Tan: Story of A Thankful Leper

Rev. Arnel Tan

"Now, one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. And he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. Then Jesus answered and said “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?” And He said "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17: 15-19 NASB

TEN lepers cried to Jesus for cleansing. All ten were cleansed yet only one leper came back to give thanks. Jesus asked "Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” The query of Jesus about the other nine cleansed lepers is a spiritual mine. It is an invitation to dig deeper and discover the heart of God. The query is not about knowing their exact location nor was it a statement that stirs guilt. Tested and proven ... making people feel guilty make them do what you want. This was not Jesus' cup of tea. What then was the question all about? I have two things crisscrossing my mind. First, to reveal God's heart ... the Lord is honored when we give thanks. As Brennan Manning would say, the "highest form of giving is thanksgiving" and to this I add—the most authentic way of living is thanks living. Next, thanksgiving, to be authentic, cannot be forced. Dr. Les Hill wrote "anything forced cannot produce faith". Jesus, in a unique display of powerlessness and in a radiant display of grace, modeled God's respect for human freedom. The Master chose to cleanse all ten lepers but did not demand a thankful heart.

His query, to me, sends a message of grace and truth. Do not miss this ... what is remarkable in this story is the response of the Samaritan leper ... yes, an emphasis on the word "Samaritan" because they were the marginalized one in the time of Christ ... an ostracized half-breed compared to the “pure" blooded Jews. Yet, this Samaritan expressed a genuine faith that led him to shout out his thanks ... face bowed down to the ground giving thanks! By the way, while ten were cleansed, only this Samaritan leper received the unique pronouncement from the Lord "Your faith has made you well". It is not really hard to believe that only the skin was cleansed ... I think his heart, too, was made clean.

There are more lessons we can learn from the returnee. Notice his boldness to publicly give thanks ... his praise and his posture revealed his heart. When it comes to the question directly addressed to him by Jesus "where are the nine?” he was mysteriously silent ... a very humbling stillness of the mouth. No comment about the others. I think Christ wanted to highlight his attitude and his gratitude. Here, the story paints him as the hero of Thanksgiving, his silence regarding the other lepers was an authentic evidence of a transformed heart on top of a cleansed skin. Read on, his response to me is a sign of a truly thankful heart that honors God. Thanksgiving humbles the thankful. I have 5 signs I see from this leper which proves his genuine heart. Before writing the signs, let me give caution, these signs should be applied to you and not as tools to inspect other people.

Do we have a deal? Here we go:

- No comparison, more praise
- No competition, more space
- No complaints, more affirmation
- No controlling, more releasing
- No more unnecessary correction, more grace.

In the case of the Samaritan leper the word NO is accurate. In our case, maybe we can settle for the word "less" as we take practical baby steps towards an authentic ‘Thanksgiving’. So, Lord help us to lessen comparison, increase praise; lessen competition, increase space for others; lessen complaints increase affirmation; less controlling, to be more relaxed and releasing; lessen correction, more tolerance and grace. As we enter the season of Christmas, do not forget to join the many other lepers who are now members of the community of the redeemed, let us all give thanks. So, when the Master asks where the others are, we can all say ... we are all here, Lord!

Thanks for reading, now, pause for a while and utter a sincere prayer of thanks. I am learning to give thanks the Samaritan leper’s way. I write straight from a thankful heart. Thanks for reading.