Gratitude Sermon Series
The Man Who Remembered to Say “Thank You”
Jesus tells a story about ten lepers who are healed. Two shocking facts are revealed. The first is that only one of them comes back to say, “Thank You.” The second is that that one who returned was a Samaritan. God’s grace is available to all people, even your enemy. We must be careful to not just receive God’s blessings, but to thank Him for them.
From Exclusion to Inclusion (vv. 11-14)
“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, 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 cleansed.
Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem, “The Lord was still in Perea when word reached Him of the serious illness of His friend Lazarus of Bethany. A few days later, He went to Bethany, raised Lazarus, and, because of the increasing plots against Him, retired to an unknown location. He took the disciples into retirement before going to face the final storm in Jerusalem.”
The words “On the way to Jerusalem” remind the reader to the reader that Jesus is moving toward his passion. From where Jesus is you can almost see the city.
“he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance” – If you were a leper (today it’s called Hansen’s Disease), you had to announce yourself when you approached a person or group, in medieval times a leper would ring a bell, and yell “unclean!” You had to stay at a distance or people would throw stones at you.
There were also varying local customary expectations, “Two rabbis disputing the question maintained, one, that it was not fit to come within a hundred cubits of a leper; the other within four cubits, when he stood between them and the wind. Another would not eat an egg if laid in a courtyard where a leper was.”
“and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” – In the previous healing of the lepers he touched them and they were healed, but here he tells them to, “14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
Jesus commands them to do what a cleansed leper was supposed to do. Yet they stood there, looking as though they had crawled from out of a grave, in various stages of decay and disfigurement, clothing torn from constant mourning, skeleton heads and sunken eyes layered with rags soaked in decaying and putrid flesh.
Leviticus 14:2 “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, . .” They are on their way to have the purification rights performed for them by the priests. “If they were cured, they would joyfully undergo an eight-day ceremony and then be reunited with their families.”
“And as they went they were cleansed.” – This reminds us of the Old Testament story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:10,14. “Naaman was a foreigner who was healed of leprosy by Elisha; Naaman was then converted to Israel’s faith.” 14 “And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” . . . “14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” As the men were going about doing what they were told to do, they were cured.
If you are absolutely on the bottom, you have nothing to lose in trying Jesus, and taking Him at His word. So, the consensus was to begin the leper’s pace of hobbling to the Temple, which would have been a considerable walk. There were no mirrors out on the road, but as these ten men begin the trip suddenly, they begin to see each other change.
“From cadaverous faces reemerged ears, noses, eyebrows, lashes, hairlines. Feet – toeless, ulcerated stubs – were suddenly whole, bursting through small little sandals, Knobby appendages grew fingers. Barnacled skin became soft and supple. It would have been like being born again. The dust of a wild celebration quickly began in the bright sunlight.”
From Inclusion to Perception (vv. 15-19)
15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Why does the one turn and head back to Jesus once “he saw that he was healed?” As he is running to the Temple, he realizes that he has been healed, and then realizes that Jesus is something more than he understood and he returns because he perceives that there is more to life, than to be cured and to return to a “normal life.”
So the one leper “turned back” – “ceremony must yield to substance, and that main points of obedience must take place of all ritual complements.” “Christ had ordered it, and the Law demanded it. But the letter killeth. Love overrules Acts of Parliament. The nine held by the Law, but the one got the grace.”
Jacob wrestling with God – you have to deal with your relationship with God. Genesis 32:22ff.
“Now he was a Samaritan” – The lepers were all together, Jews and Samaritans – when you are a leper, politics, racism, Jewish history really doesn’t matter. When you are a social outcast, hated by society, the lowest of the low, and having to beg to eat, there is no hope for you to be anything but a leper, and eventually die.
To be a leper was awful, but to add the fact he was a Samaritan just doubled the fact that he was an outcast. But as the one man was healed, he had a choice to run to the temple, begin the ceremony and rejoin his family, or go back and thank God for his healing. If he waited, he may not be able to find him to thank him.
“It is the Gentile, the Samaritan, the outcasts and sinners, who respond enthusiastically to the offer of the Good News. Unlike the religious and proud, who assume that their piety guarantees their salvation, the outcasts and sinners assume no such thing (see 18:9-14) and eagerly accept God’s gracious invitation (see 14:15-24). The foreigner is the only one who came back to give thanks to God, because only he recognized his sin and his need to repent.”
So, at this point the Jewish 9 separated from the 1 Samaritan. Their illness had drawn them together, but their freedom caused them to separate. What do you do with the freedom that Christ has given you? For these men they are free to go to their homes, begin working again, rejoin society – feel the touch of others, to be accepted by people. That overwhelming desire to belong, outweighed the spiritual obligation to be thankful.
What marks the difference between the 10 lepers is not that one is thankful, and the other nine are ungrateful. The difference is that one of the them has the perception to understand who Jesus is. If you are cured then you only need Jesus (miracle worker) once, if you seek Jesus for salvation (Son of God) then you need Him every day.
The nine lepers were cured of their bodily disease (leprosy), they were not aware that they had not been cured of their spiritual disease. 2 Peter 1:9 “For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”
When you understand God to be right before you, you don’t run away from Him, you throw yourself at His feet. When Mary realizes that it was Jesus after He had risen from the dead, she grabs Him and does not let Him go. John 20:16-17a “Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, . . .”
“praising God with a loud voice”— He wanted everyone to know that Jesus had healed him. Earlier, he had pleaded in a loud voice, now he is praising in a loud voice? Who is it that is the most thankful to God? It is those that realize how really sick they are:
Matthew 9:12-13 “And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
“Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” – Jesus fully expected that all ten would return. God should be at the center of their gratitude.
But their focus was here and now, temporal. Anyone can be thankful for something, but it is including the eternal God as the ultimate source of all that we have to be thankful for that is essential. Christ wanted these men’s hearts, not just their thanks. The nine missed an opportunity to be with Jesus. The nine missed being saved.
The Jewish people were looking for a Savior, a promised Messiah (Genesis 3), if anyone should have recognized Jesus as the Messiah it should have been the Jewish people, but here a Samaritan is the one who received salvation.
“19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” – “you may proceed to the priest with the assurance that you are thoroughly cured.” The Samaritan leper put God in His proper place in his life, before he started to reorder and put his life back together after his illness. His perception of who Jesus was came from a heart of gratitude.
The other nine are healed, but without God being at the center of their lives and understanding that it is God who heals us, blesses us, saves us, and has a purpose and plan for our lives – then it won’t be very long before the other nine will be sick again – maybe not form leprosy but from a life where God is not the center.
In the original language where it says, “your faith has made you well” it literally says, “your faith has saved you.” The nine had received a cure, the one received a cure and salvation. The one had leprosy on the outside which was healed, but he also had a spiritual leprosy on the inside that was healed as well. Gratitude allows you to be in place of receiving far more than you had anticipated and understanding an even deeper need.
The one is described as both a “Samaritan” emphasizing genealogy and “foreigner” emphasizing nationality. It doesn’t matter what your last name is or where you came from – salvation is received by faith in Jesus. There is an inscription from the limestone block from the Temple of Israel which reads, “Let not the foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary.”
Where once those who were not Jewish were kept outside – we could not enter into presence of God. But through the healing and cure of Jesus’ death on a cross – we can have salvation and enter into His presence.
The big idea of this passage is that there were people who were excluded, kept outside (because of a disease) that were allowed to enter back into society by being healed, which was emphasized by the fact that one of them was a Samaritan. Then one of the ten were allowed into God’s eternal presence through salvation that came through faith in Jesus.
We should show gratitude toward God because we have been healed of our sin and are now allowed to come into the presence of God and have eternal life. From Exclusion to Inclusion. We show genuine gratitude because it gives us perception to understand that all things come from God and He involved with every aspect of our lives.
This story also shows us that faith and salvation have to merge together. The nine men believed in God, they obeyed what was commanded to them, but once physically healed we don’t have any indication they ever came back. In order for a person to be saved, faith and Jesus have to come together. Just believing in God is not enough, we have to have a relationship with Jesus. We have to perceive that life is more than just getting what we want here and now, but there is an eternal purpose and plan for our lives.
 Luke 9:51
 John Phillips, Exploring The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Publications, 2005) 225.
 Leviticus 13:45; Numbers 5:2; 12:10-12
 George R. Bliss, An American Commentary on the New Testament, Mark and Luke (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; Judson Press, 1881) 261.
 Matthew 8:1-4
 The is no written record that this ritual was ever even performed (Phillips, 226).
 R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Luke (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2015) 604.
 Fred B. Craddock, Interpretation. A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, Kentucky; John Knox Press, 1990) 204.
 Hughes, 604.
 This is the only time in the New Testament that this word (foreigner) is used (Green, 626).
 J. Willcock, B.D. A Homiletic Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke (New York, New York; Funk and Wagner Company; 1896) 472.
 Ibid, 472.
 “The region of Samaria in Old Testament times (tenth to eighth centuries BC) was inhabited by the ten northern tribes of Israel. Following the death of Solomon, the northern tribes seceded from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south. The southern kingdom became known as Judah, while the northern kingdom was initially known as Israel, until it eventually came to be called Samaria after its capital city. In the eight century Samaria was overrun by the Assyrians. Its inhabitants were exiled, and in their place foreign peoples were settled. In the centuries that followed a half-Jewish and half-Gentile race of people emerged with which the Jews of Judah to the south and of Galilee to the north frequently quarreled and whom the Jews loathed” (Evans, 258).
 Craig A. Evans, New International Biblical Commentary, Luke (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson, Publishers, 2005) 256.
 “The story anticipates what is yet to come in Acts: a growing blindness in Israel, a receptivity among Gentiles. Why was this the case? Israel’s special place in God’s plan for the world had turned in upon itself, duty had become privilege, and frequent favors had settled into blinding familiarity (Phillips, 203).”
 This is the only time in the New Testament that this word foreigner is used (Green, 626).
 Bliss, 262.
 Hughes 606.
 Joel B. Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997) 621.
 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Luke (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1932) 228.