Thursday, November 24, 2011

One Came Back

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the fourth birthday of my granddaughter Anna. It was fun to watch her open one present after another. Several times, though, she was so excited about the gift she received that she wanted to immediately run off and play with it right away! 
This created two problems…
1. In her excitement she forgot to say, “Thank-you,” to the gift-giver…
2. And, there were still more presents to be opened, but she was thoroughly distracted in her excitement.

It reminded me of an incident that is told in Luke 17:11-19 “Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy”
Remember, leprosy was a horrific, disfiguring and extremely dreaded disease. I would imagine that, in Jesus’ day, everyone feared contracting leprosy. There was NO cure what-so-ever…at least back then. Left untreated leprosy is known to permanently damage skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. It is hard for most of us to imagine, because few of us have ever been exposed to the life-altering diagnosis and we probably don’t know anyone else who has!
But, because of the fact that leprosy was believed to be highly contagious, lepers were considered outcasts. 
  • They were the “untouchables”
  • They would not have been allowed to live within the city or village. 
  • They were certainly never allowed to approach others…even family members. 
  • And it was the law. The written law. 
  • They stood a good distance away…
  • The lived apart…
  • They watched the rest of the world go by in their own isolation 
  • Or maybe they might have even tried to forget the life they lived before the scourge of leprosy…
  • They most assuredly suffered without the comfort of home and family…
In colonies, in caves, in make shift dwellings…
Because they were, in every way, outsiders.
They only had each other.
Maybe even sadder, and more distressing, is the idea that they also lived without hope…
  • With no hospitals
  • No doctors… I’m sure even Dr. Luke was at a loss
  • There was no hopeful research and magical cures on the horizon…
  • They simply lived hopelessly 
Well, maybe they had a little bit of hope…
Somewhere along the way they must have heard about JESUS and, because of ONE amazing, miraculous encounter, everything changed for them.
Well, here’s what happened according to Luke…
11 Now on His way to Jerusalem, 
Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
12 As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. 
They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When He saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” 
Leviticus 13 explains how leprosy was handled under Moses' law. The priests were the ones who decided whether leprosy was contagious or not. The priests had the power to declare these men healed and clean or to send them back to their solitary lives. Jesus was sending them to the priests for a purpose!
“Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And that is exactly what they did!
Amazingly enough...
  • The scripture doesn’t indicate that they grumbled or complained about the instructions Jesus gave
  • It is difficult to believe that they didn’t argue or give a few suggestions of their own
  • Did they not even question Jesus? 
  • No sarcasm? 
  • No smart aleck remarks?
  • It certainly doesn’t appear as though they did any such thing 
Instead, low and behold, these ten men were, if nothing else, obedient. 
And what happened?
And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan. 
(Those Samaritans…gotta love ‘em!)
Amazing, isn’t it? Immediately…not sometime later!
  • As soon as he realized he was well he went back!
  • He didn’t send a thank-you card
  • He didn’t send a messenger
  • He didn’t put it off until he’d had a chance to adjust
“…when he saw he was healed, he came back…”
And he didn’t come whispering either!
  • Maybe it was because he had been shouting at a distance for so long already…
  • Maybe he didn’t have a quiet voice to use anymore
How did he come back? “…praising God in a loud voice…” 
  • This wasn’t his indoor voice!
  • I would imagine that would be the loud voice that we would reserve for football games or the World Series.
When was the last time any of us praised God with a LOUD VOICE?
  • He was excited
  • He was beside himself
  • I don’t think he had a whisper in him!
This guy was so excited, so grateful, so thankful, so amazed that he didn’t just come back praising God with a loud voice…
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. 
That is a picture of thanksgiving…
  • Uncontainable 
  • Exuberant
  • Heartfelt 
  • Sincere
Here was a man who was probably so overwhelmed with the thought of being declared clean and being able to return to his family, his home, his friends and his life…but first he recognized there was a source of his healing…
There was Jesus and he wasn’t able to do what he wanted to do until he did what he needed to do…tell Jesus “Thank you!”
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him—and he was a Samaritan.
A Samaritan…the way Luke words it makes it sound as though he was the only one who was a Samaritan. Maybe, but that’s a story for another day…
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
19 Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus used a word there that is all-encompassing, it doesn’t just mean physical healing, but spiritual as well. And, if I read that right... “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” His faith was in Christ and he was made well spiritually, as well as physically. 
Let’s not forget the other nine guys in Luke’s account. 
  • They were certainly respectful by keeping their distance
  • They were obviously obedient...they followed Jesus’ instructions to the letter
  • They may have even had a degree of trust in Him
  • They just weren’t thankful!
Only one was wise enough to recognize the need to be grateful for the gift of healing that he had received.
  • Only One!
There are so many stories in the Old Testament where God is frustrated by the worship of His people. 
  • They may have made all the appropriate sacrifices
  • And kept all of the feasts
  • Obeyed the Rituals spelled out in the Law
  • Prayed the prayers and washed their hands
  • And they thought they did everything right...
It’s so easy to think we’re doing the right thing, but are we doing them for the right reason. 
  • They forgot the heart part
  • Sometimes we forget the heart part
  • God is far more interested in the state of His people's heart than in anything we do
Is it possible that we can be so caught up in doing the right thing that we forget God Himself. 
  • It’s especially easy to do if you don’t have a grateful heart!
So, nine men found healing, but only one man found Jesus. 
  • Only one man acknowledge the source of his healing
Maybe you have heard this story of Alex Haley, the man who wrote the best-selling book and movie “Roots?” He had a rather unusual picture hanging on the wall in his office. It must have been a good conversation starter, because he was often asked about it. 
And then Alex Haley would reply, “Every time I read my words and think that they are wonderful and begin to feel proud of myself, I look at the turtle on top of the fence post and I remember that he didn’t get there on his own. He had help.”
Don’t we all? Don’t we all have help?
Nine men found healing, but only one man found Jesus.
On the other hand here is a story that represents far too many people...
The story is told of an older man who went into the Post Office with a blank postcard in hand. 
  • He approached the postal clerk behind the counter and asked if he would address the postcard for him, which he did.
  • Then the man asked the clerk to write a short message on the card for him
  • Then he even asked the clerk to sign it for him. 
  • After he was finished, the postal clerk asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”
And with a scowl on his face, the man said, “Yes, at the bottom of the postcard could you write: “P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.”
I think Darryl DelHousaye summed it up well…
“Thanksgiving in everything is the key to joy. The experience of joy is all about well-being, a sense of security, a deep rest, the absence of fear. It’s enjoyment! 
The absence of thanksgiving is what makes joy fade. It’s God’s design for us to give thanks lest any of our joy slip away.”
Nine men found healing, but only one man found Jesus.                                                                              Only ONE man out of ten came back to say, “Thank you” to Jesus. 
There are two questions I would leave you with today…
1. Do you want…
  • The miracle
  • The healing
  • The answer to prayer
  • Or do you want the Source? Do you want Jesus?
2. Are you of the One or are you of the nine?
  • Do you have a thankful heart?
I have adapted this prayer from Psalm 111
 I Praise You, LORD.
   I will extol You LORD with all my heart 
    Great are Your works, O LORD; 
   they are pondered by all who delight in them. 
Glorious and majestic are Your deeds, 
   and Your righteousness endures forever. 
You cause Your wonders to be remembered; 
   You, LORD, are gracious and compassionate. 
You provide food for those who fear You; 
   You remember Your covenant forever.
You have shown Your people the power of Your works... 
 The works of Your hands are faithful and just; 
   all Your precepts are trustworthy. 
They are established for ever and ever, 
   enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. 
 You have provided redemption for Your people; 
   You ordained Your covenant forever— 
   holy and awesome is Your name.
 To fear You, LORD, is the beginning of wisdom; 
   all who follow Your precepts have good understanding. 
   To You belongs eternal praise.
LORD, with hearts of thanksgiving I give You praise, this day and every day, in Jesus’ Name.

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