Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:17-19
So often in Scripture, Jesus reached out to those that no one else reached out to. It seemed almost to be his preference, choosing those that were on the edges of society. Even his disciples included what would have been considered the most unlikely of people—a tax collector, who would have been viewed as a traitor to the Jewish people, and a zealot, a religious guerrilla fighter who by most accounts could have been considered a terrorist or at least a criminal.
The woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute, the possessed man living in the tombs, the blind, the sick, and the beggars. Jesus reached out to the “unwanted.” He even told stories where the despised and unwanted was the hero!
So Jesus healing a group of lepers, who lived on the fringe of society—they actually weren’t allowed in the towns by law for fear of spreading the disease—isn’t really at all surprising. To most of us that are familiar with this story, this is just another miracle that Jesus performed, just another act of kindness to show his love and power. But this story isn’t primarily about Jesus. He is the main character, but it’s not his actions that receive the most attention. It’s the one leper who returns that is the focus of the story.
Now, we need to understand that he was an outsider among outsiders. Not only was he a leper, he was a Samaritan—the Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. But in this group of outsiders, everyone was on an equal field. Think about that for a moment. These groups hated each other and, at least to the Jews, to associate with the Samaritans was to become unclean. Yet the interesting point here is that in a group of unclean, there is no one better than the other. When we see how much we truly need Jesus and that without him, we are all in the same boat, no matter what our mother tongue is, how much money our family has, what we do or where we intend to go to school, without Jesus we are all on the same field.
That’s all a secondary point, but one worth reflecting on. And just to follow that up, it doesn’t mean that when we find Jesus, we are suddenly better than those who still need him. No, we become his witnesses. Who needs a witness? Not those who have experienced the same thing we have; we don’t tell our stories to each other. We are witnesses to those who don’t know Jesus. They are the ones who need to hear about what he has done for us and what he can do for them.
Anyway, that is all beside the point. What we need to notice is the actions of the Samaritan when he realized he was healed. He is the center point of the story. He came back to say thank you. “Thank you” seems a simple thing. It’s part of our everyday language. We say thanks for this and thanks for that. We forget what thank you signifies.
Thank you is an expression of humility. It’s an acknowledgment that someone has done something for us, something kind, something beneficial, perhaps something that we could not have done for ourselves. When we say thank you we are expressing our gratitude to someone for what they have done and recognizing that without them, we would not have what we have.
When the Samaritan came back to Jesus, he threw himself at Jesus’ feet (an expression of deep humility) and said thank you. True gratitude for what Jesus has done is expressed in humble thanks.
Points of Reflection:
1. What are some ways that we can say thank you today—practically, in real terms?
2. What are some things you may take for granted that you can express gratitude for?
For the Kids:
1. Find three things in your house that you are glad you have. Better yet, think of three people (parents, teachers, siblings, friends) who are important to you and tell them thank you for being in your life.
2. Pay it forward – the next time you are thankful for something, decide to do something nice for someone else too.
3. Start a Thankful Jar – every time you are grateful for something, write it down and put it in the jar. Later, pull out the pieces and remember the good things in your life.
Reading: Dustin Crowe has a book whose title alone is a challenge to me. The Grumbler’s Guide to Giving Thanks: Reclaiming the Gifts of a Lost Spiritual Discipline is a practical, insightful, and distinctly challenging call to retrain ourselves to be thankful. It takes work, and Crowe is not shy about calling us to the discipline of being grateful. From exploring the biblical teaching and examples, to offering the insight that feeling gratitude is not the same as expressing gratitude, the Grumbler’s guide walks us toward practicing being thankful.