Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Gratefulness and heroes. How desperately do we need both right now? I suspect we all could use a little gratefulness in our lives. Bringing in a hero or two might even help. How grateful are you at this very moment? Who is your hero(es)?
One of my heroes is my senior English Lit teacher, Miss Onice Fields. I’ve written about Miss Fields in my book Anyone Seen My Rose-colored Glasses? Miss Fields was not only the hardest teacher I’ve ever had but she was the best. But, then, aren’t the hardest teachers the best teachers? I loved her. In later years she became my mentor. She read many of my writings and didn’t spare the red ink when critiquing them. Her advice and guidance when I attended her class in high school stayed with me throughout my years. We talked many times over the phone and via email. She was never shy about sharing her faith. Even as a senior English Lit teacher, we all knew where she stood in her faith. I doubt it ever crossed her mind that she might be called on the carpet for bringing God into her classroom even then. She was fearless. I was able to visit with her in person on one of my trips to Georgia. We had a delightful time together reminiscing about our days at Therrell High School in Atlanta, GA. I couldn’t get over her total recall of all her students. I’m honored to have known her and learned from her. I miss her still but I know I’ll see her again on the shores of Jordan and we’ll walk and talk once again. I’m forever grateful for her time on this earth. She’s my hero.
During the time of our scripture, if you had a rash or acne, you must be cleansed. But if a priest said you had leprosy you were kicked out—an outcast. You had to stay far away from others. It became a death sentence. If a leper became well the priest had to confirm it. It was like being resurrected.
Can you imagine how it felt to be a leper? To be unclean…dirty…filthy…not able to be around others. Alone in your misery with no one to help you up.
Jesus heard the cries of the lepers. When they saw Jesus, He told them to go see the priest. Only one out of the ten went back to thank Jesus. The rest rushed forward to the priest to be accepted and confirmed healed. The one who returned was a Samaritan. The one was made well. The others were healed. What does this mean? When you are made well you feel gratitude and that makes you well and not just healed.
Here we see Jesus entering a village. The ten lepers address Jesus as “master.” As they are running toward the priests to confirm their healing, they are indeed made clean. But then there’s the one. He alone turns back and begins to glorify God throwing himself at the feet of Jesus. He’s thanking Him. As mentioned, the one is a Samaritan—an outsider. Jesus asks, “Were there not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise (meaning give glory) to God except this foreigner?” Consequently, Jesus says to the Samaritan who has offered thanksgiving at His feet, “your faith has made you well.” Meaning it has saved him.
Gratitude is so important. It’s the number one predictor of a happy and healthy life. Does your life look more like the 9 or the 1? What happens when things are going great? Do we stop to say thanks? Christianity is a response to God’s grace. Our life is a living gratitude.
Would you consider the Samaritan an unsung hero? I certainly would. We live among many unsung heroes. Those who do things anonymously that help or serve others. Those who aren’t famous or stand around bragging about their accomplishments. The ones who, if noticed, want nothing to do with being called a hero. We saw many heroes on 9/11. We’ve seen heroes since. Those who risked their lives to rescue the people left behind in Afghanistan. Those who are risking their lives now to rescue hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. The ones who run toward the danger when others are running away.
Heroes come in all packages. And their heroism doesn’t have to be something spectacular. It can be a small gesture that makes a big difference in another’s life.
Jesus is truly a hero to all. His care for the marginalized—the lepers in our scripture. The most marginalized of them all was the Samaritan and yet he was the most grateful. He showed the most gratitude. He was the one.
Taking gratitude for granted is never a good place to be in life. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to begin your life of gratitude. Stop and be grateful to the source of all things.
And that’s what I learned in Church……see ya next time!