Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 17:11-19 Sermon
November 22, 2004
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
443 "Now Thank We All Our God"
444 "For The Beauty Of The Earth"
450 "We Praise Thee, O God, Our Redeemer, Creator"
363 "Come Ye Thankful People Come"
364 "We Plough The Fields And Scatter"
"HOW SOON WE FORGET"
TEXT: (vs. 17-19) “Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”
How many of you have done a tour of your medicine cabinet lately? By that, I mean when is the last time you actually went through the collection of things you have in your bathroom to see what you have on hand? If you have recently, or when you do finally get around to it, I think that you’ll be quite surprised at the things you will find.
One thing that you might find, is perhaps an old prescription for some sort of medication you had to take at one time or another for some sort of illness or medical condition.
This past week, I decided to do a quick look around to see what I might have in the way of an old medication. What I came up with, was this bottle of tablets that has about 10 left in it.
According to the label, I see this is a prescription for Cyclobenzaprine, or Flexaril, which is a muscle relaxant medication. The directions say, “Take one tablet by mouth every night at bedtime as needed for back spasms.” And these were prescribed for me on January 26, 2004.
I remember why I had gotten these. I had a problem in my neck actually that was causing a major nerve to be pinched, which caused me some severe pain in my left shoulder and arm. It was so painful that I couldn’t sleep in a bed for over two months. I slept in my reclining chair instead. I went to the doctor, who subsequently sent me to the chiropractor and the physical therapist. The chiropractor gave me traction treatments and adjustments, and the physical therapist did some other manipulation and therapy. Thankfully these pills helped to quiet things down; and along with other medications, I was able to get some sleep.
But that was a long time ago. That little problem has since gone away, and just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t had any problems like that since. I’ll occasionally get a twinge now and again; but for the most part, that’s all behind me now.
The only real visual reminder I have of that incident is this little bottle of muscle relaxants that has been faithfully sitting in my bathroom ever since, just waiting for the time I have some pain that requires their use. Otherwise that pesky problem from almost a year ago is a long time in the past.
I’m sure that we’ve all been sick or injured to a greater or lesser degree, where we’ve needed some sort of medication or first aid supply to facilitate the healing of whatever malady we might have had. And if you look in your bathroom at home, more than likely you have supplies that you have either purchased for something that happened to you, or things you have on hand “just in case.”
You cut your finger, run and get a band-aid. You get a headache, run and get an aspirin or Ibuprofen or Tylenol or something similar. You get hay fever, run and get an antihistamine. You have an upset stomach, run and get the Pepto-Bismol or the Alka-Seltzer. Thank God for medications when we need them.
But think about this. When you look at the box of band-aids, how many times are you thankful for the cut you don’t have? When you look at the bottle of aspirin, how many times are you thankful for the headache you’re not suffering? When you look at the Pepto-Bismol, how many times are you thankful for the upset stomach or indigestion you aren’t experiencing? Chances are, we don’t think about such things. Because when we are in good health and things are working right for us, we don’t usually think about the negative alternatives. We don’t think about feeling bad when we feel good.
Our text for this evening brings out this fact, although in a much more dramatic way. This evening, we see 10 lepers that have been healed of their disease. For some reason, nine of those lepers chose to forget their former condition almost immediately, even to the point of forgetting to thank the one who healed them. Only one thought it important to return to Jesus and give Him the thanks that was due Him.
And so, based upon our text for this evening, let us see how we soon forget, just like the nine lepers who conveniently forgot to return and thank Jesus for healing them.
First let’s look at our text for this evening and see what was happening here.
In other instances, Jesus had been trying to bridge the racial discrimination gap between the Jews and the Samaritans. Awhile earlier, in Luke chapter 9, we read where Jesus and his disciples had gone to a Samaritan village. When the Samaritans refused to welcome Him, James and John had become so angry that they wanted to burn the village to the ground. Jesus rebukes them for such an attitude.
Then in Luke chapter 10 we have the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, where the Samaritan was the starring hero.
So the disciples should have been getting a good idea of how Jesus was regarding the Samaritans. And this situation really adds some icing to the cake.
Here were 10 lepers. Jesus had healed a leper at the beginning of His ministry in Galilee. News would have spread rapidly about this, and so these 10 knew that Jesus had the power to heal them too.
The one leper was a Samaritan; and presumably the other nine were Jews. Traditionally the Jews hated the Samaritans; however they were all there together, probably because the old saying is true, “misery loves company.” Let’s face it, nothing can bring people together like some sort of common ailment can, you know comparing notes, and the like. They’re standing off at a distance because of their disease, and they ask Jesus to heal them.
So, Jesus does have pity on them. He tells them to go show themselves to the priest (who could verify their cure); and while they were going on their way, they were healed.
The one who then returns to give Jesus thanks for this miracle of healing? The Samaritan of course! Why do you think that was?
The Jews probably had a much different attitude than the Samaritan did. The Jews, probably knowing that Jesus was indeed the Old Testament Messiah, perhaps thought Jesus owed it to them. After all, Jesus had the prominent Jewish lineage, He was the Messiah and the King of the Jews, the Jews were God’s chosen people, so they might have simply expected Jesus to do what He did.
The Samaritan however didn’t have the placement in society that the Jews did. The Samaritan knew that Jesus didn’t owe them anything much less a healing miracle. The Samaritan knew that Jesus action in healing him was an act of pure grace, an act of His undeserved love toward him.
I think we have healing expectations too. We open a bottle of aspirin, and we expect our headache to go away. We open a bottle of pain pills, and we expect our hurting to stop. We chew a couple Rolaids and we expect our heartburn and indigestion to settle down. We expect a cure, in fact we make some pretty heavy demands on the Pharmaceutical companies and the doctors to cure us.
But as any of us should know, doctors only correct things; all healing comes from God. We can have medications a mile long; but all actual healing comes from God. I’ve often used the illustration of God’s healing with a broken bone. A doctor can set a bone and put it in a plaster cast; but the healing part comes from God. We might expect the physician to heal us, but his scope is limited. God indeed is the healer, the master physician.
We can study this text and see God’s hand in physical healing; but we also need to see how God heals spiritually in much the same way. Here the application is obvious.
Let’s think of ourselves as those ten lepers, separated from God by way of sin. We’re standing at a distance because of our sinful uncleanness. How can we approach the throne of grace in our unclean state? We can only cry, “Jesus, master, have pity on us!”
And so, just as the 10 lepers expierence Jesus’ physical healing, we who are Christians have experineced Jesus’ spiritual healing through the Gospel. Through the Gospel that announces our cleanness and our healing and our forgiveness, we know that we have expierenced something great. Just as the lepers’ healing brought them back into the fellowship of society, we have been brought back into the fellowship with God. Jesus has had mercy on us, and He has healed us. Even though we might suffer physical afflictions during this life, we know that we have been spiritually healed.
Each and every week, we come to Jesus asking for healing. We confess that we are sinful and unclean, that we have sinned against God and our neighbor by what we have done and by what we have left undone. But then we hear the words of healing in the absolution, where we know that the healing has indeed taken place. God has forgiven us and healed us for Jesus’ sake. We have been made whole once again!
So what happens now? Is our Christian faith like that old bottle of pills that has been sitting around gathering dust? Now that we are healed, do we forget about the way we were? Do we forget about the one who has healed our souls? Just because we have received the cure for sin, have we become lazy about it?
Tonight’s text is a lesson on saying “Thank you.” These are two words we teach our children almost from the very beginning. We expect them to say thanks for things they receive. God indeed expects the same thing from us.
So how do we say thank you to God? Certainly it is by the things we say and do as Christians. We say thanks to God by helping the poor and needy and hungry. We say thanks when we witness our faith to others. We say thanks when we receive our blessings with a grateful heart, being content with what we have, and not coveting after what we don’t have.
But let’s look at the place where our thanksgiving begins. It begins in our hearts and brings us right here, at God’s house for worship and prayer and fellowship. We return here week after week to give Him thanks for healing us.
In the United States of America, it has been reported that only 38% of those professing to be Christians are in Church on Sunday. You can almost see Jesus looking at those gathered for worship on Sunday and saying, “Were not all 100% cleansed? Where are the other 62%? Was no one found to return and Give praise to God except these 38%?
That may sound like a guilt trip, but it is something to think about just the same. Our Christian faith cannot be like that forgotten bottle of pills, or those medical supplies we have on hand just in case we need them. Our faith is not just a band-aid for when we hurt, but it is an entire way of life for us.
In our text, God is teaching us, we who are His children to say “thank you” in much the same way that parents teach their children to say “thank you.” It begins in our hearts. It carries us into God’s house. And it stays with us every day.
This Thanksgiving, as we once again return thanks to God for all of his bountiful goodness to us, let’s not forget to carry this spirit of thanksgiving with us all the time; and most importantly, let’s not forget to thank the One who has so graciously healed us.