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. Luke 17:15-16
According to Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in her book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, gratitude is a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within this world (p. 29).
Gratitude is also a distinguishing mark of true faith. All of these men had a basic level of faith. They knew enough about Jesus to believe he possessed authority. Calling him Master seemed a natural way to get his attention. They’d heard enough about Jesus to believe he could do something about their condition.
And they were right. All of them were healed. Jesus honored their request for mercy. And yet, only the one man who returned to say thank you heard the words, “your faith has made you well.” Ten men. Ten expressions of faith. But only one experienced a full healing.
The other nine possessed just enough faith to get something in return. Their temporary faith lasted long enough to ask Jesus to do something for them. After it happened, they left not seeing any more reason to hang around.
This scene causes me to ask the sobering question–is it possible to experience healings and miracles and yet remain unmoved to a deeper faith in Christ?
If “yes” is a possible answer to this question, then we must find a way to open ourselves up to God.
The invitation embedded in this passage is to celebration. The grateful man down on his knees before Jesus shows us how to stay attentive to the work of God so that he can enter into our hearts and lives in new ways during our times of deepest need.
Our needs might run parallel to those of the ten lepers. Maybe we’re engaged in a struggle with sickness. Or perhaps we endure isolation and loneliness.We may have a hunger for relationship that continues to go unsatisfied.
What should we do? We attempt something that doesn’t feel natural or even make sense–at first. We fall on our knees and cry out, “thank you!” The celebration doesn’t have to arise over the pain or the hardship of the situation. Instead, it comes from the belief of who Jesus is. He is all powerful, compassionate, and ready to change your life.
The practice of thankfulness offers many benefits. First, it releases Jesus to work. Mark 6:5-6 mentions a time when Jesus was inhibited by lack of belief. “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” When we express thankfulness, we are also expressing trust in him. This gives Jesus space to work.
Thankfulness manages selfishness. When we turn our focus away from our own hurts, problems, and discouragements, and onto the one doing the giving, we become more aware of others and more willing to give.
Thankfulness places proper value on the giver. When we acknowledge that someone had to make an effort or pay a price for what we have received, we elevate them in their worth and value to us. A simple thank you says, “You are important. What you’ve done means a lot.”
Thankfulness leads us into relationship with Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, we delight in God when we show him gratitude. The one healed leper who came back opened himself up to the life-long relationship with Jesus where he received the gift of eternal life. From that moment, he went on to delight in Jesus through all eternity.
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1-2