Turn Back and Give Thanks

By Greg Quinn

November 26th, 2014

As we enter into the Thanksgiving season, we should reflect upon the importance of giving thanks to God for all he has done for us.  This lesson from the Bible is very good for us to ponder upon and reflect in our own lives how we have responded to the blessings of God.

Luke 17:11-19 King James Version (KJV)

11 And it came to pass, as he (Jesus) went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Jesus was traveling in the wilderness area between Samaria and Galilee.  As a Jew, it was not recommended that he travel through Samaria because the Jews and Samaritans were not friendly to each other.  The Jews considered the Samaritans as half-breeds and pagans and had nothing to do with them.  The Samaritans likewise hated the Jews.  A Jew was considered unclean by simply traveling through Samaria, so they regularly avoided at all costs traveling through this country.  Jesus, however, went through Samaria several times and, as God who loves all people, had no problem with it at all.  He came to save the Samaritans just like the Jews, and the English, and the Africans, and the Irish, and the Chinese, and all mankind.

On this day, he was traveling in a desert place between the two countries.  Out in this “no mans land” there were lepers.  Lepers were outcasts of society, people with horrible disfiguring skin diseases that often caused body members to simply rot off.  They were considered unclean and had to stay at least 150 feet away from anyone that was not a leper.  They were banished to colonies that were in the desert area, like the area in which Jesus was traveling this day, to be far away from other people.  The Jews considered lepers to be cursed by God and they could have nothing to do with them.

Jesus on this day deliberately entered into a “certain village” in which lepers lived.  A leper colony some called them.  An unclean village that a devout Jew would certainly not enter.  These lepers met Jesus far off, as is their custom when approaching someone who was not a leper.  They recognized Jesus not only as a Jew, but also as a Prophet or the talked about Messiah, someone that could save them from their disease.  No doubt they had heard about the Messiah, Jesus, going through the countryside in Galilee curing all sorts of disease.  And, these 10 men thought that Jesus could save them from their disease as well. 

These men asked for mercy, and wanted healing from their terrible disease.  Jesus answered and told them to go show themselves to the priests, which was the custom of the day.  When someone was healed, especially of a disease so horrible as leprosy, they had to show themselves to the priests to be labeled “clean” again.  So, Jesus commanded them to do so.

As they were running to the city to see the priests, they recognized that they were healed.  In their excitement and haste, they most likely ran even faster in order to be pronounced clean again.  They could once again enter society.  They could once again be joined with their families.  They could once again go to the synagogue to worship.  They could again be prosperous.  So no doubt they ran even faster to see the priest for this pronouncement.  All but one.

This one healed leper stopped in his tracks, returned running toward Jesus, praising God with a loud voice, and feel at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him for his healing.  And, as it was pointed out, this man was a Samaritan.  One that normally would not be received by a Jewish teacher even if clean.  A hated Samaritan. 

Jesus asked this man where the other nine were.  “’Where there not ten cleansed?”.  Of course Jesus knew.  Most likely the others were Jewish, not Samaritans.  So only the stranger came to give thanks for the miracle that Jesus had done in their lives.

Jesus told the man to go his way, and that his faith had made him whole.

There is so much we can get from this story.  But today, going into the Thanksgiving season, let’s look at this as a lesson in thankfulness.

There were 10 people, most likely 9 of them were Jewish and those that were taught of God and His blessings, who were healed of a crippling, disfiguring disease.  Leprosy was a death sentence.  There was no cure.   They basically rotted away until they died.  These men were banished into a colony in the desert, far away from their families, the synagogue, and civilization apart from other lepers.  These 10 men had heard of Jesus because they recognized him.  And when Jesus came into their village, they asked him for healing.  He told them to go their way and show themselves to the priests, and they recognized that Jesus would not have commanded them to do so unless they were going to be healed.  So off they went, receiving the blessings with joy.  Gaining a new lease on life.  Excited about being reunited with family and friends and the comforts of life in that day.  On the way they recognized that they were healed.  And in their excitement, they neglected to turn around and give thanks to the one who healed them and changed their lives.

Only one, the one who was probably the outcast of the outcasts, not only a leper, but a Samaritan leper, stopped, turned around, and gave thanks.

Before we get too critical of these nine men, we need to look in the mirror.  How many times have we been blessed by God and in our excitement for our blessings, have forgotten or neglected to turn back and give thanks?  How many times have we been in a bad health situation, ourselves or a member of our family, and we see with our own eyes healing and the curing of a disease or sickness or injury, and yet we didn’t take the time to stop and thank God for this healing?  How many times have we been in a financial pickle and we prayed and asked God for help, and with the help, we forgot from where the blessings came?  How many times have we prayed this prayer and that prayer and after a time we saw these prayers answered, and yet we failed to stop and give thanks to God for answered prayer?

Aren’t we like the nine?

Reflect on all the things God has done for you.  I suggest you make a list.  There is an old hymn that says “count your blessings…name them one by one…count your many blessings to see what God has done.”  I think this is a good idea.

Take out a piece of paper and start writing as your mind takes you back to many answered prayers.  Times of healing.  Times of deliverance.  Times of joy.  Times when you were in trouble and God came through for you.

If you are a father or grandfather as I am, then aren’t you thankful for your children and your grandchildren?  How often do you thank God for this blessing?

If you have eyes to see these words, aren’t you thankful for eyes to see and a mind to comprehend?  And a computer to see these words on?

If you have been blessed with a good wife or husband or mate, how often do you go to God and thank him for this blessing?

If you were raised in a Christian home, how often do you thank God for this blessing?  Around the world a great many people cannot say this.

If you are an American, and part of the greatest nation on Earth, are you thankful?

If you have 2 good eyes and 2 good ears and a finger to pull a trigger, are you thankful?  Or do you just take that for granted?

If your family is healthy, are you grateful?  Are you still thankful for the time in which you saw healing in your own life, or the life of a loved one?

This day, are you thankful for the rain, for the sunshine, for the grass, for the home you live in?

Are you thankful for your job?  For the provision God has provided to you.

And what of this?  Those of us that have received the greatest blessing, eternal life through salvation in Jesus, for this shouldn’t we be most grateful?

We could go on and on, but you get my point.  Before we are too critical of the nine who didn’t return to Jesus with thanksgiving for their healing, shouldn’t we be more like the one who did?  How often has God blessed you in which you too have neglected to stop, turn back, and give thanks?

As we go into this Thanksgiving season, maybe there is more we need to think about than the stuffed turkey or pies.  Maybe this season, starting even today, needs to be the beginning of a new habit, a habit where each day we stop and turn back and give thanks to God for ALL the blessings in our lives.

Maybe we need to start with a daily list, just stopping and writing down a few things, for which we are thankful.  And perhaps each day we see the list grow as we live our days and look for things that God has done for us in which our thanksgiving can be shown.

Many years ago the pilgrims of our great nation celebrated a season of thanksgiving with the natives of the land, thanking God for getting them through a tough time, and allowing them to be pioneers in a new land.  We celebrate hundreds of years later this season of thanksgiving.

Today, in 2014, we have much more to be thankful for.  Modern technology and conveniences.  Great doctors and hospitals.  Warm homes.  Fast cars.  Great guns.  More money.  More provision for our families.  Plenty of churches to help those in need.  And so on.

So what about you?  Will you go through this Thanksgiving season only appreciating the food and family one day, then go back to your normal way of living the next day?  Will you be like the nine who neglect to give thanks to God for all He has done for you?  Or will you be like the one, the stranger, who turned back and gave thanks to Jesus for the healing, or provision, or happiness, or food, or family, or whatever blessing that God gives you at that time?

Let’s be in the 10%, not the 90%.  Start today making a list of items to thank God for, on paper or at least mentally.  Then, let’s pledge today, with God’s help and grace, that we will not at any other day in our lives be like the nine who forget to say thanks, but will always find ourselves like the one who did.

Turn back and give thanks.  You will be glad you did.

Greg Quinn