Christ approached an unnamed village, saw a customary sight -- a group of begging lepers, they were ten, standing the legal 100 paces away, crying "tome, tome" (unclean, unclean). Leprosy is nauseating. It discolors -- the skin goes from pink to brown to black. It is often coupled with tuberculosis. Leprosy often makes the warning outcry difficult, painful, hoarse. Leprosy ulcerates into sores, death is inevitable, often within two years. The disease ravages skin and bone. Christ saw ten outcasts -- possibly with fingerless hands, handless arms; perhaps with eyes, ears, noses missing. They were dirty, haggard, defeated, discouraged, downhearted, downtrodden outcasts, unwanted. No family, job, loved one. No touching, no home. Leprosy was aggravating and humiliating.
There was even a Samaritan in the ten. Adversity brings strange bedfellows. During floods and high water, even sheep and wolves huddle on high ground together. Enemies can be bound together by a common opponent.
The text infers that Christ walked close to them, then saw them, then sent them to the priests for readmission to society, to prove that they were clean. As they walked they were healed. Can you imagine it? Ecstasy? Surprise? Gratitude that would overwhelm? They were healed, cured, whole, normal, healthy, restored. Can you imagine soundness returning to their bones? Eyes healed, skin healthy, sores removed. Tired of the itch, the fire of pain, now their humiliation and separation is taken away in a single step. They can go home, return to work, be a part of society again. All I've lost can be gained again. But we have trouble, do we not, imagining this?
Then the climax of the story ---only one turned back with gratitude, and that one was an outsider, non-Jew, unbeliever. Where are the nine? Is there is any crime greater than ingratitude? Can you lose confidence in society any more quickly? What do we think of such a person? Where are the nine? Is our percentage better today? Do you give thanks? Are we different? If we do not appreciate what we have, would we appreciate miracles? Is it too much to expect these to turn back with gratitude, even extraordinary gratitude? Can any greater hurt be inflicted?
Ingratitude. As Christ see us, is he hurting today? Do we hurt Christ? We may not have been cured from such a sad plight as leprosy, but we are extremely blessed. The question is, are we grateful? Can we see our blessings?
I. Common Blessings Are Commonly Overlooked
Daily, God evidences that he cares -- sun, moon, apples, fruit, beauty, birds, flowers, trees, daily routines. The newness and challenge of each day. Getting out of bed. Friends. Days filled with lots of the best things in life -- and they are free. Can we look, see, be thankful for health, home, job, friends, freedom, country, church, fellowship?
A little boy was visiting a grouchy old man and asked, "What are you thankful for?" The man replied, "Nothing." Since it was near Thanksgiving, the little boy said, "You could be thankful you're not a turkey!" Things could be worse. Can you see with the eyes of faith -- every year is a good year. It is great to live, to serve, to be a Christian. We take for granted many things that are real blessings. The tempo and tenor of our lives in Christ is so far superior to many who live in our world.
A video is making the rounds on YouTube -- a family awakens and sees all of common things of their lives gift wrapped with bows. Common blessings are commonly overlooked.
II. Special Blessings are Soon Forgotten
All of us can look back on the great years of our lives. Jan and I have celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary -- 1969 was a good year for Jan and me. Other years have been special -- the birth of children, educational achievements, new jobs, new opportunities. 2020 will turn out to be a special year! The ten lepers received a special blessing -- the healing touch of the Master's hand. We Christians who have experienced the touch of the Master's hand, we who have received a special blessing, have we forgotten? Is our life in Christ on our list of blessings?
I am thankful. My children and grandchildren are near; I feel good; have reasonable health; am blessed to serve; enjoy multiplied opportunities to continue to serve, even in my retirement. To have been infirm but now well, near death but now alive, childless but now a parent, on and on, these are special blessings that should not be forgotten. To have been lost, but now saved. To have been out of Christ, but to now know truth and obediently be in Christ. Special blessings. To forget is sacrilege!
Special blessings often come to us during special times, but they are not just for that time. Blessings represent trust for the future. Special blessings are pledges and inspirations for a greater life. What special blessings are yours? Were you raised in Christian home? With a supportive family? Have you had the opportunity to hear and know the gospel? Were you blessed with a Christian education? Do you have a mate interested in spiritual things? Do you know and fellowship with a spiritual family? Are our lives not filled with unique opportunities and privileges? Special blessings can be so soon forgotten, ignored, overlooked.
III. The Greatest Blessing is Tragically Ignored
2 Cor. 9:15 is exalted language. Christ did more for us than he did for the ten lepers. He saved us from a greater tragedy -- he paid a greater price to rescue us. He saved the lepers from tragic circumstances; he died for us. He saved us from sin, self, and eternal condemnation. Tragically, many wish for miracle when what they most need is salvation (which is also miraculous in a certain sense). Like the Jews of old, many seek for a sign, but not for salvation. In every congregation there are those who have heard the gospel at every service for years, but have never obeyed. Is our percentage better than the lepers? Do we have faith enough to ask but not enough to thank? Isn't thanksgiving, gratitude a function, result of faith? Why is there a Samaritan in this story? Why is he the hero?
Christ is not being cruel, not trying to belittle the Jews, but he was showing and illustrating a sad fact of human experience. Often religious men do not know, follow, honor the basic principles of courtesy when the heathen do. Gratitude, mercy, forgiveness, privacy. What happens when men of the world are wiser than children of light? What happens is that the light doesn't shine. Have you not seen non-Christians who were gracious, thankful, kind, and selfless?
Are we Christians really thankful for Christ? Are we saved merely to proceed merrily on our way? Are we debtor, like Paul? Where/how is our sense of obligation? Do we feel the debt? Do we really know what it is like to be saved? Or have we forgotten?
Another fact -- many raised in the church do not appreciate grace as much as does the sinner rescued from the despair of this world. Paul continually described himself as the chief of sinners. Do we think we deserve salvation because of our faithfulness? What are we supposed to be learning? Can the Samaritan teach us?
The greatest blessings of our life! Are we thankful for churches, preachers, elders, friends in Christ? Are we aware of the significance of having many Christian neighbors and friends? Have you ever lived in a town where there were only one or two Christian families? (That experience will change your mind about small churches!) What does it mean to have good parents, Christian homes (Luke 12:48).
While the sermon is primarily about gratitude to God, think for a moment about thanking one another. Thanksgiving is bound by time. Say thank you now. Present the roses now. Be thankful, tell others, encourage them.
Imagine with me -- were the nine ever thankful? Did they later wonder who their healer was? Did they ever try to find him and thank him? We do not know. But I do know this, Christ asked, "Where are the nine? Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?"
Be grateful to God this day for the blessings of your life. And respond in gratitude to the Savior -- whether to be baptized for the salvation of sins, or to walk more closely.
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