesus could do, but in who Jesus was. That faith expressed itself in gratitude and resulted in his Salvation. The nine received a tremendous gift as they were healed from leprosy and could re-enter Jewish society, move out of the leper camp, and be reunited with their family and employment. But only one received the greatest gift of all, only one gave thanks to Jesus for his physical healing, and only one had faith that led to his Salvation through Jesus.
The Heart of the Matter is the Matter of the Samaritan’s Heart
From this we can draw two conclusions. The first being that it is possible to be blessed by God and not have true faith. The fact that God has done something good in your life is not a guarantee that you belong to Him. The key is not how God has blessed you, but whether you are responding to His blessings with faith and praise and thanksgiving.
Many people come to Christ but don’t really want a relationship with Him, they just want something from Him, just like most of these lepers just wanted to be healed. When they got what they wanted, they went on their way without a look back. In the same way as these Lepers from two thousand years ago, many people come to God today because they want something from Him. They need money, they want to be healed of some disease, they want to be delivered from some addiction, they need help with depression, or anger, or low self-esteem, or they just want to be around a group of loving people, or be a part of a community. But, when they get the blessing that they are looking for at that moment in their lives, they’re satisfied until they want something else. But, that’s all they want from God, and when they get it, that’s the end of it. They don’t really want Christ; they just want what He can do for them.
The second conclusion we can draw is that not all faith is saving faith. Many people might have faith in Jesus as a miracle-worker, but not as a Savior. Gratitude and thankfulness are essential because they cause us to return to Christ as the source of our blessings, rather than just seeking the blessing itself. But if there is little or no thankfulness, there is little or no faith.
3: Faith in Jesus heals our Soul, and if He has truly healed our soul, we should want to share that with everyone
Application Question: Have I asked Jesus to heal my soul with His Salvation? And if so, what is preventing me from sharing His gift of eternal life with others?