Would those ten lepers have been able to have a Happy Thanksgiving, even if Jesus hadn’t healed them? And what about that Samaritan? Would he still have had a reason to come back and praise God with a loud voice, even if Jesus hadn’t done what he did? If you know some things about leprosy, you may remember that it is quite possible that this leper couldn’t talk very loud — maybe hardly at all — because leprosy eventually affected the vocal cords, as it also affected and ate away at many parts of the body, especially the fingers and toes. But would he still have had a desire to thank God with a loud voice, even if he couldn’t…. even if Jesus hadn’t – even if Jesus hadn’t removed his leprosy from his body and his life?
How you and I think about that question is going to affect our ability to have a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow and every day of the year, for that matter, because how we answer that question shows whether we are like the one who fell on his knees before Jesus and cried out his thanks to God with a loud voice, or whether we are like the other nine who didn’t return to thank the one who had made them well. Our way of thinking about whether the Samarian would have had a reason to thank God, even if Jesus hadn’t healed him of his leprosy is going to make all the difference in the world as to whether we decide to thank God for how great he is to us, even if he doesn’t seem to answer our prayer when we cry out to him, just like did those ten lepers, about anything that is bothering us at the moment, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”
What are things you need Jesus to have pity on you for right now at this moment? Is it something inside your heart that hurts because of something someone said to you or about you? Is it something inside your body that hurts because of a lingering illness, a crazy accident, a sudden diagnosis? Is it something in your head that just can’t figure out why so many things don’t go the way you had planned, whether it’s with vacation time or family time or personal time or almost any time you want something to go a way it doesn’t in almost every area of your life? And all those things are just little things compared to the spiritual something inside your soul because of your foolish actions toward someone in your life to whom you should show your greatest earthly love, your apathy toward God who in his love shows he should always be number one in your life, your failure to help someone who just needed a word, a moment, a hug – all of which shows you and I have no right to approach the Lord Jesus, who was on his way to Jerusalem to bring his salvation work to a conclusion, and say with those lepers, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”
But how we see Jesus act – and what we see Jesus do – as he is on his way to Jerusalem is what helps us know why that Samarian would have still had reason to thank Jesus, even if he hadn’t removed his leprosy back then, and why we still have reason to thank Jesus, even if he doesn’t remove from us the reasons for which we need his pity in our life right now. What do you see when you see Jesus responding to this man’s cry? Don’t you see someone so filled with compassion that when these lepers came to him, he didn’t tell them to stay away, as so many others would have, especially because their disease was contagious, so much so that they were commanded to stay in faraway places by themselves in what were called leper colonies, which is why, even after getting up enough courage to talk to Jesus, they stood at distance? What else do you see when you see Jesus responding to their cry? Don’t you see someone who was able to act on that compassion with power by simply being able to say, “Go show yourselves to the priests,” and by that word being able to have it said of them that “as they went they were healed?”
Do you see why that compassion and that power means that the Samarian leper could have thanked God even if Jesus hadn’t healed him? … It’s because the one who did heal him had the love and ability to do so, meaning that he also had the love and ability to care for him in the best way possible even if at that time Jesus would have felt it was best for him to remain in his leprosy. It is because of what Jesus has the ability to do because of who Jesus is – the all-loving, all-powerful Son of God – that everyone of us has every reason to thank Jesus, even if in his love and power he has decided not to do what he have asked.
And that takes faith to accept, doesn’t it? It takes faith because Jesus obviously doesn’t always use his love and power to do what we ask. It’s interesting that when Jesus tells the Samaritan at the end, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well,” he uses a different word for “made you well” than the word that is used earlier in saying that the Samaritan leper was healed of his leprosy. The word Jesus uses refers to his faith saving him. In other words, his faith saved him spiritually. It saved him from his sins, meaning that he could have gone away from Jesus totally thankful even if Jesus hadn’t healed him, because his greatest reason to cry out for God’s pity had been totally taken care of, as shown by what Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to do.
Jesus says the very same thing to us. We have promises – and promises more — from Jesus in his Word that, which when they come right down to it, tell us one simple thing: Jesus has saved us because Jesus loves us. Jesus loves us so much that he gave himself to death on the cross for things he did not do. Jesus loves us so much that he promises that what he will not do is ever go away from us any moment of our lives. Jesus loves us so much that what he promises that what he will do is return on a very special day so that we can experience the final fulfillment of the promise that he will never leave us or forsake us, because in heaven the dwelling of God will be with his people, world without end.
It is those promises which have the power to give us the faith to believe that even when we do not experience the fulfillment of those promises on earth – even when we don’t see with our human eyes what only can be seen by the eyes of faith – even when our prayers do not seem to be answered — that we still have every reason to thank God for everything he has done for us, because nothing – absolutely nothing – that may seem contrary to God’s promise means that those promises are not true. Even if God doesn’t answer that particular plea for his mercy to our way of thinking, to his perfect way of thinking he has answered it in a way that does show his mercy, because whatever he allows in our life is meant to help us remember that what life is really all about is not how few problems we have, but how many times we take the time to remember that when you have Jesus, you have everything. When you have Jesus, you have the one who has the compassion and power to do the very same thing for us that he did for those ten lepers, and he uses that compassion and power in a way specifically chosen for us to give each one of us every reason to join the Samaritan leper in thanking God with a loud voice, just as we are doing in this beautiful service this evening.
When you think about it, won’t there always be something we wish that Jesus could get rid of for us? And even if Jesus does decide in his mercy to rid our lives of that particular thing we’re asking for at the moment, won’t there always be something else? Because of the way life is before we get to heaven, there truly will always be something that will lead us to cry out, “Jesus, Master have pity on us,” It may be very big; it may be very small; but in all things Jesus invites us to ask him for the pity and compassion that he has shown to us so wonderfully in his death for our sins, and he encourages us to remember that he has the power and might to rise to action for us, just as he rose from death for our assurance of eternal life in heaven – all of which gives us every reason to thank our God with hearts and hands and voices for the wondrous things he has done, even if he doesn’t see fit to do what we wish at that moment — just as much as the leper would have had every reason to thank his Lord with a loud voice for listening to his prayer to heal him of his leprosy, even if Jesus hadn’t…