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Lessons from Lepers


As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
(Luke 17:11-19, NLT)

This narrative from the life of Jesus is pretty straight forward. Jesus was travelling in a marginal area (after all, where does one expect to find marginalized people?) when he was confronted by ten lepers. Lepers were required by the law to announce their presence. They were outcasts from society, and had no opportunity for contact with their family, friends, or co-workers. Seeing Jesus, they seized the moment and pled for mercy. Jesus instructed them to show themselves to the priests, who had the power to pronounce them clean of their skin disease and free to return to their lives. As they turned to go, they discovered they were healed. Nine of them continued on their path to freedom, but one returned to personally than Jesus for what he had done. Here are my three observations from this simple text.

1. God’s blessings are a result of His sovereign grace.
They asked for mercy but received something better…God’s grace. The simple difference between mercy and grace is this. Mercy is God withholding what I deserve. Grace, on the other hand, is God giving me what I don’t deserve and could never earn. The biggest battle we have in cultivating thankfulness is the battle against earning and deserving. How tempting it is for us to take the credit for our lives and our blessings! We earn them and we deserve them. Both attitudes work against grace and prompt pride instead of thankfulness.

2. The lepers reveal the importance of making more of the giver than the gift.
I’m sure the nine who left rejoiced in their healing. But the thing that distinguished the one was not merely gratitude. The difference I believe is that the one who returned made more of the giver than the gift. I’m sure you’ve seen that in small children. They grab their birthday or Christmas gifts and run off to play, uttering little more than a coerced “thank you” when prompted by adults. Children are prone to make more of the gift than the giver, because the gift is what the natural self wants. Sometimes as God’s children we do the exact same thing. We receive the gift and rejoice in the gift and forget about the giver of the gift. Part of Christian maturity is learning the difference between the gift and the giver and what is of utmost importance.

3. The leper who returned helps us to see that making much of the giver creates avenues to receive even more than we ask.
He not only received what he asked for, healing of leprosy, he received even more. His faith made him well. He hadn’t asked Jesus for the value added portion. He assumed that being healed of leprosy was gift enough. But Jesus gave him something spiritual to go along with his physical healing. He gave him the gift of eternal life. Focusing on the giver may be the difference between healing and wholeness. Nine lepers encountered Jesus and were healed. But one was made whole. Nine received a gift that would impact the rest of their physical lives. One, however, received a gift that would change his life for eternity. That’s the kind of thing that happens when we make more of the giver than the gift.

Categories : Jesus, Thanksgiving

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