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On the Journey...
Monthly Insight From Pastor Phil Yoder
November 20, 2019
We usually think of November as Thanksgiving month. And it is not that we are not thankful the rest of the year, we are, but “Thanksgiving Day” comes in November. It is the end of the harvest, and our cupboards and freezers are well stocked for the long winter months. We look forward to Thanksgiving, to family reunions, to the extra days off work or away from school. It is a nice break. And Thanksgiving Day gets here just in time for “Black Friday,” which begins the shopping frenzy of the holiday season. There are so many reasons to like Thanksgiving.
Being thankful is one character trait that should be found in all Christians. In Luke’s Gospel, in chapter 17, Luke tells a story. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, and along the way he meets ten lepers who cry out for help. In Jesus’ day, leprosy was the most dreaded of all diseases. If one had leprosy, they would be forced to leave their home, their family, and their community and live in a leper colony. They were forbidden to have any physical contact with any non-leprous person. Their life as they knew it was over. It was like receiving a slow death sentence. It really was a terrible and a dreaded disease, and there was no cure for leprosy unless God miraculously healed the person.
When the ten lepers called out to Jesus for help, Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, which required an act of faith that they would be healed before they got to the priest. And they went. And as they went, they were cleansed of leprosy. One of the ten returned to thank Jesus and to praise God. Jesus was quite upset that the nine did not bother to return and say, “Thank you!” After all, Jesus had just given their lives back to them. Now they could go back to their homes and hug their wives and hold their children. They could go back to work, they go down to the restaurant for breakfast with their friends. They could go to the synagogue and worship again. It really was an unfathomable gift that Jesus gave to those ten that day.
We don’t know why the nine didn’t return to thank Jesus. Maybe they had a chip on their shoulder. They were Jews, God’s chosen people, perhaps they thought they deserve better than this. Perhaps they were angry with life, or even at God. But we do know that Jesus was quite bothered at the lack of thankfulness in the nine.
Almost certainly, the nine cursed their leprosy, upset with what life had handed them. It was unfair! They had done nothing to deserve such a disastrous fate. And slowly but surely, the disease began to eat away at their souls as well as their hands and feet.
The Bible tells us, “In all circumstances, give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18). That is not easy, in fact, it is downright hard in many circumstances, and yet it is God’s Word. The truth is that we rarely see what God is doing in our lives, especially in a crisis. And we never know how God may be using the “unfortunate” things in life to draw us close to God. Their leprosy brought these ten face to face with Jesus, the Savior of the world, brought them to the very face of God, and brought them to hear the very voice that spoke the world into existence, and the nine squandered the moment by feeling sorry for themselves.
It is Christian maturity, but we must learn to Trust God, knowing that God has a purpose for all the circumstances we find ourselves in, and be thankful that God holds our lives in His hands, and uses our circumstances for His purposes! We must be a thankful people!