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An Example of Overwhelming Gratitude

When are you the most thankful? Is it on Thanksgiving Day? Is it on your happiest days? Is it on your toughest days? This summary of an account from Luke 17 demonstrates a faithful and enthusiastic thankfulness for you to emulate every day of the year—not just this Thanksgiving season.

Jesus once was walking on the road to Jerusalem. As he approached a small village, he suddenly heard what sounded like whispers in the wind. He glanced around. There, standing about a football field away, were ten emaciated, disfigured men. Their voices were strained and weak, but they gathered the strength to get Jesus’ attention.

“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” they cried.

They were lepers. Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, has been all but eradicated from our world today. In Jesus’ day, however, leprosy was a plague. There were no treatments. A leper’s march toward death was long and painful. Due to the contagious nature of the disease and the stigma attached to it, most lepers were sent away from society to live in enclaves called leper colonies.

In ancient Israel, lepers were considered “unclean.” People suffering from such diseases were forbidden to join in the worship at the temple or to live with the rest of God’s people. If someone were to approach them, they were to cry out, “Unclean! Stay away!”

So these men stood at a distance. They didn’t come near Jesus. They simply called to him in their weak and scratchy voices, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When Jesus heard their faint cries for help and saw their sore-filled faces, he did have pity on them. He yelled to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

If people were to recover from leprosy, they would need to show themselves to a priest. The priest would declare them “clean” and able to rejoin society. Until the priest declared them clean, they were still outcasts.

The men did what Jesus said. They turned and set off to see the priests. As they did, their pain dissipated. Their sores disappeared. Their voices returned. Nine of the ten picked up the pace. They happily hurried to see the priests so they could return to their homes and lives. But one stopped. When he realized he was healed, he ran back to Jesus as fast as he could, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Luke tells us he was a Samaritan, a foreigner.

When we hear that story, we often find ourselves angry with the other nine men. How could they be so ungrateful?

If you read the story of the ten lepers in Luke chapter 17, though, you will notice that it does not say the other nine were not thankful. In fact, they did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They went to show themselves to the priests. We can only imagine that when they were given a clean bill of health, they thanked and praised God as they returned to their families and lives.

The point of the story is not that the other nine were ungrateful. The point is how overwhelmingly grateful the Samaritan was. He put off the one thing that he had desired for so long—to be told by the priest he could go home—and put off being reunited with his family and friends to first return and thank the person who had healed him.

The Samaritan understood that thankfulness is not some nebulous, vague feeling. Gratitude cannot exist where there is no giver. You can’t be thankful without having someone to thank.

The Samaritan realized it was God who deserved the credit. He recognized it was Jesus who healed him. So he ran. He cried. He fell at Jesus’ feet and thanked him with overwhelming gratitude.

From 364 Days of Thanksgiving, by Andrew C. Schroer. © 2015 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Main article image credit: Wisconsin Pictures (used under Creative Commons CC0)