How to Show Thankfulness to God
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 7, 2007


Main Passage: Luke 17:11-19

Pretend with me that you’re already sitting at the table for Thanksgiving Dinner. Granted, it’s a really strange table and you have to sit in rows, and for some reason the food is going to be delayed for a while. But one of the things that people sometimes do around the table at Thanksgiving is tell each other some of the things they’re thankful for. So real quick, tell us some things you’re thankful for this year.


It’s good to take the time to give thanks. Do you remember when you were a kid, and every year at school you did some kind of a project where you would identify one thing that you were thankful for, and then you’d put it on a poster or something like that? I was at the Immanuel Christian School Thanksgiving concert this past Friday, and one of the classes (Loretta’s?) did just that. And of course a lot of the kids were thankful for their mom and dad and their friends… I liked the one that was thankful for hermit crabs.

It’s good to be thankful. It’s important to express our thankfulness. And when it comes to giving thanks to God for the blessing He gives us, it’s actually a form of worship.

In the passage from the Bible that Jim read for us earlier we heard about a group of ten men who all had leprosy. And then Jesus came along and He Jesus healed them… all ten of them. But only one of them took the time to return to Jesus and worship Him with thanksgiving for what Jesus had done for Him. Just one out of ten. Not a very good showing.

In PowerPoint, I have some rather graphic images of what leprosy does to a person. If you don’t want to see them, you may want to close your eyes or look away for a minute. These are some of the pictures I found on the Internet. And these are actually some of the milder ones. I found some that I couldn’t stand looking at myself… pictures of people who are so disfigured that they’re unrecognizable. Leprosy had literally eaten away their faces.

[Show Images]

Okay, the images are gone. You can open your eyes now.

In the movie “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” there’s a funny little scene where Friar Tuck is working undercover with Azeem, who’s played by Morgan Freeman. They don’t want Azeem to be recognized, so they wrap him up in cloth and pretend that he’s a leper. Watch.

VIDEO CLIP (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)

Notice how quickly the guard retreated when he thought he was near a leper. If that’s what it was like in the Middle Ages, it was even worse in the time of Christ. So let’s try to get an understanding of the setting.

Today when we talk about leprosy, we’re referring to Hansen’s disease (a term I’m not particularly fond of), a very specific skin disease. But in the time of Christ, it referred to a variety of skin disorders. And there were some rather severe social connotations for people who had leprosy. They became social outcasts. It would be as if you had AIDS about fifteen or twenty years ago. I don’t know about you, but the first time I even heard of AIDS was when I heard that Rock Hudson had it. Not many other people had heard of it at that time either, but once the news about Rock Hudson got out it became a household word.

And the thing I remember about that time is that everyone was paranoid about catching AIDS. We were all worried, “Can I catch it from shaking hands? What about if I breathe the same air? Can I get it through kissing? If I share a drink with someone, am I at risk?” We didn’t have much education about AIDS at that time, and so we really didn’t have a good understanding about it.

So people who had AIDS were made social outcasts, much in the same way that lepers were made social outcasts in Jesus’ day. Except there were some rather strict rules that lepers had to follow in how they lived.

Try to imagine this… let’s say you had leprosy in first century Israel. How would you be required to live? Well, for started you’d have to live outside the city walls, you’d have to wear torn clothes, you wouldn’t be allowed to comb your hair, you’d have to keep the lower part of their face covered, and at all times you’d have to stay at least 100 paces away from anyone who didn’t have leprosy. In fact, just to make sure nobody got too close to you, you’d be required to yell “Unclean” whenever you saw someone heading in your direction.

If you had leprosy, everyone knew you had it. It was a very isolating, lonely disease. And that’s how you’d spend the rest of your days.

So that’s the situation these ten lepers found themselves in. They were outcasts, with no real hope of that ever changing. But then they heard about Jesus. They heard about the miracles He could perform. And then they heard that He was actually traveling in the area! So what do you think they decided to do? All ten of them went to see Jesus, hoping that He’d heal them.

So they went to the area where Jesus was, and when they found Him, they called out to Him… and remember they had to do this from a distance… “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Well, Jesus saw them and He heard their cries, and He told them what to do if they wanted to be healed. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests, because it was the priests in that society who had the authority to declare if someone was “clean” or “unclean”. So the ten lepers headed toward the temple to find a priest, but even before they got there, they were all healed.

And of course they were excited about it. Can you imagine what it would be like for them? Leprosy had made them outcasts. And they were condemned to live that way for the rest of their lives. But Jesus healed them and changed all that. They were all very excited. But only one… just one… came back to Jesus to thank Him.

This one man came back to Jesus and literally threw himself at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done. But where were the other nine? Weren’t they grateful, too? Or did they just not understand the importance of saying “Thank you?”

Or did they perhaps not understand what it means to be thankful? Did they perhaps confuse thankfulness with something else? This morning we’re going to take a closer look at this story and identify three things that the other nine lepers confused thankfulness with. We’re going to look at what we have to be thankful for, and we’re going to look at how we can show our gratitude to Jesus for what He has done for us.

Let’s start with the things we need to be careful not to confuse thankfulness with.

Do not confuse Thankfulness with…

1. Respect. (v.12)

You’ll notice that the Bible tells us that these ten lepers all  “...stood at a distance...” when they located Jesus. That was the appropriate thing for them to do. They had enough respect for Jesus to keep the law in His presence and to not risk passing the disease on to Him. They also had enough respect for Jesus to believe that He could actually do something about their condition. They did have a respect for Jesus.

And most people today have a certain respect for Him. If they’re smart enough to believe in Jesus… if they’re smart enough to believe in God… and something like 90% of North Americans do believe there is a God, whether they have a relationship with Him or not… they believe in Him and they have some level of respect for Him.

Even when people blame God for things… “Why did God let this happen? Why did He do this, and why didn’t He do that in my life?”… even then, there’s behind that a certain amount of respect for God because it acknowledges that He is ultimately in control.

But respect does not automatically guarantee thankfulness. All ten of these men showed a level of respect for Jesus, but only one of them was thankful.

2. Recognition. (v.13)

All ten recognized Jesus for who He was and His place in society. They addressed Him as “Jesus, Master...” They knew who He was, and they recognized His authority by calling Him “Master.”

I’ve heard different times that Mohammed Ali is the most recognized face in the world. And Michael Jordan isn’t far behind. I don’t know, maybe O.J. Simpson has moved into that position now. Or maybe Tiger Woods. And the media is mostly responsible for that.

But in Jesus’ day, there was no media coverage. So if Jesus was healing somebody there weren’t 87 cameras crowding around to record what was happening and it wasn’t on YouTube five minutes later. The news about what Jesus was doing got out by word of mouth. And through this word of mouth these ten lepers, even though they were social outcasts, had heard of some of the miracles Jesus had been performing.

So what kind of miracles would they have heard about? Well, earlier in the Gospel of Luke we read about how Jesus…

ch4  - healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever.
ch5  - healed a man with leprosy.
ch5  - healed a man who was paralyzed.
ch6  - healed a man with deformed hand.
ch7  - brought a man who was dead back to life.
ch8  - healed a man who was demon possessed.
ch8  - brought a little girl back to life.
ch9  - fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.
ch10 - Gave disciples the power of healing.
ch13 - Healed a woman who was handicapped in her back for 18 years.
ch14 - Healed a man of the disease of dropsy.

So by the time we get to chapter 17 of Luke, Jesus had some pretty well established credentials. He had become known as a miracle worker. And these ten lepers would have heard of at least some of these miracles and they recognized that no one healed like Jesus. Nobody had the ability that Jesus had.

Here we are now in 2007, and a lot of people recognize that Jesus Christ is pretty spectacular. A lot of people, again they may not have a personal relationship with Him, but they recognize Him as the best person who ever lived. They know He was a great teacher. They may call Him a miracle-worker, or a moral leader/reformer. They may even recognize Him as God.

But just because we recognize who Jesus is doesn’t mean we have thankfulness for Him. All ten lepers recognized who Jesus was, but only one was thankful.

How about you? You may recognize who Jesus is, but does that really make a difference? Does it go beyond just recognizing who He is to the point where you’ll come to Him, and bow down before Him, thank Him for what He’s done for you, and pledge to live for Him the rest of your days?

9 out of 10 recognized who Jesus was and what He did for them, but it didn’t motivate them to thank Him or choose to follow Him.

3. Obedience. (v.14)

Jesus told the ten lepers, “I want you to go to the Jewish leaders, the priests, and I want you to show them that you are healed.” He told them to do this because in their culture the priests were the ones that could declare someone clean and unclean.

[Luke 17:14 (NLT)
“Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went…]

It would be as if Jesus came to you while you were dying with AIDS or cancer or some other disease and told you to go to the doctor and show him that you’re completely healed. And these guys still had sores on their bodies. It was clear that they weren’t healed at all. But in the process of being obedient to God and following His directions they were healed. Somewhere along the way while they were walking to see the high priest, they were healed.

All ten of these lepers were obedient to Jesus. They did what they were told to do. But they were not all grateful.

You know, it’s important to be obedient to the instructions of Jesus. If you choose to live for Him, you’ll choose to do what He says. And that’s not just out of obligation… it’s part of what it means to worship Him. If you worship Jesus, then you will be obedient to His will.

Worship equals obedience, but catch this… obedience does not equal worship. Do you see the  difference? Just because you’re doing all the things that you’re supposed to be doing doesn’t mean that you’re worshipping God or that you’re grateful to God for what He’s doing in your life. You may simply have a “grin and bear it” type of obedience to Him. And that’s not worship at all.

But this one man, this Samaritan leper, did not confuse thankfulness with those three things. He had a heart of gratitude for who Jesus was and what He had done for Him, and so he did not refuse to give Jesus the thankfulness that was due Him.

He set a pretty good example for us to follow. We should all be quick to express our thankfulness to God… not just on Thanksgiving, but all year long.

So how do we do that? Here are three critical keys to expressing your thankfulness to God.

How Do We Thank God?

A. Decide to thank Him. (v.15)

It begins with a decision. For this leper, I don’t think he just happened to cross paths with Jesus again. I don’t think it was an accident that he came back to Jesus to thank Him. I think he did it on purpose. I think he decided that he just had to express his gratitude for what Jesus had done for him.

When I was a kid, I remember how my parents had to constantly remind me to write thank you notes for Christmas gifts and birthday gifts. Even after our wedding, Shera and I pushed the limits of proper etiquette in getting our thank you cards out. It’s just one of those things that just doesn’t happen on its own. We had to decide when we were going to sit down and write those thank you cards.

Oh, it wasn’t that we weren’t thankful. We just weren’t expressing it very well. I think we hoped that if we put it off long enough, the cards would write themselves. But that didn’t happen. Our thankfulness was not expressed until we decided to express it.

You know, this leper was excited. He came back and literally shouted what Jesus had done. That’s how he decided to express his thankfulness to Jesus. He expressed it in a what that everyone else in the area heard about what Jesus had done and heard about how grateful this man was. He wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed to say “Thanks”. He didn’t shy away from letting people know what Jesus had done.

B. Proclaim the things that He has done. (v.16)

Get specific. What has God done for you?

The reason this leper was able to proclaim what Jesus had done was because he recognized what Jesus had done. He didn’t just take it for granted, as it seems the other nine lepers did. He recognized the incredible blessing Jesus has given Him and he rushed back to express his gratitude specifically for being healed.

Let me read for you something that came out of a magazine a few years ago:

“Shall I thank God this Thanksgiving?
Why was I born at this particular time in the history of the world? Why was I born in a spotless delivery room in an [American] hospital instead of a steaming shelter in the dark jungles of the Amazon, Or a mud hut in Africa?
Why did I have the privilege of going to school with capable instructors while millions around the world, even without a school book, sit on a dirt floor listening to a missionary to pick up anything to know?
How does it happen that my children are tucked into warm beds at night with clean white sheets while millions of babies in the world will lie in cold rooms, many in their own filth and vomit?
Why can I sit down to a warm meal whenever I want to and eat too much when millions will know all of their life the gnawing pangs of hunger? Do I deserve to share in such wealth?
By what right?
Why me and not countless other millions?
Why was I born in a land that I didn’t build, and a prosperity that I didn’t create, and enjoy a freedom that I didn’t establish?
Why am I [an American] sitting comfortably in my living room this Thanksgiving, rather than an Indian squatting in a dark corner of some infested alley in Calcutta, shivering in the cold? Or Cambodian in the rubble of what used to be my home? Or Somalian caught in the midst of a terrible civil war?
Do I deserve all that I have? By what right do I have it?”

We all have so much to be grateful for. God has blessed us in incredible ways. So don’t take it for granted; proclaim what He has done for you and thank Him for it.

Of course, the greatest thing He had done for you is what we took time to remember earlier. Through His crucifixion, He died to pay the price for your sinfulness, and He rose again to offer you life. Never stop thanking Him for this.

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NLT)
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the only reason we can enjoy a relationship with God today. He is the reason we don’t need to fear death, but can have the assurance that when we die we will go to live with Him forever. We can be thankful for that. We can be thankful for His love for us. We can be thankful for His guidance and wisdom. And we can be thankful for the sacrifices He has made for us. We can be thankful for who He is, for His power at work in our lives, and for His provision to meet our needs.

We’ve got a lot to thank Jesus for. So proclaim it. And adore Him for what He’s done.

C. Adore God for what He’s done. (v.16)

What did this leper do?

Luke 17:16 (NLT)
He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

This was an expression of adoration. And what’s extra meaningful here is that this man was a Samaritan. As you may recall, Jews and Samaritans didn’t exactly get along. In fact, they were repulsed by each other. But despite this fact, this Samaritan leper threw himself in adoration at the feet of this Jewish rabbi who had healed him. His gratefulness to Jesus moved him to a point where he felt he absolutely had to throw himself at Jesus’ feet in grateful praise and adoration.

Are there ever times in your life when you kneel before God? Maybe beside your bed or at a chair, and you say, “God, I know that You’re in control. And this is just a physical way of me saying, ‘Lord, I humble myself before You. Everything I am, everything I have... it’s all yours.’”?

Do you ever kneel before God in grateful worship? And yeah, I know that kneeling is uncomfortable, and it’s just a physical position. Kneeling doesn’t have any power in and of itself. But let me tell you, kneeling physically before God can help you to kneel spiritually. It can reinforce in you a spirit of humility, submission, respect and adoration. It can be a physical expression of worship to God.

I was actually thinking about this a week or two ago, and realizing that I don’t kneel before God very often. I don’t physically get in a posture of submission and worship as often as I should. So I’m going to be working on that. Let me encourage you to do the same.

A man by the name of Izaak Walton said,
“God has only two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in meek and thankful hearts.”
Izaak Walton

Take the time this weekend in particular, but all year long, to honour God with a thankful heart.



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