The Real Jesus: Healing the Ten Lepers

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church.  My name is Phil Human and I’m one of the pastors here at Journey.  And today we are going to talk about thankfulness as we read an interesting story that occurred in Jesus life that we will read from Luke 17.

As a way of introduction, I’d like to share about a great little note I got this week.  I drive a school bus part time for the School district – I love it – and this week I received a nice surprise from some of the students at Falling Waters elementary.

Apparently the kindergarten class at Falling Waters were learning how to write thank you letters – and so the teachers made the kids write thank you letters to their school bus driver – and so – what a treat to get probably 8 tiny letters of thanks.

And since today we are going to be taking about the significance of a thankful heart – I thought I’d read a few to you.

Here’s one from Chase – who wrote, “Dear Bus Driver, thank you for giving us a ride home from school.”  Do you get the feeling that Chase is the kind of kid that just says, “There I did it.  Give me my grade and let’s move on.”

This one is from McClellon – “You are so kind for driving the bus. You can sure go fast.” McClellon – just got me fired.  But there’s no way I’m going to pick all you kids up in time if I gotta stop at all the stop signs, now is there?

William touched my heart.  He wrote – “I wish that I could have your job, Bus Driver.” Reach for the stars William!  I’ll see you in twelve years!

I saved my favorite one for last – it comes from Aubrey.  I don’t think Aubrey was into this assignment – she wrote, Thank you for bringing me home from school like you are supposed to.  Thanks for doing your job!  Bud Driver!

That tickled me – a cynical kindergartner – we hope to see you at Journey sometime soon – we love skeptics and cynics and people just starting or restarting their spiritual Journey.

Why are we here this morning?  Well, I hope that the reason we gather to worship is to express our thankfulness – genuine, heartfelt, thankfulness to God.  It’s important for us, and it’s also something that is important to God.

Today we’re reading Luke 17.

11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

It is God’s desire that we be thankful people.  That we notice what God has done and is going in our lives.  That we return thanks.  We don’t want to be thankless people.

Author Francis Schaeffer “The beginning of men’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.”

It’s so important that we cultivate grateful hearts.  And yet – it’s so easy to forget to be thankful.  It’s so easy.  These other nine guys?  They didn’t collude – they didn’t have a vote – let’s not go back and say thanks – they were undoubtedly thankful but they never expressed it.  They forgot.

In the Old Testament – God says to the people of Israel – as they are about to enter the promised land – that the most dangerous part of the trek they are about to endure isn’t the 40 years in the wilderness – it wasn’t the battles they fought to against the Canaanites.  God says – the most dangerous part of the journey will be when you have everything you want.

Deut 6:10 “The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you… 11 The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, 12 be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.

So what I want to do here this morning is to express my thankfulness to God for being the kind of God we read about in this story this morning.  We will remember of course that Jesus is God in the flesh and so when we read about Jesus we are reading about God.  And with that in mind – Let’s go back and pick this episode of Jesus life apart and I’m walking away with five things I’m thankful to God about as I read this story.  You might find more than five – but I have five to talk about.

1.  I’m so thankful that our God is a God who heals.

Luke – who wrote the gospel we’ve been using these past three months now – was a doctor.  He was a physician.  He dedicated his life, as many of you have – to bringing healing to people.  And so I think Luke took careful notes whenever he saw Jesus heal people.  And in fact records 13 different healing episodes in the life of Jesus.

And you know – it’s interesting to read how Jesus heals people.  Sometimes he touches them and they are healed.  Sometimes they sneak up behind him and touch him and they are healed.  Sometimes Jesus spits in dirt and makes mud and puts it in blind peoples eyes – another time he made a deaf person hear by putting his fingers in their ears – I mean – that’s pretty dramatic.

In this case we see Jesus walking on a road – and he hears this shouting from a  distance – “Jesus – Master – have mercy on us!”

Here Jesus says – just go to the priest. Why the priest?  The priest was the person you went to when you were over your sickness – the Israelites basically regularly practiced quarantining sick people – when you thought you were well – you went to the priest and the priest would check you over – you’d make an offering and the priest would reintroduce you back into fellowship in the community.

Jesus here is like – just go!  And they do!  And to their credit they leave.  And somewhere along the journey – they are healed.

I’m so thankful that we serve a God who heals.

Now – you might be sick today- or you are in a time of crisis because someone you love is sick – and maybe the only thing that will save their life is a miraculous answer to prayer.  Well, the one thing we know is that God is able to heal you or your loved one.  I’m thankful we serve an all powerful God.

But I’m also thankful that we serve an all wise God – who knows what he is doing.  And so – when he doesn’t heal – it doesn’t mean he’s forgotten us – it means that he has another plan – and he asks us to think highly enough of him to trust him with our illness and to trust him with the timeline of our life.    

And as we turn over the decisions about life and death to Him – we can be thankful that he is not only all powerful and all wise, but also all loving and forever faithful.

It might be difficult but it’s good for us to be thankful in the midst of our trials. “Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity” – Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

2.  I’m thankful for a God who cares about the people others care little about.

Leprosy is a brutal disease.  It actually deadens your nerve endings and so you lose the ability to feel pain.  Sometimes people want to blame God for pain, but pain has a purpose.  It alerts us that something is wrong.  And if we remove pain then we don’t know when we are being injured.  And so limbs get cut and infected and skin gets gangrene and it’s terrible.

Besides the pain of the actual disease, comes the pain of being socially ostracized.  They could not be part of normal life – no one would touch them, it was thought to be contagious.  So they were ceremonially unable to enter temples to worship within, most of the time they became beggars lining the streets seeking pity from passerby’s who tried to ignore they were there.

Many ended up forming colonies where they lived together.  These ten guys were all living in a community together.  Now – what’s interesting about this group is that – because they were on the border between Samaria and Galilee – there was a mixture of people within this colony – some were Samaritans and others were Jewish.  Normally – these two groups of people would hate one another – but here in this leper colony – their pain and anguish brought them together.  They had no one else but themselves.

Here’s a picture of a leprosy patient.  Leprosy is still a thing in most parts of the world – I choose this picture because you can see that – although the disease has robbed this woman of the use of her hands – and deformed her body – she still is displaying joy – you can see past her deformities and disease and see that there is a human being on the other side of that disease.

And this is what Jesus saw when he looked at those ten men – Jesus looked past their deformity and their disease and saw human beings on the other side.

Jesus cares about people that other people don’t care about.

Since Jesus cares about the least of these – so do we.

I would be remiss not to thank you for being the kind of church that cares for those that others have little regard for.

Feeding Haitian children.  Starting health clinics in remotest parts of Africa.    Hundreds upon hundreds of hours at Heartland Hope.  You are a church that cares for the hurting.  And I bless you.  I’m so thankful for you all.

Throughout history it’s been followers of Christ who have followed Jesus lead in caring for those the world cares little about.  And we at Journey take our place in the timeline of world history.  The torch has been passed to us.  We look past the conditions that people are in to see the human being.  Deeply loved by God and deeply loved by his people.

3.  I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t give the other nine their leprosy back.

If this were a fable – it isn’t – but if it were a fable – it would have ended with the other nine getting leprosy back twice as hard.  So don’t be unthankful kid!

We might expect the story to end that way – because we live in a world that is based on – you get what you deserve!  The kingdom of darkness is based on the principle you get what you work for – you get what you deserve!

But in the Kingdom of Heaven?  We serve a God who doesn’t give us what we deserve!  The Bible says that God causes the rain to fall on good or evil alike.

There is a generosity about God – he gives to people who will never return to thank him.

I’m thankful to serve a God who tells us that in His kingdom – through faith in Jesus – mercy and grace will follow us all the days of our life!  Mercy and goodness – like two little puppies- following you every day.   

I’m thankful that God didn’t give the ungrateful nine their leprosy back.

Can I share another thing I’m thankful for you all about.  At the risk of sounding like I’m buttering you up –

You all have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to build these centers in Mali – even though the country is 95 percent Muslim.  And no one has ever come up to me and said, maybe we should be helping Christians, no one has ever said to me – well, what are the results of these centers – are people turning to Jesus?

And you know what’s cool about this?  We learned yesterday that in each of those villages, money is being raised by the Malian followers of Jesus – to build a church in each of those 14 villages.  Praise the Lord!

There were none ten years ago.  There will be soon 14 churches – in places where the healing ministry of Jesus was being extended through medical professionals who love the Lord.

4.  I’m thankful for a God who asks us to participate in his work.

I think that if I were one of these lepers – I would have put up a little bit of fight with Jesus – we got his attention – we know he can heal – he tells us to go see the priest.  But at this point we aren’t healed.  I think I would have said – Jesus just heal us from there.  I don’t want to leave.

But it’s important to God that we demonstrate that our trust in him is more than lip service.  We do what he asks us to do.  And in this case he tells them – go see the priest – and to their credit they think highly enough of Jesus to do what he asks them to do.  And off they go.

Faith and action go together.  Faith and obedience.

Now – let me point out two ways that are some low hanging fruit of obedience.  First – if you claim to follow Jesus – we have to be giving some of our money away.   Many people like to think that somehow giving my money away is something that comes for mature believers only.  Someday I will want to give my money away.  You might not want to ever – but you should be doing it anyway.

Second – if you are a follower of Jesus you should get baptized.  And I know that covid has severely hindered our chance to be baptized – but we’re going to schedule one for Easter this year – April 4th.  And if you feel comfortable – we’d invite you to get baptized. It’s one of the first things Jesus asks new followers to do.  To make a public declaration of your decision to follow Him.

What does it look like to make a decision to follow Jesus?  “Jesus, you are the Lord of my life.  You are in charge of my life.  I’ll go where you tell me to go and do what you tell me to do.”  Okay, the Lord says, why don’t you start with getting baptized?

5.  I’m thankful for a God that appreciates our thankfulness.

I’m glad that Jesus notices the healed man’s thankful heart.  He receives it.  He doesn’t say – no big deal man. He receives the man’s thankful praise.  He receives the man’s worship.

Why do we come to church?  Hopefully, we gather is to worship God.

When we worship Him, we are bringing to him something that is very special, we are bringing something to him that is uniquely ours.

See when we bring our gifts of money?  Well, its just a portion of what was God’s to begin with.  We might give him a percentage of what is rightfully his anyway.

When we give our time to serve, well, that time belongs to God and every minute of our life is a gift from him to begin with.

But our praise?  Our worship?  When we lift our hands and sing?  And bow our heads and pray.  When we interact with him through the word?

These things – don’t exist in the universe until you express it.  When you bring it as an offering of worship to the Lord?  It captures his attention.  You are bringing Him something he doesn’t already have.  You are bringing him something no one else can give him.  And it is special to him.

You bring it voluntarily – it is the step beyond thankful.  And it is special to God.

So let’s be thankful people, Journey.  Perhaps it’s would be a good thing to write out a list of 30 things YOU are thankful for.  Sometimes we have to remind our souls of all that God has done for us?

And as we close with two more songs of praise to God – let’s give him what doesn’t exist until you give it to Him.  Your praise and adoration.