By Tom Washburn
What we can learn
from a Samaritan leper
A man was standing in the post office working through his mail when an older fellow approached him with a postcard in his hand. The older gentleman said, “Son, I need your help…Would you mind addressing this postcard for me?”
“Of course,” the young man consented, and he even wrote a brief message that the older man dictated to him. Then he signed the older man’s name for him. When he finished he handed the postcard back and volunteered, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” The older fellow said, “Yes, please add a P.S. that says, ‘Excuse the sloppy handwriting!’”
That young man did not leave feeling very appreciated. In a world where “thank-yous” are too few and far between, you and I can make a wonderful difference by being generous with gratitude.
According to surveys, Christmas is the favorite holiday in America, followed by Halloween. Did you know that Christmas was not celebrated until 336 A.D.? It didn’t become popular in America until the 1860s. Congress used to even meet on Christmas Day!
It is appropriate and even glorious to celebrate the birth of Jesus — something that we should do every day — and maybe even really celebrate Him that last week in December.
Have you ever considered that Thanksgiving may be the one American observance that is commanded by the Lord? In fact, it is absolutely mandated by Scripture. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Thanksgiving is the will of God.
Unfortunately, for the typical American, Thanksgiving Day has become more about food and football and shopping than really pausing and giving thanks to God. Gratitude with each other and towards God is becoming a lost art.
Luke tells a great story about being thankful in chapter 17 of his gospel. It is a story with which most of us are familiar. Remember the story of the 10 lepers who were healed and only one came back to say thank you? Maybe Luke recorded that story to remind you and me of the power of a thank-you. Jesus did for those lepers EXACTLY what they asked. He had pity on them. He told them to go show themselves to a priest, because that priest was their only ticket back into society. The priest was the only one who could officially declare them clean and well. And when they got that clean bill of health from the priest, only one of these formerly diseased men returned to Jesus to express gratitude.
This one Samaritan comes back to give thanks and Jesus turns the event into a teaching moment with a question, “Were not 10 cleansed?” Jesus calls the grateful guy a “foreigner.” Maybe that sounds cruel to you. Me too. Did you know that Jesus used the very word that was carved in stone on the temple wall? A message there forbade foreigners to come into the inner Temple.
And there is so much wonderful irony here. Luke, the Gentile, is telling us that a foreigner could not come to the Temple of God, but it was perfectly OK for a foreigner to COME TO THE GOD OF THE TEMPLE. Now there is something to add to your list of blessings!
The God of the Temple says to this Samaritan something that really gets lost in our English translations. The word that Jesus used when he said, “Your faith has made you well” is a word that not only means physical healing, but also spiritual healing. Could it be that Luke is telling us that all 10 lepers were cured of their physical maladies, but this one who returned to say “thanks” was cured to live eternally?
Being thankful made this man complete. And it will make you and me complete too.
Tom Washburn is the mature adults pastor at First Baptist Jackson. He can be reached at 601.949.1980 or firstname.lastname@example.org.