Text: "Then, one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks" (Luke 17:15).
Thought: As we walk through this miracle account, we are fixing our eyes on Jesus to see why we ought to be at His feet as well-offering Him praise and thanksgiving. We ought to be at Jesus' feet not only because 1) Jesus Extends Divine Mercy (17:11-14a), and because 2) Jesus Provides Total Cleansing (17:14b-15a), but also because 3) Jesus Receives Sincere Gratitude (17:15b-18).
The one formerly leprous man who returned was so moved by what Jesus did for him that he glorified God "with a loud voice." He was filled with praise and thanksgiving. It is interesting that in Luke's account of Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem it is said of the people that they "began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen" (Luke 19:37). Here in Luke 17, only one person returns to praise God, but he does it with a loud voice! And the text says, "he fell on his face at Jesus feet, giving him thanks." This man was so overwhelmed with what God had done for him that this was his genuine response.
Remember, as a leper, he was lost in terms of this life. He was desperate. He had no hope. He was alienated from others and from the corporate worship of God. Now, his whole life had been changed. It was like he was a "new creation." And he knew that Jesus had done it. He knew that Jesus has had mercy on him and granted him cleansing and healing. He was grateful, he was thankful, he sincerely praised God and he did it at Jesus' feet. He fell on his face at Jesus' feet. He was filled with sincere gratitude and thanksgiving. It was real.
What about us today? Can we offer sincere thanks to Jesus? We express emotion and gratitude in different ways, don't we! The challenge of this text is not to copy this man specifically, but it is to ask ourselves, have we lost our appreciation for what the Savior has done for us? Have we lost a deep sense of gratitude to our Savior for His merciful work in our lives, not just initially, but His continued work of saving, cleansing, healing, helping, comforting, enabling and so much more?
If we understand the Gospel, leprosy is a less serious problem than the sin that separates us from a Holy God. Our condition, outside of Christ coming to our town, is helpless and hopeless. But Jesus had mercy upon us, and through His perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection, He cleansed those of us who have sought His mercy and placed our faith in Him.
What is striking in these verses is Jesus' response to this man's return and his praise and gratitude. This is really the crux of the matter. Jesus, first of all, accepts his praise. Jesus did not tell him immediately to get up and not bow at his feet. Jesus allowed him to offer his thanksgiving there at His feet. Remember, this is King Jesus on His way to Jerusalem, but as Jesus often did, He asked questions that take us further into the truth and challenge of this event.
This man was a Samaritan, and Luke states that specifically and clearly at the end of verse 16. And that leads into the three questions that Jesus' asks that get at the heart of this account.
Jesus' question about the ten being cleansed indicates that all ten of the men must have been cleansed from leprosy. Evidently the nine others were cleansed, but they did not return to praise God, they didn't return to see Jesus. "But where are the nine?" Wow! What a question! This clearly demonstrates that all ten should have been at the feet of Jesus, but only one was there-in the right place. The only one to return was this Samaritan. Jesus calls him a "foreigner." This implies that at least some of the others were Jewish, but more importantly, it reveals that a person considered a foreigner by the Jews, was touched by Jesus. As often is the emphasis in Luke's gospel, Jesus' power and saving work was recognized first of all by the poorest, the alienated, the hardest to reach, the despised of this world. In a sense it is as if Jesus is saying, the others should have come, and joined this one who was the least likely to return.
Let me remind you of something that happened right after Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem. Jesus was rejected by a Samaritan village because He was on his way to Jerusalem (Read Luke 9:51-56). This underlines the idea that the one who you might not expect to be at Jesus' feet is exactly the one there. Those who should have been there at the feet of Jesus were not there.
Thrust: Where are we today? Are we with the nine in our neglect of praise and thanksgiving? Or are we truly overwhelmed with the mercy and saving power of Christ? I imagine that some of us, to be honest, may be somewhere in between. Yes, we're thankful, but not desperately thankful. We're praising God, but not wholeheartedly. Let me just encourage you to praise the Lord, and ask Him to help you understand more fully the greatness of His mercy and the fullness of His salvation.
David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
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