Luke 17 and 1 Thessalonians 5, Part A
The Joy of Thanksgiving Believers are called to be thankful people. What is a thankful person? It is one who says thanks! He is grateful for something. What is that something and what are the ways to say thanks? Saying thanks must begin vertically – Godward. All things flow from God’s sovereign hand. Every person’s time is in God’s hand (Job 14:5; Ps. 31:15). That fact is often denied or rejected when a person is faced with the loss of a loved one. An equally often denied truth, if not overly at least covertly, is God’s good, purposeful control. Some tines believers function as if God should treat them better than He did His Son! God and His providence whether pleasant or not is the object of the believer’s response. Thanksgiving is the proper response because God acts in the best interest of Himself and His people. That latter statement is often misunderstood and neglected. Thanksgiving too often focuses on the gift given rather than the Giver.
Saying thanks may be in words or deeds or both. Gratitude is a duty and a command but more importantly, it is also a privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3). Paul wrote: Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you (1 Thess. 5:18). The object of the gratitude is God and not necessarily what is given. God has a purpose for everything He gives. Paul closed his letter by reminding the Thessalonians that God had changed them through regeneration. As saved people believers are the most changed people AND they are to be the most changing people. Therefore they are to be the most thankful people. Paul expected God’s people to be quick to acknowledge God’s presence, power, promises, plan, purposes, and provisions. These six words must be understood under the rubric of God’s control, power, faithfulness, and goodness. God is good and all that He does is good. He is forever and always faithful and trustworthy (Psalms 100:5; 119:68).
Luke takes up the matter of thanksgiving in Luke 17:11-19. You may know the story. Jesus first came to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6; 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30). His intention was to bring all His people into His kingdom but He had an order of priority (Isa.42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32). He began with Israel.
In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. He had kingdom business there (Luke 9:51). As He entered a village, He encountered ten men with leprosy standing at a distance. The leper was considered unclean. In the Old Testament, the leper was put outside the camp and in Jesus’ time he was quarantined. Lepers were considered unfit, social outcasts, and exiles (Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2-4; 12:14-15). Jesus in the Gospels used leprosy, a physical condition, as a description of sinful man’s unclean and putrid heart.
The ten men were apparently of mixed nationality which was not uncommon in the area where two provinces met. Their condition bound them together in spite of their national rivalry. Samaritans were Israelites who lived in the northern kingdom and inter-married with Gentiles after the Assyrian invasion. They were rejected by the Jews in the intertestamental period. Perhaps the most notable enmity in the land of Israel in the first century A.D. was the bitter animosity between Judeans and Samaritans. By including a Samaritan in the group of lepers Jesus transcended the racial and religious boundaries of the times. He put both the Jews and the Samaritans together as fellow Israelites (see Luke 10:25-37). In doing so, Jesus overturned the prejudices of the first-century Jews and Samaritans toward each other and ultimately toward God. However Jesus’ teaching was concerned with more than religious discrimination. Jesus emphasized grace and not position, pedigree, and performance (see Phil. 3:3-6). Each person cried out to Jesus for healing. As a group they we bound together as needy people. Only one learned the proper definition of needy and thanksgiving.
- A common problem joined ten people and all ten looked to Jesus. What does that action say about the people and about Christ?
- Thankfulness begins vertically. Give reasons.
- Explain the statement: healing is both spiritual and physical.
Luke 17 and 1 Thessalonians 5, Part B
The Joy of Thanksgiving: Saying Thank You and for What
Luke described the lepers in a familiar position: they stood at a distance (in contrast to Luke 5:12-16) as they cried out to Jesus. The cry was one of strength and confidence much like the cry of Jesus on the cross as He breathed His last (Luke 23:46). The lepers expected Jesus to help – to have pity on them. They were asking for mercy not a handout. Grace and mercy differ in that mercy focuses on misery and the consequences of sin and its relief, and grace looks more at the guilt of sin and forgiveness. Jesus directed them to the priest. All ten left and presumably headed to the priest. Jesus would not have sent a Gentile to the priest.
Verification of cleansing, but not healing, was required by law (Lev. 14:1ff). The word for cleansing is katharizo. In the New Testament the removal of leprosy is called cleansing and not healing (Matt. 8:3; 10:8; 11:5; Mark 1:42; Luke 4:27; 7:22; 17:14, 17). The removal of diseases is spoken of as iaomai and therapeuo which emphasize healing, most often of the body. We get such words as therapy and therapeutics from the latter word. The concept of cleansing should return all Israelites to the book of Leviticus. Daily, the Israelites were faced with the admonition to be holy as I am holy and to distinguish between unclean from clean (Lev. 10:11; 11:44-45; 15:31). Entering into God’s presence required cleansing and purification through the shedding of blood by way of the sacrificial system and by an ordained priest. The system pointed to Christ, the true Israel, the true Priest, the new Temple and Zion, and the true Sacrifice.
Ten people left unclean and headed to the priest to meet the requirements of the law. All were cleansed but only on returned to Jesus. The nine missed the real issue: a new system of reality and a new mode of existence had come on the scene in the person of Christ. His healing ministry was a sign for all to see. This person was not your typical Jew. They miss the reality of Jesus and His ministry because they missed the condition of their hearts which was self-focused. Jesus was presenting Himself as the better way.
All ten were blessed but only one truly understood. Thankfulness may have been a motive for all ten to go to the priest but they missed the big picture – the Cleanser Himself. The Samaritan, the one on the “wrong side of the tracks,” knew the object of his gratitude. He had been blessed by the Blesser. He went, not to the priest, but to Jesus. He was more concerned with praising God than with showing himself to the priest. Jesus acknowledged the Samaritan’s faith and its expression. Jesus told him that his faith had made him well. The word for well is sozo a common term. It means to save or to deliver; the word refers to both physical and spiritual deliverance. The Samaritan had proven faithful. His faith was active and vibrant.
The Samaritan showed spiritual maturity; the others did not. Why? The nine lived according to their own law-keeping and ritual-keeping. They did not grasp their real need: a Messiah Who kept God’s law perfectly and would die a perfect death because He was the perfect sacrifice. They did not grasp the significance of the old creation which was steeped in foolishness, personal law-keeping, and misery. Biblically, the nine Israelites were much like the spiritual leaders and the people of today. They knew nothing of their deadness and darkness and consequently failed to grasp the light and the truth – Jesus Christ and His love. They rejected Christ as the God-man. In contrast, the despised Israelite got it. He was a man of gratitude for the gift and the Giver.
- Develop a thank list.
- Observe your priorities: do they begin with you, others, or God?
- How are you like the nine and how are you like the one?
- What must you do to grow as a thankful person?