I consider modern medicine to be a good and godly thing. But there is something that the most advanced medicine cannot cure – the state of the human heart. In looking at the lessons for this Sunday, which in Canada is also our National Thanksgiving holiday, I first thought that this Sunday’s Gospel lesson (Luke 17.11-19) was an odd choice for a day of national thanksgiving. I thought it was odd until I realized something important: you need to look at the state of the heart.
So let’s carefully consider what it is that the Gospel is communicating. Jesus is clearly on his way to Jerusalem with the purpose of confronting the religious and political authorities of his day. This will result in his execution on the cross and three days later he will be raised from the dead by the Father. As he makes his way to Jerusalem, Jesus goes through the foreign territory of Samaria. Jesus enters a certain town where he is confronted by ten people, all of whom had some sort of malady of the skin which pushed these people to the edges and fringes of society. They came to him and got in his path but not too close so as to remain a safe distance from any potential rock throwing from people around them. These ten people cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Jesus stopped and “saw them” in their situation and considered their affliction. Then he said to them, “Go to the priest and show yourselves to be cured.” These people did so and as they went they discovered that they had been indeed healed and cured. One of these ten lepers, instead of going as he was told to do, turned back to the village. When he turned back, he immediately began praising and glorifying God. He found Jesus, fell down at his feet and worshiped him, giving thanks to God for his healing.
Why is this important? This is important because this one man stopped to recognise that God saw, knew and understood his affliction. As a result, answered his prayer for healing. The healing is not just about being able to go back to a life that has been interrupted. It is about the matters of the heart that allow for this man to be whole again. This foreigner, who by the religious people’s estimation, was as far from God as he could get, was finally coming home. He was coming into all the things that had been denied him for so long, not the least of which was a deepening and growing relationship with God. It is important or us to understand that salvation is not just a rescue from adverse circumstance or a change in location of universal geography from hell to heaven. Salvation is the transformation of a life and the return of an entire lifetime. What each person does as a result of this transformation needs to be a response to what God has given and what God is doing in us and through us every day.
And what about the other nine? What did they do? Did they do as they were asked and go and show themselves to the priest at the temple? Did they simple go home and forget? We aren’t told but I would suggest that when you have encountered the power of God in your life, you are not liable to forget. You will treasure it. The question is, will you publicly give thanks for all that God has done for you, for your family and for your nation, and in doing so, let others see the state of your heart and hear you give thank this week.