If there is one sin most prevalent today it is ingratitude (Romans 1:21). God does so much for us and what we owe Him is enormous. Yet our infrequent expressions of thanks mixed with our frequent petitions might make people think we have little. Sometimes we are much like the little boy who was given an orange by a man. When the boy’s mother asked, "What do you say to the nice man?," the little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, "Peel it."
In the ministry of Jesus, there was an occasion where gratitude was the message. Ten lepers approached Him and called out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" They all shared the same position – they were societal outcasts because of their leprosy. They all shared the same desire - their petition signified that they were all willing to be approached in their call for mercy. What they all shared shows that they all had the same opportunity to show gratitude.
In His response, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest. As they went, their body was healed. We should notice that they were not healed immediately but they were healed as they went. As they obeyed the command of the Lord the Lord healed them. Petitions, like prayer, are useless without obedience.
Still, nine of them went on their way and for the first time, in no one knows how long, they were able to embrace their wife, kiss their children and hug their friends – something for which their arms would have ached. Leprosy was not merely painful, it treacherously separated its victim from society. So we are not surprised that their feet carried them there.
Yet one still returned to Jesus first. The text says, "When he saw that he had been healed, [he] turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan." What is significant here is that he came to Jesus first. He did not wait. He did what his heart compelled. What is also significant is that he was the only one who returned and he was a Samaritan – a race Jews repulsed. Just one – the unlikely one most might think - saw the difference Jesus had made and believed it more important than anything else to thank Him for it. He saw the work Christ made in him and saw an opportunity to praise God.
The lesson is that many pray but fewer praise. All ten had every reason to praise God and thank Jesus but only one did. Of course, we could speculate that one may have waited to see if the cure was real or another to see if it would last. Maybe another decided he probably never really had leprosy and another planned to thank Jesus later. Maybe one thanked the priest and another himself – since he reasoned, after all, it was his own faith that made him well. Still maybe one believed that he was doing exactly what the Lord told him to do. The truth is all Jesus commanded them to do was to go to the priest. Maybe the nine rationalized their lack of gratitude by commending their obedience?
But one came back. He learned gratitude because his humble heart allowed him to see what Jesus had made of him. And he fell down and praised Him. So as this season of thanksgiving begins, let’s put aside all of the self-elevating excuses that keep us from the praise and thanksgiving that God so richly deserves - and thank Him. Take the moment to see who you were before God worked His grace in you and thank Him – even if the other nine never join you.
By Don Hooton
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