Giving God Thanks.
We might describe our life as a Journey, and for the Christian that journey is to be a continued pressing toward the mark of the high calling of Jesus (Phil 3:13-15.) This is the only way to live under the Lordship of Christ. Sometimes on that journey, circumstances present us with problems that we cannot solve on our own. When this happens we sometimes have to ask for help. From who or what sources do we receive help? Depending upon the situation we may call upon the love of friends and family, or the skills of doctors, friends, or a counselor such as a pastor or priest, or many others. When do we seek help from these? How do people usually respond when you ask for their help? How does God respond when you ask for help? Do most people recognize God's help when they receive it? All of us have received God's help on a continuing, and daily basis, though we may not even notice it. This study explores how God expects to respond when He helps us.
And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
Note that most Jews avoided Samaria. Jews remembered the Samaritans as those Jews who were left behind when the country was overrun by Assyria nearly 400 years prior to this time. Assyria repopulated the region with foreigners with whom many of the remnant Jews intermarried. Separated from the orthodoxy, the Samaritans remained loyal to the Pentateuch, but were not involved in the development of the array of traditional and oral laws that were demanded by the religious leaders. Consequently, the Jews considered the Samaritans as unclean, treating them with only contempt and hatred. Jesus had no such prejudice and, not only ministered to the Samaritans, but often used them as examples of faithfulness in his teaching.
And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
A generic term applied to a variety of skin disorders from psoriasis to true leprosy. Its symptoms ranged from white patches on the skin to running sores to the loss of digits on the fingers and toes. For the Hebrews it was a dreaded malady which rendered its victims ceremonially unclean, unfit to worship God (Lev. 13:3). Anyone who came in contact with a leper was also considered unclean. Therefore, lepers were isolated from the rest of the community so that the members of the community could maintain their status as worshipers. Other physical disorders or the flow of certain bodily fluids also rendered one unclean (see Lev. 12:1-14:32; 15:1-33). Even houses and garments could have leprosy and, thus, be unclean (Lev. 14:33-57).
Jesus did not consider this distinction between clean and unclean valid. A person's outward condition did not make one unclean; rather that which proceeds from the heart determines ones standing before God (Mark 7:1-23; Acts 10:9-16). Therefore, Jesus did not hesitate about touching lepers (Mark 1:40-45) and even commanded His disciples to cleanse lepers (Matt. 10:8). Jesus even made a leper the hero of one of His parables (Luke 16:19-31). (Holman Bible Dictionary)
What are some of the modern parallels to leprosy? We probably first think of Hansenís disease, a condition that is manifested in the the loss of the sense of touch. However, in our modern culture we may find the reaction to the AIDS virus similar in our society to the way leprosy was treated in ancient Palestine. We similarly might consider AIDS sin-based, unclean, untouchable, unspoken, etc.
And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
Note, that they did not use the term, Rabbi or Teacher as most people would have done. Also, they did not ask for healing. Their request was more like that that they would make of any passerby who looked like they might provide them with some help, usually of food or money. We may be reminded of the lame man described at the beginning of Acts, chapter 3:
And a certain man lame from his motherís womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; 3Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. 4And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. 5And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. 6Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 7And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. (Acts 3:2-8)
Sometimes we know what we need, (or at least we think we do.) and we will go to God with a request that the need be satisfied. In God's wisdom, he can see our true need, and it is to that need that God can respond. Our most common requests for help from God are often related to our health or the health of others, since this is one area of need in our lives with which we may have little control. We will leave God out of those areas of our lives where we think we are in control.
Many of us have probably attended prayer meetings where Christians come together to pray. It is likely axiomatic that such meetings are dominated with prayer for health-related issues. This event takes place at the end of Jesus' ministry, and His healing powers are well known. It is interesting that those who came to Jesus did not ask for healing, but for mercy. The leper's need for healing was great, but they recognized that their need for God's mercy was greater. Ancient culture equated such sickness with sin, and this condition humbled the lepers. When we come together to pray, it might be profitable to look beyond our aches and pains and reach into the real depths of our need as we pray for ourselves and for one another.
And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.
What were the lepers expecting from Jesus? Their lament was so much a part of their daily life that they were probably expecting anything that Jesus would give them: food, money, etc. However, Jesus gave them nothing except a command to go show themselves to the priests. This must have really confused them. Under the law, (Lev. 13), they were to go to the priests only after cleansing, with the purpose of attaining access to the temple. At this point in the event, the lepers were not clean, and any presentation to the priests would be a waste of time. Jesus' statement made no sense to them. They might have thought that Jesus was telling them to go bother someone else.
How do you suppose they first responded to Jesus' command? Did they go immediately? Did they pause and wonder what he had told them? After all, how often do we not understand why God directs us to do something and as a result we hesitate? Why would the lepers go to show themselves to the priests when they were not cleansed? When we ask God for help, we have the opportunity to respond in obedience to His command, realizing that God's wisdom and power is far beyond our own reasoning. God's solution to our dilemma may be profoundly different than what we would have ever reasoned. The only way to respond to God's command is with obedience.
The scripture says that they were cleansed as they went; after they started off in obedience to Jesus' command. If this were Hansen's disease, they would have known immediately that they were healed, since sensation would return to their body. How do you suppose they would react? They would probably be jumping for joy and entering very excitedly into the synagogue to show themselves to the priest.
What would have happened if the ten had decided that Jesus' request was ridiculous, and simply went home? We might reasonably argue that they would have not been healed, and their encounter with Jesus would have produced nothing.
Most people are probably not afraid of contracting the AIDS virus as there are reasonable methods to avoid contact with it, but every one of us knows our susceptibility to the ravages of cancer. How would you respond if after suffering an unusual pain you were advised that you had the advanced stages of a dangerous cancer that is inoperable and will lead you to a premature and painful death? Even this week a prayer request has come in to the Journal from a young mother asking for prayer as she has just received this news.
God answers prayer. How would you respond if you called out to God for healing, and you felt Him tell you to do something that seems unreasonable? Our life of faith might be much less demanding if God acted before we exercised our faith. However, that is often not how God responds. When we look at the healings that took place in the Bible, most of them required some act of faith on the part of the one healed.
We are willing to go to a doctor when we are sick. What usually happens when we do? Typically the doctor diagnoses the problem and prescribes a solution either using medicine and/or some medical procedure. We are usually willing to submit ourselves to the commands of the doctor that comes from our desire for healing.
Should we expect God to respond to us in the way we desire when we know we are unwilling to do as He commands? I recall a couple who were chain smokers, whose house was rancid with the heavy odor and hanging smoke from their habit. Their small daughter was asthmatic, and was often near death from it. She could not tolerate the smoky environment. The couple prayed and prayed that their daughter would be healed, and yet refused to refrain from smoking in the house. What is wrong with this picture? Often times when we pray for God's help, he makes it clear to us what we need to do to be lifted out of the problem, yet we refuse to take the steps God requires. Deep down in our soul we know what God wants from us, yet we keep a thread of rebellion. Then, we wonder why we think that God does not answer our prayers. God is answering; we are just ignoring the response we do not want to hear.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
It appears that the lepers did not travel very far before their healing was complete. What is the significance that the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan? Often we see, particularly in the Gospel of Luke, examples of how Samaritans responded to acts with compassion and faith when the Jews did not. Note that the book of Luke is the only book in the New Testament written by a non-Jew.
And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
The scripture text implies that the one who returned came back to Jesus as soon as he found himself cleansed. He came back prior to going to the priest. The others continued on, probably to a Jewish Priest. What would motivate them to continue on to the priest instead of returning first to thank Jesus? They were bound by their legalist lifestyle. The law said they had to go to the priest, and they used it to rationalize away their need to give thanks. Apparently, after visiting the priest, they anxiously returned to their homes to regain their inheritance. There is no indication that they ever thanked Jesus, or thanked God.
How many times do we experience God's healing and fail to return thanks? Even the healing of a small scratch is a miracle. It is a miracle of the chemistry of our bodies that God Himself created. This truth was driven home to me once when visiting friends who had recently returned from overseas missionary work that resulted in their intense persecution. While repairing a window in their house, the broken chards of glass gave way, the window collapsed, and I sustained a very large and deep cut across the width of the palm of my hand. Closing my hand around a paper towel I simply knelt and prayed, knowing that my friends would feel responsible for my injury, a stress I did not want to bring to bear at this time. So, I prayed for healing. I completed the repair, holding my hand around that paper towel, giving the wound every chance to close. By dinner, about two hours later, all that remained of the wound was a thin red line that was gone the next day. I never told my friends of the healing until a few years later. This event has always served to remind me that all healing comes from God whether it takes place quickly or slowly, and God is to be praised for it all.
Did God use that injury to teach me his mercy? The event certainly resulted in a repeated testimony to His healing power and mercy on both myself and the friends I was visiting.
And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
What did Jesus do? He took on the responsibility of the priest, and based upon the man's faith, he ceremonially declared the man clean. It would no longer be necessary for the healed leper to go to the priest, because he had just been cleansed by The Priest. To the man, the giving of thanks to Jesus was more important than the ritual of the law. What was the result? Not only was his body cleansed, he was religiously cleansed, and ready to reenter society. He would return to his family, and regain the inheritance that was his.
God heals us from all manner of conditions and diseases. However, as those nine who did not return, most people ignore the part that God has in our healing and ignore Him, never giving thanks to him. Consequently, such a response leaves one less "whole," and more like those nine who did not return thanks.
Just as the Samaritan was now ready for real living, it is not until we give to God the thanks, the praise, and the credit for what He has done in our lives can we really be made whole. Being made whole by Jesus is a great blessing, a great privilege and carries with it a great responsibility. Though we do not see in this example, other examples of healing also included the command for the healed to go and tell what had happened to them. Likewise, we have the responsibility to tell others of God's mercy and grace. We can tell of what God has done for us, praising Him, thanking him, and giving Him the credit for what has happened in our lives.
When people need and receive God's help, they should respond in faith and gratitude, which God deserves and expects. Let us never fail to give to God the praise He deserves as we also give to Him our hearts and lives.