************ Sermon on Luke 17:17-18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 11, 2000
"Cleansed Sinners Give Praise to God"
I Ten Lepers Saved by Grace Through Faith
A Verse 12 of our passage tells us that as Jesus "was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him." These poor and afflicted people met Jesus with what must have been desperation.
Notice, Jesus met them as He was going into the village. That is where one would expect Jesus to meet them being lepers they would be forced to live outside of the village and would be kept separate from the community. They, of course, would live on the outskirts of the community so that they might receive charity. Notice, also, that they avoided physical contact. They met Jesus but "stood at a distance" (vs 12) so that the Master and His disciples would not contract their contagious disease. And, they cried out to Him: "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" (vs 13). Jesus was their last hope.
B Jesus heard their cries. He saw their disfigurement. He noticed their affliction. Because He had compassion on them, He answered them saying, "Go, show yourselves to the priests" (vs 14).
The Old Testament law states that a leper has to be examined by the priests after he has been cleansed or cured of leprosy. The priests functioned as a kind of health inspector. They would examine the leper to make sure that all traces of the disease had been completely removed. Once the priests pronounced the leper to be clean from the disease, the leper was to offer a sacrifice of thanks to God. And after this he or she could once again rejoin family and loved ones and live with them.
In our passage Jesus reverses the normal order. He commands the lepers to go to the priests before and not after they are healed.
C This command of Jesus put the faith and obedience of the lepers to the test. Jesus commanded them to go to the priests as if they had already been healed though, in fact, they were not. Jesus commanded them to go the priests even though He had not touched them or had any physical contact with them. We can easily forgive them for being incredulous or astonished.
Yet, the lepers obeyed Jesus anyway. They had the faith to believe Jesus could and would heal them if only they went and showed themselves to the priests. What faith!
D "And as they went," says Scripture, "they were cleansed" (vs 14).
Do you see the greatness and majesty and power of the Lord Jesus here? Without touching the lepers, without the benefit of medication or medical instruments, He heals all ten lepers. He healed them with the same power He used to conquer sin, death, hell, and Hades. I say this because the Bible sees a connection between disease and sin that modern medicine tends to neglect:
(Ps 103:2-3) Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits (3) who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases ...See how the psalmist connects sin and disease, forgiveness and healing? The Lord Jesus not only conquers sin and death and hell and Hades; but He also conquers disease and illness and disabilities and other afflictions.
E Those ten lepers, do you know how they were healed? They were healed by grace through faith. The grace of God in Christ healed them through their faith in the words of Jesus.
Try to imagine the scene. One moment these ten people had a hideous illness and the very next moment they were completely healed. One moment they were going through a living death and the very next moment they were whole and clean.
"And as they went, they were cleansed." That word "cleansed" indicates that more than just physical healing took place here. When Jesus healed quite often He said, "Your sins are forgiven." Remember the paralytic let down through the roof? When Jesus healed him He also forgave him his sins (Lk 5:17-26). Usually, if not always, the healing of physical affliction was symbolic of an inner and spiritual healing which also took place. In the case of the ten lepers we are to understand that they have been cleansed body and soul by grace through faith. We are to understand that the ten lepers were cleansed of their leprosy and their sin.
F Today, congregation, we have experienced the Lord's healing presence in the Lord's Supper. We have been reminded that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. We have been reminded that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, in order to save us from our sins. We have been reminded that the Lord forgives us our iniquities and heals our diseases. The Lord's Supper has shown us that we are cleansed and healed by the blood of Christ Jesus.
And, we know, as is the case with the lepers, this cleansing is by grace through faith. We, too, need to believe that the mighty power of Jesus forgives and heals us of all our sins and diseases.
Our cleansing, my brothers and sisters, is just as miraculous and just as wonderful as the healing of the ten lepers.
II A Samaritan Gives Thanks While Jews Do Not
A The ten lepers were cleansed and healed. But then what?
Verses 15 & 16 tell us: "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him."
This leper knew God cured him that's why he praised God. He knew that Jesus was Lord and Master that's why he threw himself at Jesus' feet. This leper realized he was cleansed by the grace of God in and through Christ.
Verse 16 tells us a small but important detail about the man who came back: "he was a Samaritan." We need to realize that Samaritans were outside of the covenant community and were rejected and despised by the Jews. "He was a Samaritan." This can only lead us to presume that the other nine are Jews.
Ironic, isn't it? The nine you would expect to return and give thanks, do not; and the one you would not expect to return and give thanks, does. They who knew better and had all the privileges of being God's people failed to praise God. He who was a foreigner and without covenant privileges did praise God.
B Permit me to say a word or two on behalf of the nine lepers who did not return to give thanks. Why did they not return? Martin Bell in his meditation, "Where Are the Nine?" explores for us some possibilities.
One of them was frightened that's all. He didn't understand what had happened, and it frightened him. So he looked for some place to hide. Jesus scared him.
A second was offended because he had not been required to do something difficult before he could be healed. It was all too easy. He had expected months, maybe even years, of prayer and fasting and washing and righteous living before he could be healed. But he had done none of this. His motto was "you get what you pay for." Jesus made it too easy.
The third had realized too late that he had not really wanted to be cleansed. He did not know what to do or how to live without his leprosy. He did not even know who he was as a person without his leprosy. Jesus had taken away his identity.
The fourth leper did not return to give thanks because in his great joy he simply forgot. He forgot. That's all. He was so happy that he forgot.
The fifth leper was unable to say thank you any more to anyone. His life of leprosy and begging had turned his heart hard and callous. He just doesn't didn't say thank you to anyone any more.
The sixth leper was a woman a mother who had been separated from her family for eleven years because of the leprosy (this according to Martin Bell, though the Bible clearly identifies all ten as men). She was hurrying to the priests so she could to rejoin her husband and children. She did not return to give thanks because she was on her way home.
The seventh had doubts that Jesus had anything to do with the cleansing. He knew that healing had taken place, but why and how were his questions. Certainly he did not believe in hocus-pocus, magic, miracles any of that. There was a perfectly reasonable and rational explanation of what had happened, and he wondered if it had anything to do with Jesus.
The eight leper did not return precisely because he did believe that Jesus had healed him that the Kingdom of God was here and the Messiah had arrived. He didn't return because he was spreading the exciting, wonderful news about the Kingdom.
As for the ninth leper, we don't know, we just don't know, why he didn't return to say thank you. He must have had a reason but we cannot begin to guess what it was.
What is the point of all this? The real point, that we can't forget, is that all ten were cleansed by grace and through faith!
C Do you recognize yourself in any of the nine? You should, because the nine represent you and me. The nine are church members in good and regular standing. They have been cleansed. They are saved. They are redeemed. They have faith. They have taken the Lord's Supper. And they neglect to give thanks. We also have to identify the tenth man as someone outside of the church, someone outside of the New Testament covenant community. Amazing, isn't it?! A non-church member remembers to give praise and thanks to God for physical and spiritual healing while nine church members forget.
I'm afraid that this is too typical of what really lives among God's people. Too often we who are cleansed neglect to give God praise and thanks.
Scripture illustrates to us here what is too often a drastic failing, a big problem, among God's people. What is this failing or problem? I'm afraid that Church members can get so used to the treasures of salvation that they forget to give thanks. We are so accustomed to redemption, salvation, renewal, forgiveness, that it no longer stirs us, moves us, or excites us.
D How do you think God feels about this? Does He like it when we forget to give thanks? Does He like it when His people are no longer amazed, overjoyed, overwhelmed, by the treasures of salvation and so don't bother to give Him praise?
Think of the time you did something special for someone, and he forgot to show appreciation. You didn't like that, did you? But, then, I am sure there are also times you forgot to show appreciation. It crossed your mind but you put it off because you thought another opportunity would come along later. More than once I've stood by a death bed and heard family members express regrets that they never did say thank you. Far worse than this, though, is standing before the throne of God regretting you never said thank you to Him.
Jesus reminds us this evening that God wants praise and thanksgiving from people who have been given all the riches and treasures of salvation. In fact, to neglect the response of thanksgiving is to shortchange God of the glory due His Name for His healing and saving mercies. Of course, God doesn't need our praise and thanksgiving, but He does want it.
E In the final verse of the passage Jesus gives a word of encouragement to the Samaritan: "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Jesus commends this man's faith. This man's faith is pleasing in Jesus' sight.
Presumably the nine also had faith for they too were healed. But, yet, there is something lacking in the faith of the nine who did not return to praise and thank the Lord. What is missing or lacking, what the Lord wants and is looking for, is a public expression of praise and thanksgiving.
Hopefully all those who partook of the Lord's Supper this morning also have faith. Yet there is something lacking in the faith of those who, like the nine, don't "give praise to God." What is missing or lacking, what the Lord wants and is looking for in the lives of us all is a public expression of praise and thanksgiving.
My brothers and sisters, let us learn from the story of the ten lepers. Let us learn that people who eat and drink from the Lord's Table, that people who have been assured of forgiveness and salvation, that people who experience the Lord's healing presence, must bubble forth in praise and gratitude to the Redeemer. Let us learn that faith, true faith, must come to expression in praise and gratitude and thanks.
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