Children, Christmas is coming.  I’m sure you’re all looking forward to getting lots of presents.  Now, some of them might be from a grandpa and grandma or an aunt and uncle.  And as soon as you open them, your parents might ask, “What do you say?”  When parents do that, they’re trying to teach you to always say, “Thank you”, if someone gives you something.  

Children, I have something to confess.  When I was your age my parents also reminded me to say, “Thank you”, but sometimes I didn’t want to.  One year my teacher got my name in our classroom gift exchange.  She gave me a box of handkerchiefs with my initials embroidered on them.  Back in those days it was “fashionable” to put a handkerchief in your suitcoat pocket.  Do you old timers remember that?  Dumbest present I ever got!  When I got home and showed my mom, guess what she asked me?  Anyone?  “Did you remember to say ‘Thank you’”?  

Thankfully, not all my presents were dumb.  Some were absolutely, exactly what I always wanted, but my parents would still ask me, “And what do you say”?  At those time, I was so excited I would say, “Thank you”, but in my head I’d be thinking, “Let’s get this ‘thank you’ over with so I can start playing with my new toy.”  That’s not exactly from the heart, is it.

I hate to admit it, but my heart still has some growing up to do.  Some of the things Jesus brings into my life, I’m not too thankful about.  Other things I’m so happy with, I could easily start making them my focus in life, instead of Jesus. This Thanksgiving Eve, Jesus is going to teach us how to always say, “Thank you”, from the heart.  But He’s not going to guilt us into this.  Rather, He’s going to change our hearts as He leads us to thank Him for these three things.  1.  That He shows us the seriousness of our sins.  2.  That He heals our souls.  3.  That He rejoices in our thanksgiving.  
1.  Thank you, Jesus, that you show us the seriousness of our sins!
Our text reads: 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!” – Luke 17:11-12   Leprosy was the “cancer” of Bible times, except worse.  Leprosy would first show up as a patch of white, dead skin.  Gradually it would spread and grow deeper into the person’s tissue, until some of his smaller parts like his nose, ears, fingers and toes, would literally fall off from smelling rot.  

Now, when a person got this terrible disease, he would have to do two things.  He’d have to cover himself with rags, and not comb is hair, so everyone could see from a distance that he had leprosy and not have to accidentally see that person’s embarrassing rot.  The other thing the person with leprosy would have to do, was keep himself separated from everyone else, except for those who also had leprosy.  

Can you imagine how painful that would be?  On the one hand, you wouldn’t want to take any chances that a family member might catch what you had.  On the other hand, being separated means being separated.  You couldn’t sit down for Thanksgiving Dinner together.  At Christmas, your family couldn’t hand you a present.  But they’d have to place it on the ground and back away 20 or so yards, before you could go get it.  And, of course, there would be no Christmas hugs.  

I sometimes have wondered, why God would let people get such a horrible disease and then make them be isolated for maybe the last 5 or 10 years of their life, when they died from it?  Well, God wasn’t being unloving toward them.  He was teaching His Old Testament people a very important lesson.  He was teaching them what sin is like.

Sin, too, starts out as a little spot of deadness on our heart or in our life.  Maybe at first to us, the sin seems like no big deal.  We can easy to cover it up. But then overtime, that sin will keep growing, until we can’t hind our embarrassing rot from anyone.  Sadly, we live in age, when a lot of people are proud of their embarrassing rot.  They don’t understand that sin-rot is causing God to keep His distance from them.  That means not listening to their prayers.  That means not sending His angels to keep watch over them.  That means, when they die, not receiving them into heaven.  Leprosy rot was serious, but only lasted for this life.  Sin rot is far more serious.  Dying in one’s sins brings eternal consequences.  

So, do we have any sin-rot in us?  All the time!  And maybe it’s not bad enough yet to keep us from running for political office, but we know what’s going on at home.  Or, we know what’s going on in our minds and how we worry or covet to get what we want when we want.  But do you know when we especially become aware of our sins, especially the ones only God can see?  When we have to go through something we absolutely don’t want to go through.  

So, do we thank Jesus for those times?  We should.  At those times Jesus still loves us.  Also, if going through a situation is what it takes to make us face our sinfulness, why wouldn’t we want that?  As painful as facing our sinfulness is, we do not want our sins to slowly eat away at our faith, so that we end up eternally separated from Him.  Rather we want to keep growing in faith and in the fruits of our faith, which leads us to the second thing we’ll want to thank Jesus for tonight   
2.  Thank you, Jesus, that you heal our soul!
We read on in our text:  When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. – Luke 17:14   Jesus did not instantly heal these ten.  Instead He told them to go show themselves to the priests.  In the Old Testament, sometimes it happened that a person was suddenly healed from his leprosy.  That person was to then show himself to a priest, who would declare him, “clean”.  That meant that he could return to his family and his life.  These ten were not clean yet as they headed out to see the priests.  But they went at Jesus’ command, and trusted that by the time they got to the priests, they would be healed.  

This is like what we do every Sunday.  We confess our sinfulness together, and as we do that we might be thinking of some specific sins we’ve repeated the past week.  Or, maybe we’re not thinking about any one sin in particular, but we’re aware of the sin rot in us.  Because no matter how hard we work at always do what’s right, sin is right there to grow a little deeper into us, or the very least, to corrupt the good we’re trying to do.  Lord, have mercy!

But then the pastor announces to us: As a called servant of Christ and by His authority, I forgive you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  As we leave God’s house each week to continue on in our journey toward heaven, we’re still covered with our leprosy of sin. Yet by taking Jesus at His Word, we trust that when we finally stand before Him, there will not be one spot of sin on us.  Our souls will be healed.  Also, because our souls will be healed, our bodies too will be healed from all the effects of sin.  And then we’ll live with God, and He’ll live with us, and never again will we be separated from Him or from any of his saints or angels.   

But in meanwhile we live by faith, not by sight.  We’re always struggling against temptation and guilt.  And we may wonder if the troubles we’ve prayed about aren’t going away, because God is still angry with us for something we did, or something we failed to do. At such times let’s not keep staring at our leprosy.  Rather, let’s keep walking by faith in God’s Word, which when it says God forgives us, we really are forgiven.  And so then, when we show ourselves to Him on the last day, He will say to us, “Come close to me, and receive the inheritance prepared for you since before the creation of the world.”  

But how can we thank Jesus enough that He rescued us from eternal separation from Himself at the price of His own blood?  How can we thank Him enough that He called us to faith and now each day is causing us to have to walk by faith in His Word?  And how can we thank Him enough for the hope, the comfort, and the certainty that He gives us?  How we should thank Him is with everything that we are and have.  How we do thank Him is with our words, but not always with our whole heart!  

Children, if you give your grandpa or grandma a half-hearted thank you, how do you think they feel?  Are they angry?  Do they feel hurt?  Do they love you less because of that?  No, they’re only concern is that you have a thankful heart, because they know having a thankful heart is good for you.  So, it is with Jesus.  He wants all His children to have a thankful heart, because it’s good for us.  For this reason, in our text Jesus gives us one more powerful, heart changing encouragement.
3.  Thank you, Jesus, that you rejoice in my thanksgiving.  
We read on in our text:  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?” – Luke 17:15-18   Jesus’ question, “Were not all ten cleansed?”, needs no answer.  They were, of course, and so are we.  But by asking this question, Jesus is inviting all of His thankful people to take a little time out once in a while and count their blessings.  We’re doing that tonight.  But we also do that each week as we worship.  May I suggest that we add to this, if we aren’t already, taking time during the week to count our blessings?  

Jesus’ next question, “Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”, is a bit of a warning.  Perhaps the reason the nine didn’t take time to thank Jesus is they felt entitled, because THEY were God’s children, and THEY were believers all their lives.  That’s not a spiritually healthy attitude.  So also for us, after we have enjoyed God grace for many years, we need to regularly remind ourselves that we ARE saved by grace, and that the sin-rot that’s still clinging to us would condemn us, if weren’t the righteousness of Christ that’s ours by faith.  

Jesus was emphasizing this also to this Samaritan, when He told him: Rise and go; your faith has made you well. – Luke 17:19   Samaritan wasn’t healed from his leprosy, because he had faith.  Just like the other nine, he was healed, because of Jesus’ mercy.  Similarly, the Samaritan’s soul wasn’t healed, because he returned to give Jesus thanks.  His soul was healed by faith alone.  

And now we’re coming to how Jesus gives us thankful hearts.  He doesn’t force us, He doesn’t pressure us.  He just lets us see His great love for us, against the background of our sinfulness.  Also, even though our thankfulness isn’t yet at the level it should be, Jesus makes it clear that He delights in our thankfulness – for our sakes.  

That the Lord of lords and King of kings should delight in our thankfulness is beyond grace, or perhaps I should say, is beyond what words can describe.  All we can do, then, is throw ourselves at Jesus’ feet, like the Samaritan did.  And Jesus will respond by telling us to get up and to keep on living by faith in Him, until our conscience never again has to tell us to give thanks, or to worship, or to do any of those things that come from faith.  We will just do them freely, with all our heart, because we want to, and it’s who Jesus made us to be.  God grant this for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.    




 

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