One of my favorite things about the end of the year is the celebrations that await. November and December feel like a reward for pressing past the ups and downs of a long year.
November is notably anchored by the celebration of Thanksgiving Day. This day is an annual reminder of the importance of being thankful, not just one day but all year long. Giving thanks is an important part of our social and spiritual development.
Being thankful impacts our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
- A 2012 study revealed how grateful people have fewer aches and pains.
- Saying “thank you” contributes to healthy relationships.
- Studies on mental health tell how gratitude reduces many toxic emotions ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.
- A University of Kentucky study found that gratitude enhances our empathy and reduces our aggression.
- Another study revealed that grateful people slept better.
In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus encounters ten lepers. People with leprosy were considered dead, as there was little to no hope for recovery. But then Jesus showed up!
An encounter with Jesus changes everything!
As impressive as this miracle is, the focus of this story is not on the miracle but on gratitude. Yet, there are a couple of key reflections to take away from this healing.
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”
Our first reflection is that these ten lepers called out for mercy and not a miracle! Several years ago, when my wife was pregnant, I had become very sick at Thanksgiving. My prayers during those four days digressed from:
- “Lord, don’t let Delia get sick, and please heal me.”
- To “please heal me quickly.”
- To finally, “take me home, Lord!”
The pain of being so sick made going to Heaven at that moment feel like the best answer to prayer. I believe this is where these guys are at, based on their pleas for mercy.
Furthermore, the word mercy is translated from a Greek word that means showing compassion and extending help for the consequences of sin. These men had lost all hope for healing in this life that they turned their attention to eternal life, and so they sought after salvation.
Our second reflection further substantiated this idea of mercy/salvation by the phrase, “Jesus, Master.” That title was unique in the Gospel of Luke to the disciples, referring to a follower of Jesus, someone who recognized that Jesus was more than a teacher or Rabbi.
Jesus responds, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” No long prayer. No extravagant proclamation of faith. Just a simple command.
“And as they went, they were cleansed.”
Their faith in Jesus’ word to go, evidenced by their obedience, led to their healing. It wasn’t faith in self, or faith in faith, or blind faith, but faith in Jesus’ word. Had they waited for something to happen before going to the priest, they would not have been healed.
Verse 15 says that when one realized he was healed, he turned back. The word healed in Greek is iaomai and means to cure, to restore bodily health.
Jesus did the impossible and pronounced them clean. Now, if the story ended here, this would be an amazing story on its own.
But this is where our main point is made. As the one returned to give thanks, Jesus then asks a question that becomes a turning point, “were not all ten cleansed?”
Can you imagine God answering a prayer so impossible, so inconceivable, and then you don’t go back to thank Him for answering your prayer? This teaches us another important lesson, before you celebrate the miracle, stop and give thanks.
And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19
The word ‘well’ comes from the Greek word sozo, and it means to save, deliver, to make whole, to preserve from danger, loss, or destruction. The majority use of sozo in the New Testament speaks about salvation.
The purpose of miracles and answered prayers is to establish the glory of God and lead us to saving faith.
It wasn’t that the ten did not have faith; clearly, they did because they were healed. But their faith was incomplete by not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.
As a result, the nine missed out on the greatest miracle of all, having all their sin forgiven! It’s the miracle of salvation that the Bible teaches that causes all the angels to rejoice in Heaven. Giving thanks is the appropriate response towards others who give to or help you. However, in doing so, it places a greater value on the giver than the gift.