Thursday, November 26, 2015

Uncommon Thankfulness

Rudyard Kipling, author of “The Jungle Books” and many other works, lived from 1865 to 1936. He was English, but he was born in India. His writings not only made him very famous, but they made him very rich as well.

I read a story somewhere once, I can’t recall where, about a newspaper reporter interviewing Mr. Kipling.  The newspaper reporter said, "Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over one hundred dollars a word.”
The reporter reached into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred-dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, “Here’s a one hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now you give me one of your hundred dollar words.”
Rudyard Kipling looked at the money, put it in his pocket and said, "Thanks!"
There is no doubt that the word "thanks" is most definitely a “hundred dollar word.”  It is a small word that can possess powerful meaning. A mere six letter word, but it gets across a message that few other words are capable of achieving.
Luke 17:11-19
Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.  13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.  15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.  17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
In this account from the gospel of Luke Jesus was traveling along the border of Galilee where He conducted much of His ministry.  The word of Jesus’ healings and miracles had spread throughout this region and so Jesus had developed a reputation here.
Jesus expresses concern in verse 18 over the fact that only one of the ten men that had received from Him a miracle had returned to give thanks, “was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Jesus was a Jew and the man who had returned to give thanks was a Samaritan.  The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other.  Samaritans were considered pagan half-breeds and the Jews would go to great lengths to bypass Samaria on a Journey.  Even though they had common roots they preferred to act as if they had nothing in common.
But in this case there were a few things that brought these nine Jews and the one Samaritan together.  The first thing that brought them together was their common affliction.  All ten of them had leprosy.  Leprosy was the most feared illness in that time.  It was the “AIDS” of biblical times.  And it carried with it the same social stigma.  Verse 12 tells us that these ten lepers, “stood at a distance.”
They had to stand at a distance from Jesus. They were not allowed to come near anybody. They had to keep a distance of a minimum of six feet from other people including their family members.   Lepers were not allowed to live within the walls of any city. They were cast out and completely avoided by everyone. (See Leviticus 13:45-46)
The second thing that these ten men had in common was, their common need for mercy.  In verse 13 it says, “They lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”·        
There was no known treatment for their disease.  The Jews saw this disease as a curse from God, even though it never says anywhere in scripture that leprosy is “always” a curse from God.  To receive mercy means not receiving what you deserve.  In their minds they somehow deserved to be afflicted with this illness, but they knew that if Jesus had pity on them and healed them they would be receiving mercy.
They had probably been told by other rabbi’s and “religious” people that their disease was a curse from God, and that they deserved the disease not the cleansing.  So they cried out to Jesus for a miracle they did not deserve, they called out together for mercy.
The third thing they had in common, was their common faith.  They must have heard of the authority and healing power of Jesus.  They must have heard of the compassion that set this rabbi apart.  As I have already stated, much of Jesus’ ministry took place in this region.  It would be impossible not to have heard something of the wonderful miracles that He performed.
Notice Jesus Never touched them.  The Law of Moses commanded that they stay six feet away. If Jesus touched them physically He would have broken the Law of Moses.  The OT Law prescribed that a person who was healed of leprosy was to go to the priest for official inspection and acclamation that the person was healed.
These ten lepers continued to demonstrate their faith together.  The lepers were demonstrating that they had faith in the words of Jesus by turning around and walking towards the priest before they experienced their healing.  They didn’t question Jesus’ command they believed Him.  They believed together in faith.
The fourth thing that these men had in common, was their common cleansing.  Verse 14 tells us, “And as they went, they were cleansed.”  They received their healing together. 
And that is where the commonalities end, because even though these nine Jews and one Samaritan had so many common experiences that had pulled them together across generations of prejudice and pride, something at the last separated them again!
Something pulled this ten member gang of lepers apart.  What was it?
Maybe their ethnicity- severed the relationship.  It could have been the fact that if the nine Jews kept a close relationship with a Samaritan, it would devastate their social status.  Keeping a close relationship with a Samaritan would destroy any possibility of regaining popularity among their Jewish families and friends.  Keeping a close relationship with a Samaritan would cause these nine Jews to be just as alienated from Jewish society as if they had continued to have leprosy!  Perhaps the walls of racial prejudice and the hunger for regained social status were just too high to climb, and provided too much security to destroy.
Maybe it was their religion that severed the relationship between these men.  Jesus had told them in verse 14, "Go, and show yourselves to the priests."
In the temple in Jerusalem there was an inscription on a block in the wall, “Let no foreigner enter within the screen and enclosure surrounding the sanctuary.”
In verse 18 Jesus asks, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
The word foreigner that Jesus used here is the same word that was inscribed on the wall of the temple to describe those who could not enter.  This gives us great insight into the faith of this Samaritan.  He took Jesus at His word and began a journey to see the priest, a journey that he could never finish!  The priest would have never seen this man, they considered him a dog! (Mark 7:20-24)
After their healing the nine Jews had the priest to go to so they could be declared clean.  The nine Jews had the law to rely on so that they could be considered “clean” again.  But the one Samaritan had no place to go, except back to Jesus!  Jesus was the source of his healing.  Jesus was the one who had shown him the mercy he did not deserve.
This foreigner had no desire to go back to the Samaritan religion.  The Samaritan religion had rejected him and sent him to live with Jewish outcasts.  The Samaritan religion lacked the power to heal him.  The Samaritan religion had failed to show him mercy.  He had no desire to seek out a relationship with the Jewish religion either.  It has also alienated its own followers when they needed support the most.  It also would continue to reject him and hold a low value of his life because he was still a Samaritan.  This Samaritan only wanted to go one place, BACK TO JESUS!
Maybe it was simply a flawed human perspective that had severed the relationship between these ten men: Maybe one of the Jews wanted to wait to see if the cure was real, maybe one of them wanted to wait to see if it would last, maybe one said, “I will go see Jesus later – after I visit my family,” maybe one of them decided that he had never had leprosy in the first place, maybe one reasoned, “I must have had a temporary form of leprosy I would have gotten well anyway,” or maybe some of them gave the glory to the priests.
Up to this point these men had a lot of things in common that had brought them together and we can presume a lot of things, but the greatest factor that separated this Samaritan from the nine Jews, was his uncommon thankfulness!  And the most powerful result of the Samaritans uncommon gratefulness was that He touched Jesus!
Out of the ten men who were healed this Samaritan was the only one who got to touch Jesus!  And Jesus made him well.  Verse 19 says, “Then He said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."  The word “well” is from the same Greek word that is used in the New Testament to describe salvation: forgiveness from sin and a relationship with God and the promise of eternal life in heaven.  Even though all were healed only one was made well!  The Samaritan had had much in common with his Jewish friends, but he was the only one who was made well.
Why?  Because he was Uncommonly Thankful!
There are some striking similarities between this story in Luke and ourselves.  First, our common affliction of sin has brought us together.  It is an affliction that brought us together because we all suffered from it. It is a disease that has contaminated each of us and caused us to be outcast from the camp of God.  It is a disease which is fatal to the soul no one can cure, except Jesus.
Second, our common faith has brought us together – Faith in Jesus.  Something in each of us has caused us to call out to Jesus.  Something caused us to seek out the possibility of mercy from this Man.  No matter how vile a sinner we were, each of us needed Christ to cleanse us and make us “well.”
Third, our common cleansing has brought us together.  A cleansing that comes by faith in Jesus, by repentance, and through baptism in Jesus name having our sins washed away.  And we are clean as we begin to Journey down the path commanded in the Scriptures.
But there is one thing that will set us apart from most others… An Uncommon Thankfulness!  Only those who are sincerely thankful get to experience the joy of touching the heart of God. Only those who express an uncommon thankfulness to the master are the ones who experience cleansing of sin and get to experience the Joy of being made well!

1 comment:

  1. The act of giving thanks will bring you closer to the object of your thankfulness. "Thanks" is a powerful magnet that will both move from within and create a pull upon you from without. If the thankful attitude should become mutual; in the case of being thankful for another life, person and, of course, God then the power is multiplied from both ends. It's this powerful connection principal that makes THANKSGIVING day a sweet deal for everyone