Thanking God Is The Difference

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Series: Luke

Thanking God Is The Difference

February 09, 2020 | Randy Smith

Thanking God Is The Difference

Luke 17:11–19
Sunday, February 9, 2020
Pastor Randy Smith


It is an infectious disease brought about by contact with a slow-growing bacterium. It causes severe disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs and skin around the body. The disease affects muscle function, leading to paralysis and additional infections, ulcerations and joint deformities. Secondary infections (additional bacterial or viral infections) can result in tissue loss, causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as cartilage is absorbed into the body. Outbreaks of this disease have panicked people on every continent.

I am not talking about the Coronavirus, as serious as that is right now. I am talking about Hansen’s Disease, more commonly known as Leprosy.

Though Leprosy thankfully can now be cured with a multidrug therapy today, the medical cure was not available during biblical times. It was a significant problem. And it was a common problem. Right here in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said, “There were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet” (Lk. 4:27).

As I already mentioned, it was a dreaded disease because of the painful, disabling and embarrassing physical complications. But it was also a dreaded disease because it was contagious. We have come to learn that it is communicable, but you can catch it only if you come into close and repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from someone with untreated leprosy. However, back then they did not have this medical information. It was feared to have close proximity with a person with leprosy. But in Israel, what could have made the disease most stigmatized is that people with leprosy, according to the Old Covenant Law, were considered spiritually unclean (Lev. 13:3).

If a suspicious skin disorder was detected, anyone in Israel was required to report to the local health inspector. Back then that was the town priest. If you have ever read Leviticus 13, you know he would go through a lengthy examination, resulting in various observations. And if leprosy was diagnosed, the expectations were unmistakably clear and very strict.

“As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lev. 13:45–46).

The same is said in Numbers 5:2–3. The reality is demonstrated in 2 Kings 7:3.

Now, I know that was a lot of background, but understanding the historical and cultural context will help us better appreciate this passage.

Let’s start with the main point and then we will dive into the text. Here is the main point: True saving faith results in a grateful heart that desires to give God glory.

Ten Men Healed (verses 11–14)

These nine verses are easily divided into two sections (11–14 and 15-19) which I have used to create the sermon outline in your notes. They follow a very interesting pattern of contrast. Between the two parts, ten come to Jesus verses one comes to Jesus. Ten keep their distance from Jesus verse one falls at Jesus’ feet. Ten cry for mercy verses one is grateful for mercy. Jesus send the ten away (verse 14) verses Jesus sends one away (verse 19). Ten are physically healed verses one is spiritually healed.

Here we go, first point: “Ten Men Healed.”

Verse 11, “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee.”

So, we have learned that Jesus has been moving toward Jerusalem where He will meet the cross in a matter of weeks. Jerusalem is in the district of Judah. Currently He was up north in the districts of Samaria and Galilee according to verse 11.

Verses 12 and 13, “As He entered an unspecified village [we do not know which one], ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”

What can we conclude? That these men were respecting the Levitical code. They knew they could not come in close proximity to others. Therefore, they were required to “stand at a distance” and “raise their voices” to get Jesus’ attention. Again, the fear was spreading the disease, but moreover, spreading spiritual impurity.

We can also conclude, as we will see in verses 16 and 18, that it was a mixed batch of nationalities. Remember, the only people lepers could associate with were other lepers. So, they often bound together forming their own colony.

And third, they cried out to Jesus for mercy. What they specifically knew about Him is unknown, but to some degree they believed that He was powerful enough to make them well. And in asking for mercy, they also believed that while unworthy of being healed, Jesus was compassionate and would have pity on their circumstance (unlike the “rich man” we observed two weeks ago with Lazarus).

Since disease like this was contagious and wrongly assumed to be a curse from God, few (if any) would have had any care for these individuals. You wouldn’t even dream of touching a leper. But most importantly, no one, including the best doctor or religious leader in the land would have been powerful enough to cure them. But unlike them, Jesus could heal, and Jesus cared to heal.

How does Jesus respond to their plea for His mercy?

Verse 14, “When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’

Why did Jesus direct them to the priests? Because, remember, it was only the priest that could verify that a leper was healed. The priest would then direct the individual to go to the temple and administer the proper sacrifice. Then only the priest could reintroduce the individual back into the community. Going to the priest was part of the Old Covenant Law.

The verse continues, “And as they were going, they were cleansed.”

Can you imagine this? They follow Jesus’ command and while they are going to the priests they are suddenly and entirely healed. Can you imagine this? Seeing another well before you realize you too are cured. Imagine feeling better and looking better in a split-second. The joy to be released from this forsaken disease. Physical, emotional, social, spiritual health restored. Immediate healing. For all ten, the dreaded disease was gone!

So, as we close this first point, all of these men had a lot in common. All were afflicted. All were determined to do something. All believed Jesus was the answer. All appealed to Jesus as Master. All obey Jesus to go to the priests. And all were physically healed.

Now as we move to the second point, we get to the heart of this lesson. The similarity ends. One of the ten does something uncommon to the other nine.

One Man Saved (verses 15–19)

Let’s go to the second point. Here the story takes a dramatic shift.

Verses 15 and 16, “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.”

You get the picture. They all come to the glorious revelation that they are healed. We assume the nine keep marching toward the priests. However, one does a 180 and returns to Jesus. He does three impressive actions which are mentioned in verses 15-16. He glorifies God with a loud voice. He falls on His face at the feet of Jesus. He gives thanks to Jesus.

What is all of this? Worship! It is seen in verbal praise, humility and gratitude.

This one individual connected the good in His life with Jesus Christ. Like the others, sure, he must have been overwhelmed with his healing. Sure, he knew of the need to see the priest. Sure, he longed to be reinstated back into the community. Sure, he couldn’t wait to tell his family and friends. Sure, he wanted to take a shower and put on some fresh clothes. But above all these things was to put first things first. Before anything else, he needed to give glory to God. Priorities! And the specific means of His worship was a heart of gratitude.

This is an incredible image of a person who truly gets it. They see God as the overarching motivation for life, philosophy for life, strength for life, identity for life, direction for life, purpose for life and gratitude for life.

Jesus is greater than the priest. Jesus is greater than the temple. Jesus is greater than the family. Jesus is greater than the healing. Jesus is greater than the reputation. Jesus is greater than me. In the deepest sense, God did not dwell in those places. God dwells in the Person of Jesus. And he knew it. The others believed and obeyed, but it was insufficient. He had eyes to see that God comes first. The others were wrong for continuing without Jesus. He was right for returning to Jesus.

How do I know that?

Verse 17, “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they?” Verse 18, “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

I have to believe the other nine were grateful. I have to believe that if they crossed paths with Jesus in the future, they would have given Him a nod of appreciation. But overall, they got what they wanted, and they moved on. The physical healing was more important to them than the physical Jesus. It’s been said, many receive God’s healings, but few encounter God in the healings.

We haven’t changed. To most people, the gifts we enjoy are more important than the Giver of the gifts. Some might be grateful for their many blessings. But how many are expressing that gratitude to God? How many are metaphorically falling at His feet and glorifying Him with a genuine and enthusiastic heart? Many are thankful, but how many prioritize their thankfulness to God? How often do blessings actually lead people away from God because they want something from God and do not see God in the something?

[Share story of being helped when my car got stuck when accidently backing over a stone in the desert. Sure, I was very thankful to the two individuals who stopped and assisted, but I was ultimately thankful to God for sending them.]

You see, this story also takes a further very unexpected twist. Not only did 90% of the individuals not return, but the one who did return was a “Samaritan” (verse 16) or verse 18, a “foreigner.” The Jews missed it. The outcast got it right.

I say outcast because that is how the Jews viewed the Samaritans. John 4 tells us the, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (Jn. 4:9). Interestingly, “foreigners” were not permitted to get anywhere close to the inner portions of the Temple. They were restricted to God’s presence, confined to the far outer courts. Anything closer resulted in death. And to make matters worse, a Samaritan with leprosy would be the extreme of one excluded from the covenant community of God. Separated from God by many walls both physically and spiritually.

But what do we see here? Jesus with a special heart for the Samaritan outcast like interestingly, the “Good Samaritan” from chapter 10. And the once leprous foreigner now entering the true “Holy of Holies” in his communion with God the Son.

Verse 19, “And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’”

I’m not sure why the major Bible versions translate the end “made…well.” The Greek word is the same one used for salvation. At worst it is a little misleading, at best redundant. All ten were made well physically. What sets this guy apart is that he was made well spiritually.

He was saved. And He was saved as the verse says because He, unlike the others, had true “faith” (verse 19) in Jesus.

Sure, the others had faith in Jesus. They obey Him to go see the priests. But unlike them, this man demonstrated true faith by a humble and reverent heart of thankfulness toward God. We saw all of them pleading for mercy and in a sense, all of them received mercy in their healings. But the story ends with only one of them receiving the ultimate mercy in eternal forgiveness, salvation. That day he alone was the recipient of not one, but two miracles.

Two weeks ago, we learned that saving faith produces compassion (unlike the “rich man”). Here we learn that saving faith produces gratitude leading to worship.

All people should have grateful hearts. But God’s people will have grateful hearts because they know that all good comes from God and all circumstances work together for good if we are in Christ Jesus.

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