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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on November 19, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Thanksgiving Sunday, November 19, 2017 from Luke 17:11-19

Theme: There are certain elements to the kind of thanks that truly pleases our Savior.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

I love Thanksgiving Day. But I also love the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day; because it’s been my habit to preach a message from God’s word that—I hope—will turn our thoughts in the right direction for that holiday.

We need our thoughts turned on the right direction for that day. Sadly, so many folks in our time have lost sight of what that holiday should mean. Too often, it gets referred to as ‘Turkey Day’; which tends to take away from the distinctive God-ward focus of that day. In more recent times, it has simply come to mean a ‘day off work’ just before ‘Black Friday’.

It shouldn’t be that way. Do you realize that Thanksgiving is the first distinctively American holiday? We have lots of other holidays, of course; but for the most part, they have been borrowed from our European past. But this one is uniquely ours—uniquely tied as it is to our own history as a nation. And I think it’s a wonderful thing that it commemorates thanks to God our Provider. It commemorates that day when our pilgrim forefathers joined together with their indigenous neighbors to give thanks to God for their survival of their first terrible winter on this land. Much of that early pilgrim population had perished in those trying first few months; and those who remained chose to give thanks to God that they were still alive and that He had provided for their survival.

We should never forget what this coming holiday is about—and Who it is that should receive our genuine thanks and worship on it.

And to turn our thoughts in the right direction, I would like to share with you this morning from the story of a true hero of ‘thanksgiving’. Did you know that the Bible presents several such heroes and heroines to us?—individuals who exemplify what sincere thanks to God should look like? Some of them received remarkable attention from the Lord Jesus for the way that they showed their appreciation to Him. And I’d like for \ us to consider the story of one of them.

His story is found in Luke 17:11-19. It’s a story of something that happened while our Lord and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem—where our Lord would, soon afterward, die on the cross for our sins. The Gospel writer Luke tells us;

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:11-19).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; there are a couple of important lessons in the background in this passage that deserve our attention. We might call them ‘general principles of godly thanksgiving’.

First, we should learn from this that our Lord takes pleasure in being thanked. Have you ever thought of that? We sometimes think that, when someone great or important does something for us, they don’t feel the need to be thanked. But that’s not true of our Lord. I believe He deserves our deliberate, intentional thanks for the good things He has done for us—and that He even delights in it when we give such thanks to Him.

I see this from the fact that when that one leper came to give Him thanks, He wondered were the other nine where. Where there not any of the others who would return and give glory to God for what was done to them? It seems to me that the Lord thought it was expected that they should—that it was right and proper that they would. And when this one man did so, Jesus pointed it out and brought everyone’s attention to it.

I don’t think we should ever think that the Lord does not desire our thanks. It’s really rather silly to think that He wouldn’t You and I want to be thanked for the things we do; don’t we? Why wouldn’t He? I think it pleases Him greatly when we come to Him in our prayers and thank Him for all the many good that He does for us and gives to us. I think that the greatest thing we owe thanks to Him for is our salvation. When was the last time you and I thought enough to say ‘thank you’ to our Savior that He came to this earth as one of us, and made that trip to Jerusalem to die on a cross for us so that we can be clean in His Father’s sight? We owe an eternal debt of thanks to Him for that; and I believe He delights in it when we thoughtfully return thanks to Him for it—and for all the other things He graciously does for us.

Another thing that we learn from this passage is that thanksgiving is to occur in the context of faith in our Lord. We very often forget the importance of that on this holiday. I believe it’s right, of course, that we give thanks to other people. We should thank our family members and friends for the good they do to us; and we should thank those who serve us in daily ways; and we should also thank those who protect and defend our freedom and who serve our community and our nation. But to do that alone—as if that’s all there is to life—would make this holiday a rather hollow thing. For it to mean all it should, all our thanks to all those others for the good they do for us ought to be given in the context of a greater faith in God through Jesus Christ.

I see this in the fact of what Jesus said at the end—when the one, solitary man came back to give Him thanks. He said, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” “Faith in what?” we might ask. I believe it was the faith that this leper, along with the others, showed in Jesus when they cried out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Think of that! They had such faith in His ability to heal people of leprosy that they came crying out to Him and asking Him do for them what no other human being could do. Do you remember that other time when Jesus healed a man of leprosy? That man fell before Him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (Luke 5:12). And He was willing! And He did heal him! Perhaps the report of that story caused these other poor lepers to cry out to Him in their need, and ask that He have mercy on them. And I see it in yet another way. When Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests—which is what the Old Testament law required them to do—they went forth and obeyed Him, even though they had not yet been healed. They went by faith at Jesus’ command; and they were healed along the way.

I think that from that, you can see what real faith in Jesus looks like. It comes to Him with the confidence that He is able to do for us what we need done; and then, it goes at His command and does what He says to do. Those are the two essential elements of faith in Jesus. We sing about it all the time: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way …” And I believe that this passage teaches us that true ‘thanksgiving’ is to occur in the greater context of a whole-hearted faith in Jesus; one that comes to Him with trusting faith, and that goes forth and does whatever He commands to be done. ‘Thanksgiving’ that isn’t in the context of such faith isn’t really ‘thanksgiving’ as it should be.

* * * * * * * * * *

Well; those are what I believe we could call ‘general principles of godly thanksgiving’. Our Lord delights in being thanked for the things that He does for us; and that thanks ought to be given in the greater context of faith in Him.

But now, let’s look at some specific principles. This is, after all, a story of an outstanding offering of thanks that was clearly a pleasure to our Lord. He took special effort, it seems, to highlight it to His disciples. What then are the specific elements to the kind of thanksgiving that pleases our Lord? Let’s walk through this passage in a bit more detail and see what they are.

You’ll notice how this passage begins. It says; “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (v. 11). He was on His way to Jerusalem, as we said earlier, in order to go to the cross. The next big event on the horizon was the Triumphal Entry—which would shortly be followed by the betrayal, the arrest, and the crucifixion of our Lord. And in order to get where He was going, He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

These were Gentile regions. They were places in the land that Jewish people would not ordinarily go; because the Samaritans were despised by the Jewish people. They were of that portion of the land that had been conquered several centuries before by a foreign enemy because of their idolatry. The Jewish tribes that had lived there had been carried off to foreign lands; and in their place were a mixed breed of peoples who were of paganistic origins. Do you remember that when Jesus asked the woman at the well for a drink, she was surprised; because, as we’re told, “Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9)? Or do you remember how Jesus once told a shocking story about a man who was robbed and injured and left to die on the road; and of how he should have been helped by a Jewish priest or a Levite, and was ignored by them in his need; but who was then helped instead by ‘a certain Samaritan’ (Luke 9:33)? Or perhaps you’ll remember the time when the religious leaders really wanted to insult Jesus, so they said, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48).

So; this was a somewhat-despised portion of the land that Jesus and His disciples were traveling though. I’m glad they traveled through it, though; because along the way they met up with some folks in great need. Luke tells us; “Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers who stood afar off” (v. 12).

They had to stand afar off because of the nature of their condition. Bible historians tell us that the leprosy that we see in some lands today—dreadful as it is—is not quite the same as the kind of disease that plagued people in the days of our Lord. It was a horrible disease that turned people into the closest thing you can think of to a living ‘zombie’. It was apparently a flesh-eating disease that rendered someone horribly sick and weak and needy. And because there was no cure for it, people who had it were driven away from populated areas and were not permitted to come near the towns or villages. They were completely at the mercy of others to leave them food or water or clothing or necessities.

Perhaps these ten people—huddled together to support one another as best they could; wandering helplessly and pathetically from one remote area to another—had heard of what Jesus can do. And in fact, there are some who suggest that they believed that the Scriptures taught that one of the signs of the Messiah would be that He would heal people of their diseases—including leprosy. And so, as verse 13 tells us; “And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’”

And I suggest to you that here is the first element we see in this story of what constitutes the kind of thanksgiving that our Lord desires to receive from us—the kind that truly pleases Him. You may not have thought of it before, because it seems so basic and obvious; but it’s …


Isn’t that fundamental to thanksgiving? To say a true and sincere ‘thank you’, doesn’t there usually first have to be a ‘please may I’? Doesn’t one logically follow from the other?

When I think of this, I always think of the story of the blind beggar that Jesus healed in Jericho. You find his story just a chapter ahead in Luke 18. He sat on the streets when Jesus was passing by; and he made a great commotion as he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Everyone told him to be quiet; but he kept on crying out. Jesus finally stopped and called the man to Himself; and when the man came—surprisingly—Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41).

Now; wouldn’t you think it was obvious what the poor man wanted? What else could he want than to be healed? Surely Jesus would have known the answer to His own question. Nevertheless, Jesus made this man walk up to Himself and ask specifically for what it is he wanted. And the man told Him, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” And Jesus gave to him what he asked. And immediately, the man followed along behind Jesus and glorified God. And I think that the same thing is being shown to us in this story. One of the first things that must happen in true thanksgiving is that we need to be specific and tell Jesus what we want.

Have you been a particularly ‘thanksgiving’ person to the Lord lately? Just a suggestion: Why not consider whether or not you have first been a particularly ‘asking’ person toward Him. Therein may be the problem. We certainly never put Him out by our asking. He is, in fact, very pleased when we ask. And our asking is an essential preparation for our thanking.

* * * * * * * * * * *

So; they asked the Lord to have mercy on them. And He did. We’re told, “So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (v. 14a).

Now; the reason for the command to go show themselves to the priests was because our Lord was always obedient to the Scriptures. And in Leviticus 13 and 14, the Scriptures give specific instructions of what someone is to do in cases of leprosy. It it said that they were to show themselves to the priests; who, at that time, functioned almost in the role of ‘health inspectors’. What’s more, it even gave specific instructions of what to do in the case of the healing of leprosy; and how the priests were to be involved in the official declaration of that cleansing.

By the way; we’re not told of very many cases of the healing of leprosy in the Old Testament. And there aren’t any stories of any Jewish person who was healed of leprosy and who then went to the priests in obedience to this command. We don’t have any record of anyone ever obeying the instructions regarding the cleansing from leprosy. And I have often wondered if the Holy Spirit gave that command in the Old Testament about showing one’s self to the priest after being healed of leprosy just so that it could be obeyed in the days of our Lord—and so that His identity as the Messiah could be clearly declared and proven to the Jewish priesthood.

So; Jesus commanded that they go and show themselves to the priests in obedience to the law in the Scriptures. It’s interesting that He didn’t heal them first. First, He made them go on their way to show themselves to the priests. Then, Luke tells us, “And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed (v. 14b). What a scene that must have been! Perhaps suddenly, as they shuffled along to do as Jesus said, one of them began to notice the other—that their skin was clear, and the wounds were gone, and their strength was restored; and then that healed one noticed another; and that one by one, they began pointing to each other and laughing, and dancing, and rejoicing! They were healed!

And notice especially the beginning of verse 15; “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed …” I’d like to suggest that this highlights to us another element in the kind of thanksgiving that pleases our Lord …


We please the Lord when we come to Him and clearly ask what we want of Him. But that’s really only the beginning. We need to be paying attention and actually take note of His answer to our request. This man got exactly what he asked for; and for some of us, the answer may come in a different form than we are expecting. But Jesus made this glorious promise:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

Just as asking is necessary to true thanksgiving, so also is the realization of what God has done in response to our request. We need to ask; and then pay careful attention to the answer—and even to the way He answers—so that we can give the thanks to our Lord that is due Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

So; this man saw that he had been healed. The others did as well; but only he did something further about it. We’re told in verses 15-16 that he “returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.”

I have often tried to imagine that. What must that have been like? Perhaps as Jesus and His disciples continued on in their journey for a while—and perhaps as others traveled along with them—far off in the distance, they could hear someone shouting. Perhaps as he drew closer, they could tell that what he was shouting was praises to God. And perhaps as he came over the hillside, they would see that he was running to them. And perhaps as he drew nearer still, they could tell—with astonishment—that it was one of the ten lepers! And perhaps they all stood with fear as they saw him running to them; because they recalled that he was a leper. But perhaps they then stood with their mouths hanging open in amazement as they saw him clean and healed of this dreaded disease; and that he was now on his face before Jesus, thanking and praising Him for what He had done for him.

And do you notice what we’re then told? Very specifically, Luke says, “And he was a Samaritan” (v. 16b). Luke makes a special point of it. He was a despised foreigner. And I wonder if we’re told about him in this way because the other nine were not Samaritans; but rather, were Jewish men—the people who should most have welcomed Jesus as their Messiah. Luke tells us; “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’” (vv. 17-18). Perhaps he felt the most thankful, because—among the ten—he was the most unworthy.

And here again is yet another element to the kind of thanksgiving that pleases our Lord. It is, I would say, a very obvious one—but how sadly neglected it is! It is …


All ten of the lepers were healed. And personally, I believe that all ten stayed healed. I believe that the nine went on to show themselves to the priests. They did their duty, if you will, according to the law. But only one turned around to give thanks to Jesus in such a hearty way.

Dear brothers and sisters; let’s never be rude to our Savior and our dearest Friend. Let’s make a special effort to thank Him for what He does for us.

* * * * * * * * * *

And I’d like to suggest that there is one more element to the kind of thanks that truly pleases our Lord and—if I may put it this way—truly blesses Him. And that’s …


You see; at the end of it all, we’re told that Jesus looked down to the grateful man worshiping at His feet and said, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well” (v. 19).

What was this man’s ‘way’, dear brothers and sisters? Wasn’t it to go forth and do what Jesus had commanded him and the other nine to do?—to go in obedience to the law and show himself to the priests as a testimony of his having been healed of leprosy?—to allow it to be witnessed by the official custodians of the faith, and to have it be put into the record books that it was so?—to allow the priests to experience the wonder of what was happening; as nine men come to them with the testimony that Jesus did for them what only the promised Messiah could do; and then a tenth—a foreigner—come along as well?

I believe that this teaches us that our thanks to the Lord Jesus must first come from a clear request of what we need from Him; and then be followed up by a clear realization that we have been given what we have asked; and then be followed up further by a return to give Him thanks personally and directly. But even then, our thanks is not yet complete—not yet fully what would please Him—until it is further followed up by a report to others of what He has so graciously done for us.

* * * * * * * * * *

Here, dear brothers and sisters, we have—from the story of a true hero of thanksgiving—an example of the kind of elements that must be in the kind of thanks that pleases our Lord.

And I suggest to you that the greatest thing we can thank Him for—and in all of those ways of requesting, realizing, returning, and reporting—is our own salvation. In fact, in the original language, that’s what our Lord spoke of to this former-leper. He literally says, “Your faith has saved you.”

May we render to our Lord the thanks He is due for our salvation—and for everything else that He does for us. May we do so as an ongoing characteristic of our lives.

And may we do so in a way that truly pleases Him!

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