Give Thanks

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Thanksgiving Eve’ November 21, 2012
Luke 17:11-19

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Luke 17: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan.” [Luke 17:15-16]

Tonight, God’s Word wants to realign your heart and your faith so that you will leave here not only more thankful, but more importantly  more faithful!

Aside from our Savior, the main character in our Gospel lesson this evening is a Samaritan.  He is one of 10 lepers that cried out to Jesus for  mercy.  Now, we need to understand that during the time of our Gospel reading, lepers were a common sight, and they usually wandered in  groups.  They were required to wear a bell or clang a symbol or beat a drum and call out “Unclean, I am unclean.”  In this condition, they  rarely could find work and relied on the charity of others.  The assumption then is that they were expecting food or money from Jesus and  His disciples; all but one that is!  You see, the Samaritan saw past his immediate need and he set his heart on something more than just  temporary help; he was centered on spiritual things; he needed a clean heart and a right relationship with God.

While this encounter was a historical occurrence, it also can be used to teach us something about ourselves.  The Samaritan leper  represents you and me, and indeed all of mankind, who are according to Jesus’ appraisal of the Samaritan in verse 18, foreigners.  We really  are foreign to God’s perfect righteousness, and considered unclean or unholy because of our common disease, “sin.”

Just as the 10 lepers together cried out to Jesus for mercy, we too cry out to God for help, but the cry of a true Christian, like that of the  Samaritan is one that seeks something more than just help with physical needs.  In our worship on Sunday morning, we all call out to God this way when we sing the Kyrie, which means “Lord have mercy.”  But again, like the 10 lepers, maybe not all of us are asking for the same things.  Let me show you what I mean.

If you notice in verses 16 and 17, there were 10 lepers who cried to God for mercy, but only one returned to Jesus to thank Him and glorify His name.  We read: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan.”  I submit to you that this Samaritan leper was asking God for much more than money or food.

Now, while it’s true, that all 10 were healed of their leprosy, only one found the gift of faith and only one returned to worship Jesus.  Only one heard Jesus say, “Your faith has made you well.”  So what about the other nine? What healed them? Obviously, the answer is Jesus, but it would seem that faith was not a requirement to receive healing from Jesus! It would seem that the nine received a miracle without faith.

Now this truth is in contrast to a common false teaching of the “word of faith movement” or the “name it and claim it” crowd, who say that “If you just have enough faith, God will heal you.”  Here we have an occurrence where faith isn’t even mentioned before the healings, but instead, it comes afterwards. So did the other nine, who are not told, “Your faith has made you well” suddenly have their leprosy return?  I doubt that!  No, what we have here is a story of ten being healed and only one being saved.

The Samaritan was not only cleansed, but on account of faith he gained something much more precious than health or wealth, he received salvation through Christ Jesus.  Somehow, Jesus removed the veil of the world from the eyes of the Samaritan; the veil that hides the truth that Jesus is true God.  He allowed the Samaritan to see Him as Lord and Savior, and as God and Redeemer.  This seeing comes only after God grants us the eyes of faith.

Christianity is a walk of faith, and faith is the gift of seeing Jesus Christ as He truly is; as He has revealed Himself to Christians in the past and as He still reveals Himself to us, the living yet crucified and resurrected Son of God.

This seeing things as God says they are and not as they appear, is not something that people outside of Jesus can understand.  It is completely foreign to them.  Try explaining to your unsaved family and friends that in communion, while we receive bread and wine we also receive the body and blood of Christ.  This eating and drinking of our God is a difficult thing to grasp without the eyes of faith.  We Christians see differently because God sees things differently, and that is why our prayer, our worship, our actions, our whole way of being in the world, has its own distinctive accent and flavor.

Why did the Samaritan leper return and worship God at the feet of Jesus?  Because when the Samaritan cried out “Have mercy,” his heart was crying out to God for much more than a healing from a skin disease, he was searching for a right relationship with his God.  Do you see a need for the love and forgiveness of Jesus in your life?  Do you have faith to believe that God hears your cry of mercy and accepts that as praise?  How is crying out to God “Have mercy” a cry of praise?  Because you are confessing to God that you are broken in sin and that you need His help.  You are praising Him for being your only hope.    Do you have faith in the completed work of Jesus upon the cross for the sins of the world?  Are you resting in that completed work as it was given to you in your baptism, or are you still counting on something else?  Friends, faith IS that something else!

All people have been created by God. Many people (and most Americans) have food and clothing, home and family, daily work, and all that they need from day to day. I believe that God protects many people — believers and non-believers alike in times of danger and He for the most part, guards them from a lot of evil. No one deserves this, yet God’s “fatherly and divine goodness and mercy” touches many, many people. How are believers different from the rest of humanity?  Well, we are like that one leper; when we recognize God’s hand in the good that we have, we respond with thanks and praise to Him through Jesus Christ. We respond by loving God and serving Him.

This IS the meaning of Thanks Giving.  May God continue to do this great work of faith within each of you and may you continue to always give Him thanks and praise.  In Jesus name… AMEN!

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