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Luke 17:11-21 1

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” 20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Background

The Thanksgiving holiday’s history in North America is rooted in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It also has aspects of a harvest festival, even though the harvest in New England occurred well before the late-November date on which the modern Thanksgiving holiday is celebrated. The  holiday tradition is traced to a well-recorded 1619 event in Virginia and a sparsely documented 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The 1619 arrival of 38 English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter from the London Company, which specifically required “that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned … in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” The 1621 Plymouth feast and thanksgiving was prompted by a good harvest, which the Pilgrims celebrated with Native Americans, who helped them get through the previous winter by giving them food in that time of scarcity. In our study verses for this week, the Apostle Luke recalls the story of Jesus who heals ten men with leprosy. Only one appears thankful.  In this time of year, what is it that causes some to be thankful for the day off and the food and others to fully appreciate the salvation and grace provided freely by our God?

Luke’s story draws attention to two important themes:

  1. Jesus’ care for the outcast in society (there are ten lepers and one of them also carries the burden of being a Samaritan)
  2. The appropriate response to Jesus should always be a response of faithful recognition and gratitude. Here in this story, both responses appear together.

We are first reminded that Jesus is set to go to Jerusalem (9:51). He will arrive in chapter 19. Jesus is in the area between Samaria and Galilee, an area He frequents. He is about to cross both a physical land boundary and a  social boundary because of His association with lepers and with a Samaritan. As required by Jewish law, as Jesus enters s a village, ten lepers approach calling out to Him but keeping their distance because they are unclean. He is called “master,” a term used in every other instance in Luke by the disciples.  After Jesus heals them, He immediately tells them to show themselves to the priests to confirm their healing. This was part of Jewish law and required before the lepers could reenter society.  This story like so many others is about paying attention to outsiders and marginalized people. The story, however, quickly shifts to one leper, a Samaritan, who alone turns back glorifying God and prostrating himself at Jesus’ feet thanking Him. The Greek verb used by the leper for thank you is the one used when Jesus thanks God for the bread and cup at the last supper (22:17, 19; see also Paul in Acts 27:35).

Only after the now cured leper prostrates himself in thanksgiving do we learn that he is a Samaritan. Samaritans were the hated outsiders of Jesus’ day. They were unappealingly, different, and unwelcome outsiders. We see this most notably in the parable in 10:25-37, in which it is a Samaritan, and not the respectable religious people, demonstrate love for their neighbor by showing mercy to a wounded stranger.

The heart of our study verses have three parts:

  1. the healing
  2. the turning back and praising God (literally glorifying God)
  3. the prostration and thanksgiving at Jesus’ feet.

Each of these three steps are interpreted by Jesus in ways that highlight His care for those shunned by society and demonstrates God’s expectations for our behavior with this group:

  •  “Were not all ten cleansed?” Jesus asks. “But the other nine, where are they?” Is there an expectation of gratitude?
  • “Has no one returned to give praise [literally give glory] to God except this foreigner?” Those who claimed to be close to God were the least thankful for their miracle. As people celebrate a full table and a gathering of loved one’s in relative peace, does God see the praise for what He has given us?

A sense of our spiritual leprosy should make us very humble whenever we draw near to Jesus. On this special day called, we need to look for God to meet us with the same expectations as He had for the lepers. Only one of those who were healed returned to give thanks. It is our purpose on this celebratory day  to be very humble in our thanksgivings, as well as in prayers. Jesus noticed the one who distinguished himself and was a Samaritan. The others only got the outward cure, while the Samaritan alone got the spiritual cure. And finally Jesus’ response to the Samaritan prostrate with thanksgiving at his feet: “. . . your faith has made you well [literally saved you].” Jesus uses this statement other times after He heals. As people gather on our Thanksgiving Day, is it food, football, family, or God’s Grace and Salvation that is the centerpiece at the dinner table?

Items for Discussion

  • Who are the unappealing and unwelcome outsiders in today’s society?
  • What are the things that God expects us to do to show we too are “Thankful?”
  • How do we, during times of “quarantine,” still celebrate thankfully?
  • While the other nine lepers were no doubt pleased to be cured, thankful for their healing, what did they miss out on?
  • What is the “Spiritual Cure” that the Samaritan received from Jesus?
  • How does the “Spiritual Cure” differ from a physical cure?
  • What are your “Thanksgiving Traditions” that demonstrate your thankfulness to God?

Discussion Challenge

  • How would you keep Thanksgiving alive every day? In your home? in your church? In your community? In your country?

 

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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