There is the gift of giving, the gift of receiving and then there is the wonder of giving thanks. Jesus meets ten lepers along the border between Samaria and Galilee. They call out to him from a distance: "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” The story continues with the words that Jesus used to heal them: "Go, show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, they were cleansed." One of them, heart racing with anticipation; looks down at his hands. He runs them languidly over the once suppurating flesh, now smooth and whole... The other nine break into a run, eager to show their new health to the priest. The Jewish priests were the only ones who had the authority to declare someone either clean or unclean in society. But he hesitates, looks back over his shoulder, a call from deep down urging him back.
He does not merely say thank you. This man falls face down into the dirt at Jesus feet, weeping with joy and crying out his thanks. The Samaritan. Not only did he used to be a leper, outcast, untouchable. He is part of a despised race.
The Samaritans were an ethnic group that grew out of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joseph's sons) after their deportation in 722 BC into Assyria. The Jews at the time of Christ viewed the Samaritans as idol worshipping apostates (ones who abandoned their religious faith) to be shunned, and who had intermarried with the Gentiles. Jesus however, unlike his fellow Jews, did not shun them, view them unworthy of His grace.
The story continues when Jesus calls out over the form of the man at his feet: "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine - where are they? "Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:11-18) He is not praising the man at His feet for returning, but rebuking those beyond for their "ingratitude"... To the man at His feet he says: "Rise and go; your faith has made you well" I was thrilled to find a footnote in the NLT which says: or "Your faith has saved you" The "foreigner" did not only receive physical healing. The realisation of what was done for Him compelled him to turn around. Not for a polite thank you, but to fall down at the feet of the Son of God to give praise and thanks. To acknowledge that even if he was broken, the "man" before him had made him whole.For his faith, his gratitude and for giving glory to God - he received not only physical healing, but restoration for his soul, worth so much more than a "clean" body.
I have been thinking about gratitude lately. I’ve been thinking about people who have given me gifts in the past to whom I have expressed thanks. I’ve been thinking about people who, recently, have thanked me.
And I've been thinking about people I need to thank. Of so, so many things that I am deeply thankful for. But what about the man from Galilee who hung on the cross, despised and beaten? Who was willing to become covered with the leprosy of my sins, so that I may stand before Him, the High Priest at the right hand of God, clean and free. He above all deserves my thank you - through a life lived in gratitude overflowing in praise.