May 1, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Thank God in everything, no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks, for this is the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus the Revealer and Mediator of that will.”
I Thessalonians 5: 18
“When thou has truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent,
But little time will then remain for murmur or lament.”
Today’s Study Text:
“On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached Him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master have mercy on us.’ When He saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then He said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’”
Luke 17: 11 – 19
“Behold The Man” – Part 11
“Taking Time To Say, ‘Thank You’”
“Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
Eternal God, holy and mighty,
it is truly right and our greatest joy
to give You thanks and praise,
and to worship You in every place
where Your glory abides.”
“The Great Thanksgiving – B”
Book of Common Worship
Am I able to give God praise during the dark times in my own life?
What do I believe it means to praise God at all times?
“I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
Psalm 34: 1, N.R.S.V.
“Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men and women; in praise we act like angels.”
This week we continue our studies entitled: “Behold The Man.” Our goal is to take a closer look at Jesus as we uncover the beauty of His ministry here on earth. Last week we focused our studies on the life of one individual, referred to in Scripture as the “woman at the well.”
This week, we are going to look at a different story each day. Not only will we undertake to see how the person in the study received Jesus’ attention, but we will also attempt to uncover the difference looking at Jesus made in the life of each individual.
Today, we start with the record left by Dr. Luke regarding Jesus’ encounter with ten lepers. It isn’t surprising that a “writer” whose real-life profession was the “healing arts,” chose to leave us quite a record of the ministry of Jesus to those whose lives were inhibited by physical disability.
Maybe it was because last week’s study was about a Samaritan woman that Luke’s words in Luke 17: 11, really got my attention. While with the Samaritan woman, we learned that Jesus “needs be” to go through Samaria, on this particular journey toward Jerusalem, somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus entered a village where ten lepers approached Him. When later in the story we are told that one of the lepers was a Samaritan, it made me wonder if this leper could have heard about Jesus, originally, from the woman at the well. But one thing our study text makes clear is that the ten lepers knew Jesus’ name and in fact, called Him, “Master.” Furthermore, they asked Jesus to have “mercy on us.” They didn’t just know Jesus’ name, they also knew of His’ reputation for healing.
The reason these ten individuals were begging for mercy was because, as Pastor John Buchanan explains, “at the time of Jesus,” people lived in dread of leprosy, a loosely defined term used to describe any skin blemish or eruption that looked suspicious.” As Pastor Buchanan points out, “What we call Hansen’s disease is treatable today, but in Jesus’ time it was thought to be radically contagious…the result was that people with leprosy lived in total isolation; banished from their homes, from the loving touch of spouses, children, parents, from the faith community – so feared that even to cross the shadow of one with leprosy was to risk infection…sometimes they banded together to become a small company of misery.”
It is the phrase “company of misery” which I want to underscore for a moment because as this story makes clear, these ten men were all in the same boat as far as illness and loss and separation and isolation.
However, there was one individual in that group that despite the unfair hand he had been dealt, didn’t get taken under by the “mire of misery” for within his heart burned the fire of faith.
I want to ask you a question: “Have you ever felt that if you could just muster up enough ‘faith’ that whatever problem you are encountering right now in your own life, whether it is emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, educational or in a family relationship, that it would go away if your ‘faith’ was strong enough?”
When you read the words of Jesus in Luke 11: 19, “Your faith has made you well,” doesn’t there seem to be a connection between healing and faith?” Just listen to what Jesus said, is how I’ve heard it explained to me before. But to limit our minds to the idea that my faith, if it is enough, will make me well, is to miss the lesson of this entire story. What’s more, we’ll miss out on what the Samaritan leper saw in Jesus that lit the fire of faith in his heart so that it turned into a blazing fire which caused him to “praise God with a loud voice.”
I want to share with you the insightful vision provided by Assistant Professor of Worship at Columbia University, Kimberly Bracken Long whose commentary on Luke 17: 11-19 is one of the most eye-opening I’ve ever read. Here’s her perspective on faith, healing and what I want to call “hallelujah!”
“Jesus points to a more profound understanding of faith in this story about ten lepers who are healed. In this narrative, the actual healing is almost a sideline event. Jesus does it without fanfare. We do not know where nine of the ten go, but we do know that this one – a foreigner, and a despised one at that – comes back to bow down at Jesus’ feet, to worship and give thanks…Jesus offers the grateful leper a wellness that runs beyond the physical. All ten are physically finished with leprosy.”
But as Professor Long underscores only one leper is really healed! If we look at the behavior of the nine lepers who did not return to even utter a small word of gratitude, we are forced to wonder as Professor Long notes, did these nine say to themselves with a sigh of relief, “Well, that worked, didn’t it!” Or was their response somewhat arrogant as they nodded to each other, “Well we certainly deserved that, didn’t we!”
In exploring faith and healing, in any part of our life, we must remember that it was Jesus who made it clear that if we even have “faith” the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains. So obviously, as Professor Long stresses, Jesus made it clear in His’ ministry on earth that we shouldn’t “be concerned with the quantity of faith” we can drum up. “Rather, Jesus is teaching us about the nature of faith. In short to ‘have faith’ is to live it, and to live it is to give thanks. It is living a life of gratitude that constitutes living a life of faith – this is the grateful sort of faith that made the man from Samaria truly and deeply well.”
You see, it is at this very point, the intersection between faith and healing where every person in Transformation Garden is touched by the ministry of Jesus to this Samaritan leper and where this foreign man’s response to Jesus provides us with a lesson that will help us weather the storms of life. Whether you find yourself completely healed of whatever burdensome event or problem that plagues your life at this moment, when thanksgiving becomes an integral part of every moment of our life, our physical situations become “less important.”
In summing up the revealing truths of this story Professor Long notes: “To practice gratitude intentionally changes an individual life.” The author Willis E. King shares the fact that “gratitude is from the same root word as grace – the boundless mercy of God. Thanksgiving is from the same root word as think, so think is to thank.” This is the spirit we witness lived out in the Samaritan leper. He could have lived each day in the “mire of misery” but he chose to be grateful in spite of what he faced and when Jesus walked into his world, this grateful man’s candle of faith blazed so brightly, it is still shining today. As Professor Long so beautifully states: “’Go on your way; your faith has made you well’…This is a description of a life of blessing…as we go on our way, we rejoice and give thanks; for in giving thanks in all things, we find that God, indeed, is in all things.”
When I was growing up, it was a weekly tradition in most churches, to at some point during the worship service, sing the words of what was called, “Old Hundredth” or “the Doxology.” While I love much of the contemporary worship songs which fill churches today, as I was studying about this grateful-hearted leper, I thought to myself, “What if every day, when I first awoke, the words that I spoke were words of praise? What kind of life would gratitude-infused days be like?”
I want to answer my questions by inviting you today to join with the Samaritan man, a former leper, in praising God with a loud voice in the words penned by Thomas Ken in 1695, as we call it, “Old Hundredth.”
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights!
Praise Him, all His angels,
Praise Him, all His hosts!”
Psalm 148: 1, 2
“Praise our God, all you His servants, you who fear Him, both small and great.”
Revelation 19: 5
“Let us, with a gladsome mind,
Praise the Lord, for His is kind;
For His mercies aye endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.
Let us blaze His name abroad,
For of gods He is the God:
He, with all-commanding might,
Filled the new-made world with light;
All things living He doth feed,
His full hand supplies their need:
He His chosen race did bless
In the wasteful wilderness:
Let us then with gladsome mind
Praise the Lord, for His is kind.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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