“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” Luke 17:11-19 (NLT)
Who are you in this story?
This is a curious story about Jesus. He has healed many people before this, but in this narrative, the emphasis is not on the healing, but the response of those healed.
Numerous answers are possible, but I believe it may be best summarized by the noted author and Christian apologist G. K. Chesterton who once said: “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
Ah! Now, do you see yourself in this story?
If you are a believer, you have been healed! You have tasted of the goodness of God and been a recipient of his grace and love.
Have you come back to express your gratitude (V. 15)?
Why are some people not grateful? I can only surmise, but possible explanations are:
- They think they did it.
- They don’t know whom to thank.
- They are too busy.
- They are not happy with what they have.
- They believe they deserve more!
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, in her book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy writes especially about that last possibility – that many of us are ungrateful because we actually think we deserve more. Notice how she discerns the real issue:
“That’s because we forget God does not owe us anything. We are debtors. We are the ones who owe. We think we deserve more (or different or better) than we have, and therefore we forget or minimize the blessings God has already given and continues to give.”
I don’t know if that is the answer for why the nine didn’t return to thank Jesus, but I know that comment stings. I’ve been guilty of that: minimizing the blessings God has already given! For instance:
- I have a car, but I want a nicer car.
- I have a house, but I want a bigger house.
- I have plenty of clothes, but I want fancier, more expensive clothes.
I want to be like the one leper in this story and as I see it, this passages teaches us several things about gratitude:
- Gratitude must be expressed!
One of the primary points of this story is that gratitude must be expressed through our thanksgiving. Ten lepers were healed, but only one returned. Jesus didn’t un-heal those other nine, but he did ask, “Didn’t I heal ten? Where are the other nine?” (V. 17).
Also look at 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT)
We are meant to demonstrate our gratitude because it allows us to express how thankful we are for what God has done for us.
I don’t ever want Jesus to have to ask where I am.
- Gratitude rests on the goodness and graciousness of God!
The one leper who returned, he fell at Jesus’ feet and “gave thanks” which literally means “good grace” or “good favor”. In other words, he was a recipient of good grace and he freely expressed his thanks for that “good grace”.
All of us can and should be the one who returned because we have all been recipients of God’s goodness and his gracious love. Psalm 106:1 beautifully reminds us of this:
“Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!” (ESV)
Frequently I still have to remind myself that a mark of maturity is recognizing that while I may not have all I want, I have more than I deserve, and for that I am grateful for the goodness and gracious love of God.
- Gratitude realizes all of life is a gift – the good and the challenging!
I do not know why the other nine didn’t return to thank Jesus, but I do know why the one did – he knew it was an undeserved gift. We should seek to remind ourselves of this daily. Again DeMoss is perfect here:
“[Gratitude] It’s a choice that requires constantly renewing my mind with the truth of God’s Word, setting my heart to savor God and His gifts and disciplining my tongue to speak words that reflect His goodness and grace until a grateful spirit becomes my reflexive response to all of live.”
We are grateful because God’s ‘good grace’ has been shared with us!
We don’t know exactly why the other nine lepers didn’t come back. All we know is one did come back.