THANK’FUL, adjective Grateful; impressed with a sense of kindness received, and ready to acknowledge it.
[Webster’s 1828 dictionary]
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, walking between Samaria and Galilee. When He entered a certain village, ten leprous men approached and shouted out to him for mercy–keeping their distance as their illness required. Jesus looked at them and spoke, telling them to go and show themselves to the priests. According to the Law of Moses, when a leper was cleansed, he was to present himself to the priest for inspection. The priest would verify that the person was healed and would assist in presenting certain sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. Afterward, the person would no longer be an outcast, but able to return to living a normal life. (Lev. 14)
Luke tells us that even though there had not yet been the slightest discernable change in their condition, all ten lepers were obedient to Jesus’ instructions and left the village to go to Jerusalem and present themselves to the priests. Somewhere along the way, the miracle happened–they were cleansed! All ten of them were suddenly made completely clean and free from this horrible disfiguring disease!
It is at this point that the story takes a turn. You see, nine of the ten continued on the road and presumably carried out Jesus’ instructions to show themselves to the priests, but one turned back. One went running back to Jesus, excitedly shouting and glorifying God along the way. When that man found Jesus, he fell at His feet and poured out his thankfulness to Him.
Luke 17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? 18 “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” (NASB)
When I contemplate Jesus’ response to the situation, several questions come to mind. First of all, were not the nine being obedient to Jesus by continuing on their way to show themselves to the priests? Yes, I believe so. Isn’t that a good thing? Of course it is. Were not the nine also made well by their faith–as evidenced by their obedience and healing? Certainly. And Jesus was well aware of it.
Why then, did Jesus express such dismay that only one of the ten had returned to thank Him? And why did both Jesus and Luke make a point of telling us this man was a foreigner, specifically a Samaritan?
Maybe Jesus was dismayed because, as Paul tells us, one of the characteristics of people who hold to a form of godliness–while at the same time denying its power–is ungratefulness (2Tim 3:2-5). And that may also be why we were told the grateful man was a foreigner. The nine were likely Jews who were making it a priority to hold to their form of godliness: fulfilling the Law of Moses. It seems that although they had experienced miraculous healing, they were quick to incorporate the experience into their religious views. They believed in God. They had faith to be healed. But they held tightly to what was familiar. Only the thankful man was willing to allow his heart to be totally changed by the experience of God’s healing grace.
I like Daniel Webster’s definition of thankfulness because he notes that thankfulness is not only about being “impressed with a sense of kindness received,” but also being “ready to acknowledge it.” In other words, thankfulness is not just about the warm, fuzzy feelings, but also about responding to a kindness received with action.
When Thanksgiving season rolls around, we often make it a point to express thankfulness for the blessings in our lives. But do we allow thankfulness to penetrate our hearts? When was the last time you allowed gratefulness to so penetrate your heart that you had to drop everything to express your appreciation? When was the last time you allowed thankfulness for God’s grace in your life to interrupt your schedule, or even to interrupt your dutiful obedience to Him?
I don’t know about you, but I think there is room in my life for more of that kind of thankfulness.