One who Thanks
One Who Thanks (Luke 17:11-19)
Often this story is treated as "the nine who did not thank." But the emphasis rests upon the Samaritan—the unlikely thanker. The man least likely to bring thanksgiving became indeed the singularly most thankful.
God deserves gratitude. The thankful heart is evidence of the healthy soul. There is an anatomy of gratitude in this passage relevant for this Thanksgiving season.
One Who Thanks Does Not Confuse Thanksgiving
Evidently the thankless nine felt they had fulfilled their obligation of gratitude sufficiently. Perhaps they confused other related attitudes with gratitude itself.
We may confuse reverence with thanksgiving. "They stood at a distance" (v. 12). Lepers were required to stand apart from the clean. Certainly in the instance of their relation to Jesus this represents not only the common custom, but even additional reverence for the Great Master also. A sense of awe is appropriate, even indispensable for worship. But reverence is not thanksgiving.
We may confuse recognition with thanksgiving. "Jesus, Master, have pity on us" (v. 13). They recognized the person and the position of Jesus. It was to some extent a confession of their faith, inadequate as it was. But the more recognition and confession of Jesus' person is not to be confused with gratitude.
We may confuse response with gratitude. "As they went, they were cleansed" (v. 14). Obedience is to be prized. Response to the command of God evidences good faith. But even obedience may be a grim habit without the grace of gratitude.
One Who Thanks Does Not Refuse Thanksgiving
The one who thanked demonstrates the way to express gratitude acceptable to God.
His gratitude began with perception. "He saw he was healed." Acceptable gratitude must begin with the discipline of perceiving God's blessings. Even when we ask for God's blessings, we sometimes do not perceive that every good thing in life comes from His hand.
His gratitude grew with proclamation. "Praising God in a loud voice" (v. 15). Gratitude must move from the inward recognition to the outward representation. It belongs to the very nature of the thankful heart to say so. So the psalmist says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so" (Ps. 107:2, KJV).
His attitude bore the fruit of prostration. "He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him" (v. 16). This suggests that genuine worship must be accompanied by thanksgiving. Only the thankful man was prostrate at the feet of Jesus.
One Who Thanks Does Not Abuse Thanksgiving
Those expected to do so did not give thanks. The other nine, at least some of them, were of the house of Israel, the covenant people. Everything about their heritage should have led them to thank God.
The Samaritan outcast expressed gratitude. Jesus suggests that sometimes the only ones to thank God are the unlikely ones. How will it be this Thanksgiving? Will you belong to the company of the one or to the company of the nine?