There Is Always A Reason To Be Thankful (Luke 17:11-19)

For some five years, I worked every week on checkout in Tesco, serving the good people of my home town their grocery needs. Every little helps! It was not something I loved doing at the start, yet, after a few weeks, I soon fell into the rhythm and started to enjoy the work because I wanted people!

I actually do not think there was better preparation for Ministry than working in a supermarket, especially on tills. Why? Because in those six hours you would come across all sorts of people and learn how to deal with them. On the checkouts in Tescos, I was on the front line of customer service, which meant (at times) smiling when being told why I was wrong, being blamed for something is the wrong price, or being told off for not being fast enough at my scanning! Of course, that was just working on the checkouts, but there was always good to go with the bad!

I learned on those tills in Tescos that people are creatures of habit; you could almost predict like clockwork when certain people would appear at the tills with their trollies spilling out products. If I am honest, there were people you hoped would join your queue: and, others you prayed would find another empty till. Why? Because there would be those who would be thankful for your time and help and take the time to let you know and show their appreciation: then there would be those who would grunt, snort and complain no matter what you did – sadly, the thankful people were rarer.

It is not that I don’t think those people who didn’t say something were not thankful for the wonderful service I gave them every time I came; I think that sometimes, in the heat of the moment, we just move on to the next thing that is on our mind, forgetting what has just happened. The lessons have always been that thankfulness is a choice and one that we often make at the moment. Yet, if we do not make it, we can lose something of the beauty or blessing we might have received. To be thankful and live thankful lives is to slow down and appreciate all that is good for us – even the simple things like a friendly checkout assistant.

A Thankless Situation (17:11-12)

We have all had those seasons in life where hope has faded, and joy is hard to find. Perhaps we have faced the loss of someone close, have been going through a difficult season in life, fallen out with loved ones; maybe we have found the culminating effect of covid to have taken our joy, hope, and thankfulness. Whatever it has been, we can all relate to a time of hopelessness because we have lived, walked the road of human experience, and there have been valleys with long shadows on that road.

Sometimes we face those moments alone, and other times we find ourselves in shared experiences where others on their journey are at the same point, and together we can wallow in our thankless situation. As we join Jesus walking towards Jerusalem along the border between Samaria and Galilee on the outskirts of an unnamed village, His day is interrupted by pleas of Mercy from a group of ten men. Ten men who were in the most desperate, hopeless, and thankless of situations – they had Leprosy. Today it is a disease that can be treated and cured; it carries a minimal social stigma. However, the time that Jesus ministered to become ill with Leprorasy was akin to death. Due to a lack of understanding of the disease’s nature, the only prescribed treatment was Quarantine – complete social isolation.

To become sick was to suffer alone, cut off from the life of the village, the love of your family and the Worship in the temple. Leprosy was a living-death sentence, and these ten men were the walking dead in the eyes of their peers (culture and context). We might say today: “They lacked personhood.” Hence they stood outside the town and cried for Mercy, afraid to even approach Jesus. For these ten men, there was no hope but God for their healing and restoration back into the life they once knew. It was a hopeless and thankless situation. Yet, soon they would have a reason to be thankful; the question is would they be people who give thanks?

A Hopeful Plea (17:13-14)

These ten men were cut off from society, probably wearing bells to warn people of their closeness, because coming into contact with them was considered religiously unclean and unable to worship Yahweh.1 Additionally, there was the tremendous social stigma and fearful of approaching strangers because, in the eyes of their culture, they were under a divine punishment from God for sin; Leprosy was a sentence of ‘living death.’ 2 Yet, today, we learn in a hopeless situation, there is always someone we can turn to and a reason to be thankful. Perhaps the men had heard of the authority that Jesus had displayed over Leprosy; maybe they had seen him heal from a distance: whatever their reason, whatever their knowledge, they have come humbly to the right place.

They came in the right way, humbly, and then they came with some faith and confidence in the person of Jesus, noted in the fact they called him master, and they responded to his direction to go to the Priests as the law prescribed. John Calvin comments: “They would never have set out to show themselves to the priests; for it would have been absurd to present themselves to the judges Leprosyosy, for the purpose of attesting that they had been cleansed, if the promise of Christ had been regarded by them as of no more value than a mere inspection of the disease. They bear a visible leprosy in their flesh; and yet, trusting to Christ’s word alone, they have no scruple about declaring that they are clean. It cannot therefore be denied, that some seed of faith had been implanted in their hearts”.3 They asked in faith for Mercy, and a miracle akin to raising the dead, and they received a miracle and a reason to be thankful.

A Reason to Be Thankful (17:15-8)

Jesus commands them to show themselves to the Priests, a command that John Calvin notes is akin to saying “You are clean.” 4 as they follow the steps the Levitical law prescribes.5 As they go on their way in obedience to the Priests, they are healed. Imagine that moment, the joy you would feel as you are overwhelmed with hope and thankfulness, for those who were once dead in the eyes of their peers are now alive, clean and able to return to society and Worship.

You are bound to be thankful! Moreover, Surely you would want to thank the person who made the impossible possible? Yet, where are those who came humbly seeking mercy now? Enjoying the moment and forgetting the mercy they have received that is all of them but one. Ten men sought help, all accepted it and one returned, and he is a Samaritan! One commentator captures it perfectly as he writes: “A Samaritan of all people—the foreigner, the social and religious outcast, one who would not be counted under the elected but judged a heretic by most people in his time—epitomizes this kind of godly life and attitude. He demonstrates a faith that lays hold on God, that cannot and will not remain silent in response to what God has done in his life, that publicly, spontaneously, and joyfully directs its thanksgiving to God.” 6

All ten had a reason to be thankful in response to their shared faith, yet only one displayed that thankfulness. In this one, we find our real lesson in healing and gratitude because Luke here wants us to see that the healing of the samaritan is not only a medical healing and a social restoration but a complete transformation of this mans life and faith. The Samaritan with his prostration at Jesus’ feet and his giving thanks… demonstrates a faith that is complete because it includes thankfulness.” 7 He is not simply thankful because he has received healing; he is thankful because he has received God and knows now that he has found what he was made for and a reason to be thankful in every circumstance and situation. How did he find it? Jesus. The Samaritan’s faith in and experience with Jesus had led not just to gratitude but to a new life and relationship with Jesus.

The samaritan has discovered the reason to be thankful and have hope in every situation: The lordship of Christ and the goodness of the Gospel, which makes a relationship with God possible. As Stroup puts it:

“The purpose and end of human existence is gratitude and doxology not because of who human beings are, but because of who God is. The God before whom humans live is a splendor beyond human comprehension, to whom humans respond appropriately only in adoration and praise.”8

Conclusion: Go in Thankfulness (19)

So what now for us? Well, we remember that if we are in Christ, there is always someone we can turn to in the worst of situations and a reason for hope and cause to be thankful – because our faith has made us well! (v19). CS, Lewis upon discovering the effectual Grace of God at work in his life, wrote in his reflections on the Psalms:

“I noticed how the humblest and at the same time most balanced minds praised most: while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least. Praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.” 9

Today we are posed to ponder if we are in Christ. If we know it to be accurate, we are reminded to be thankful for the gift we have received that surpasses every circumstance, transcends every fear and offers us hope, certainty and peace for whatever is ahead. The nine healed remind us that the world will take from God and give him no due; the samaritan healed reminds us that the most basic response of our discipleship is thankfulness to God for all God has given us, this life, the people who enrich our living, the road he is calling us to walk in obedience, our church and most of all the gift of Grace received through the saving work of Christ on the Cross. Today, let us Rise and go thankful for what the Lord is done and trust the Lord for what is ahead. Let us praise God from whom all blessings flow.

  1. John C. Poirier, “Purity Beyond the Temple in The Second Temple Era”, Journal of Biblical Literature 122, no. 2 (2003): 247, doi:10.2307/3268445. 247.
  2. Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1-8: 26 Word Biblical Commentary, 1st ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1989). 78.
  3. Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 208). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.”
  4. Show yourselves to the priests. This reply was equivalent to saying, “You are clean;
    Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 2, p. 208). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  5. “The LORD spoke to Moses: 2 “This is the law concerning the person afflicted with a skin disease on the day of his cleansing. He is to be brought to the priest, 3 who will go outside the camp and examine him. If the skin disease has disappeared from the afflicted person, 4 the priest will order that two live clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop be brought for the one who is to be cleansed…” – Christian Standard Bible. (2020). (Lev. 14:1–4). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  6. Ernst-Habib, M. (2010). Theological Perspective. In D. L. Bartlett & B. B. Taylor (Eds.), Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year C (Vol. 4, p. 166). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  7. Ernst-Habib, M. (2010). Theological Perspective. In D. L. Bartlett & B. B. Taylor (Eds.), Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year C (Vol. 4, p. 166). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  8. George Stroup, Before God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 24.
    in
    Bartlett, D. L., & Taylor, B. B. (Eds.). (2010). Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year C (Vol. 4). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  9. C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: G. Bles, 1958), 78–81.
    Bartlett, D. L., & Taylor, B. B. (Eds.). (2010). Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year C (Vol. 4). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

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