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Did You Miss Thanksgiving?

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11-30-97

DID YOU MISS THANKSGIVING?
LUKE 17:11-19

                      
INTRODUCTION:
It has been said that the world can be divided in to two groups: those who say thank you and those who don’t.  
Evidently the group that does not say thank you is much larger than the group that does.  At least this was true
in the ministry of Jesus.  As He was moving toward Jerusalem for His sacrificing of Himself on the cross, He
healed ten pitiful lepers.   Of the ten that received the merciful gift of healing, only one returned to express
gratitude.  It would seem that that might be pretty close to the average in every generation – one out of ten will
have a grateful heart.

One elderly New England minister touched upon the various degrees of gratitude in his prayer:  “Oh, Lord, as
you know very well, here we are again.  We are here to do one of the hardest things any mortal can do – to give
thanks and really mean it.”  If we will take a careful look at this incident that happened in the ministry of Jesus, it
will surely encourage us to be more expressive of the gratitude that we have in our hearts.

We can learn from this terrible experience at least six important lessons.  They should be particularly helpful for
those of us who might have missed thanksgiving.  

I.  PRAYER IS MORE NATURAL THAN PRAISE.
Prayer is as natural as breathing when you find yourself in the midst of a difficulty.  These ten lepers did not
need a special seminar on prayer when they knew that Jesus was coming by.  Rather it was natural for them to
cry out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  It expressed the genuine desire of their hearts.  It should be
understood as an earnest appeal on their part for healing and deliverance from the leprosy.  

As He usually did, Jesus responded to their prayer.   Without saying anything about their leprosy, he simply said
to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  As they went on their way to see the priests, they suddenly
realized that they were healed.  That terrible plague of leprosy had been taken away.  In that moment of
discovery, only one of the ten felt compelled to go back and to offer gratitude.  

So many of us make our appeals to God with great earnestness, but then we miss thanksgiving.  We receive the
blessing, but we omit the praise and gratitude.  Some of us are like that man who found himself in a frightening
situation on a plane.  It appeared that the plane was going to crash.  The man had considerable wealth and
when he considered the possibilities of going down, the pastor sitting behind him heard the man pray very
earnestly, “Lord, if you will just get us to the ground safely, I will give half of everything I own to the church.”  
When the plane finally landed safely, the pastor couldn’t resist.  He said to the businessman, “I couldn’t help but
overhear the prayer that you offered to the Lord up there in the air.  I sure hope you don’t forget the promise
you made to God.”

The man was quick to reply, “Oh, I just made Him a better deal.  I just told the Lord if I ever get on another plane,
I will give Him all of it.”

We tend to have such a short memory.  We miss thanksgiving because gratitude requires more of us than does
prayer.

II.  THE GIFT CAN OVERSHADOW THE GIVER.
I am confident that all ten of the men were excited about the gift. They had received no small gift!  Leprosy was a
terrible condition.  It had social consequences because a leper had to be isolated from his family and friends.  It
had spiritual implications because a leper could not enter in to a place of divine worship.  It had physical
implications because leprosy was a slow form of death.  Limbs of the body would fall off one by one as they were
affected by this dreaded disease.  These ten men made a pitiful sight as they stood at a distance and called out
to Jesus, “Master, have mercy on us!”  

As they traveled the road that led into Jerusalem and to the temple, and they realized that the leprosy was gone,
it must have been an exciting moment.  Doubtlessly they paused to celebrate with each other this wonderful gift
they had received.  But it could be that they became so preoccupied with the gift that they forgot the Giver?
They began to make their plans for the future, but forgot about the one who had made it possible.

It was only the Samaritan leper who remembered the Giver.  As he looked at his cleansed body, it drew his mind
and heart toward the Giver.  He returned with haste until he found Jesus and bowed before Him in an expression
of gratitude.

Could there be some of us who have allowed the gift to overshadow the Giver?  Sure you are enjoying God’s
great salvation, but who gave you that salvation?  Sure you are enjoying financial and material plenty, but who
gave you that plenty that you enjoy?  Sure you are gifted with the precious gift of health, but who gave you that
health?  Sure you enjoy a wonderful family, but who gave you that family?  If you spend all of your time focusing
upon the gift, you miss thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is the experience of those who intentionally focus upon the
Giver.

Someone has put into poetic form some unforgettable words about the nine.  It simply asked, “But where are the
nine?”
I meant to go back, but you may guess
I was filled with amazement I cannot express
To think that after those terrible years,
That passion of loathing and passion of fears,
My sores unendurable – beaten, defiled –
My flesh was as smooth as the flesh of a child.
I was drunken with joy; I was crazy with glee;
I scarcely would walk and I scarcely could see,
For the dazzle where all had been black; . . .
But I meant to go back, - oh, I meant to go back!
I had thought to return when my people came out.
There were tears of rejoicing and laughter and shout;
They embraced me, - for years I had not known a kiss;
Ah, the pressure of lip is an exquisite bliss;
They crowded around me, they filled the whole place;
They looked at my feet and my hands and my face;
My children were there, my glorious wife,
And all the forgotten allurements of life.
My cup was so full I needed something to lack!   .  .
But I meant to go back, - oh, I meant to go back!

III.  THE FORMALITIES OF THE FAITH MUST NOT REPLACE OUR PRAISE.
The word of Jesus to these ten lepers instructed them to show themselves to the priest.  This was prescribed
under the Old Testament law.  The priest was appointed under the law as the judge.   He would be responsible
for a careful inspection of the leper to make sure that the leprosy was gone.  So the nine cleansed lepers went
to take care of this important formality of the faith.  Evidently they felt the formality was more important that
returning to Jesus who had been the channel through whom God had brought this cleansing into their lives.  
They give priority to the formality over the offering of glory to God and praise to the Lord Jesus.   It would not be
such a serious matter if these were the only men who had every missed thanksgiving.  Every generation seems
to produce another group that give themselves to the formality of the faith to the neglect of thankfulness and
praise.  They can be seen every Sunday morning assembling with other Christians in the house of God for
worship.  They will often have a Bible in their hands and they may even present gifts upon the altar.  They will
often be found teaching a Sunday School class or working as an usher.  They might even be found singing in
the choir.  But what they are doing is going through the formalities of the faith.  They are keeping up the form but
they completely miss thanksgiving.  They never get around to bowing in the presence of the sovereign Lord who
gave them the gift of eternal life and offering unto Him the praise and the glory of their lives.  We must be careful
that we not miss thanksgiving because we are so caught up in the formalities of the faith.

IV.  HUMILITY PRECEEDES A GRATEFUL HEART.
The fact that this one grateful leper was a Samaritan should not be overlooked.  In his account of the life of our
Lord, Luke was constantly putting in little incidents like this.  He is the one that preserved the record of the
parable of the Good Samaritan.  We are aware that there was considerable hostility between the Jews and the
Samaritans.  This Samaritan would have been the most unlikely one to return to a Jewish prophet and teacher in
order to express thanks.  But evidently he recognized that he had been the recipient of special consideration
and grace.  With a deep sense of humility and unworthiness he found his way back to the Teacher to say thanks.

The account records for us that when he returned he came to Jesus and expressed this humility – “he threw
himself at Jesus feet and thanked Him – and he was a Samaritan.”  The word translated “threw himself at Jesus
feet” could be translated worshipped or prostrated himself.  He took the position of humility and submission
before the Lord.  

One of the great hindrances to a grateful spirit is pride.  Could it be that the nine missed thanksgiving because
of racial and religious pride?  Could they have seen this deliverance from leprosy as something that was their
right as sons of Abraham?  Could it have been pride that kept them from returning and prostrating themselves
before the Lord like this Samaritan?  If our pride is causing us to miss thanksgiving, then it is a terrible plague in
our lives.  It will be a disappointment to the Lord Himself. Whatever good has come our way, it has been because
of the goodness and mercy of the Lord—not because we deserved it. Just as the Jews did not deserve the
mercy any more than the Samaritan, neither do we Christians deserve it any more than the pagan who lives
down the street.

V.  THE LORD PLACES GREAT VALUE UPON GRATITUDE AND PRAISE.
The response of Jesus to the coming of the Samaritan leper is instructive.  He asked the question, “Were not all
ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this
foreigner?”  Can you not feel disappointment in the words that came from the lips of Jesus?  It was surely the
expectation of Jesus that gratitude would compel the men to come back and give glory to God.  We probably see
in the attitude of this nine the general attitude of Israel toward the ministry of Jesus.  Instead of giving Him the
honor and glory that was rightfully His, they subjected Him to criticism and rejection.  Ultimately they carried that
rejection to the extent of calling for His death.  When they should have given Him praise, they gave Him great
pain.  

Are you aware of how much value our Lord would place upon a word of gratitude from your lips?  If we can be
aware of this, it will give encouragement not to miss thanksgiving anymore.



VI.  THANKSGIVING FOR A SMALLER GIFT CAN LEAD TO A GREATER GIFT.
There is a lesson in the response of Jesus to this grateful Samaritan that we might miss in the English text.  
When Jesus said to the man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well,” he was saying more than we can see
on the surface.  The word translated “made you well” goes deeper than just the lifting of the burden of leprosy.  
The word could be translated here, “has saved you.”  This is probably the significance intended for the man to
understand.  It is true that he had been freed from the terrible plague of leprosy, but the Lord had done more
than that for him.  He had not only made him whole physically, He had also made him whole spiritually. The
thanksgiving was a sure sign of saving faith.

Those who missed thanksgiving, the nine ungrateful cleansed lepers, also missed this greater blessing.  They
were cleansed from their leprosy but they missed the wholeness that faith in the Lord Jesus can bring.

This beautiful incident is a reminder to us that thanksgiving and praise are almost always a sure sign of faith.  
Jesus did not say that the thanksgiving of the man had brought spiritual healing to his life, but the expression
that came forth from the man was thanksgiving.  The thanksgiving which he expressed to the Lord Jesus was a
sure sign of the saving faith that was in his heart.

Could you be missing the greater blessing?  Sure God has answered a prayer in your life, but does He have a
greater blessing for you – even the blessing of being made whole?  Don’t allow some small blessing to keep you
from pressing on to know the greater blessing.  The greatest blessing that God can ever give to a human life is
not the cleansing of leprosy or the curing of cancer.  The greatest God can ever give to a human life is spiritual
wholeness – eternal life!

Did you miss thanksgiving?  If you did, I want to give you another opportunity for thanksgiving.  It’s not too late to
come back and to bow before our Lord and Savior, the great Giver of all good gifts and to give Him the praise
and thanksgiving of your heart.  Let me encourage you to do it today.

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