I Want To Be The One
a sermon based on Luke 17:11-19
by Rev. Frank Schaefer
imagine what it was like to be a leper in first-century Judea? I don't know much
about leprosy, mainly because I've never been around it, but from what I've read and heard
it is a disease where body parts rot away: you may loose fingers, toes, hands, feet, even
parts of you face. And it is a disease that will eventually kill you. It is
called Hanson's disease today, and the disease has been largely eliminated in the West
owing to modern medicine. But at that point in time, there was no cure for Hanson's
disease. And not every leper then had Hanson's disease either. Persons who had
any skin condition would be kept out of the community. Psoriasis, lupus, ringworm,
or just unusual marks on the body was reason enough to send a person away from friends and
family and to live in special places on the fringes of society.
imagine what it must have been like to be pushed outside the community? Humiliated?
The butt of jokes? No self-esteem. No reason to go on, Used as object lessons
about sin. Charity cases. What would it be like to never be touched? To be
feared and avoided? No hugs, no kisses, no hand-shakes, no pat on the shoulder.
The ten lepers
knew exactly how far they were required to stand from the public. There they stood
and yelled: "Jesus, Jesus, have mercy on us!" They had heard about Jesus,
they wanted alms, they needed food, maybe they had heard about Jesus' ministry of
yourselves to the priests," Jesus yells back. What does that mean? O the
Lepers knew what that meant. They were familiar with the traditions of the Torah. It
meant that Jesus had arrested the disease, because according to the law of Moses, the only
way for a leper to be reinstated into the community was to show him or herself before the
priest to be examined. And only if the examination came out positive were you
allowed to return to society.
In my mind's
eye, I can see our lepers walk, hobble, scoot, lurch to the priest's house, and on their
way--one after another discovers, "I am clean, look my boils are gone, look my wounds
are healed." And now they're really picking up the speed. They can't wait
to become fully rehabilitated into society again.
Yet, there is
one, 1 out of 10, who stops short in his track. And he is the foreigner too. He
says, "wait a minute! Look at that--I'm healed, I'm really healed! That
teacher healed me. I've got to go back and thank him." And so he runs
back and, as he approaches Jesus, who was probably still preaching, the text says:
"One of them, when he realized that he
was healed, came back. He threw himself at Jesus' feet, and thanked him."
It is at this point that Jesus asks some
questions that cut to the heart. He says: "Did I not heal ten? Where are
the other nine? Was there nobody else who came back to praise God exept this one.
And he is a foreigner."
The truth is that we were all lepers at one point; people without
purpose, people without hope, people without salvtion, without God. We all were
living a life of sin and destruction, without Godly values and dignity. We were
living egotistical lives, not caring for our neighbor and we removed ourselves from God
and from the communion with God's people.
We were sick people, sick unto death. We were in that leper
colony--isolated from the community because of our own choice, awaiting certain death.
The only difference between a real leper colony of the first century and us was
that they knew they were going to die, and we thought that this is the life. We were
even blind to our own sin and depravity.
And God could have said, "o well, if these people chose to be
away from me and if they don't want to be healed, then there is nothing I can do.
But as we have sung earlier, God is a God of Love, not just any love, but amazing love.
He could have left us alone in the leper community, but he decided in
His great love and mercy to cross over into the "quaranteed" area, he sent His
own begotten son Jesus Christ to heal us of our sins and to give us new life. And
it's not like he hasn't tried anything else before. No before that he sent his
prophets, but we wouldn't listen, we wouldn't get it.
And God, in His amazing love, doesn't just do it once, but in many
cases, He does it again and again, calling us, beckoning us, gently pulling us.
And are we who have been healed, who have been given new life, and
are we really living a life of thankfulness toward our God? Do we have the attitude
Jesus has done it all for us, he has healed us, he has already given
us an eternal spiritual body, we have been born again, from above, into a new spiritual
life. And if that's the only thing God ever does for us--that's enough, because that
is the greatest gift of all, it's the thing that matters most. And even if life
around us is falling apart, we should be thanking Jesus every minute of our lives for the
gift of the forgiveness of our sins, for our salvation, for eternal life. When we
wake up in the morning, the first thought should be a prayer of thanks, we should call
upon our heavenly Father and say: "Father, thank you for a new day. I didn't
deserve that, but you are giving me another day." We should be thankful in all
that we do, and receive out of God's hands with thankfulness even the tough things in
And what does reality look like. Well, it looks more like in
our Scripture text this morning. Only one out of ten comes back to Jesus. Only
one shows his thankfulness. Only one has the attitude of gratitude.
And sadly, this is true for the church of Christ as well. We
soon forget about that great gift of new life, our healing from sin and death, and we
begin to think that we are entitled. That we are entitled to have the best in life,
to enjoy a good reputation. And even in church we think, we are entitled to be payed
respect, or to be heard over others, because of who we are in the community, or how much
we contribute, or how much we do for the church. We think we are entitled to these
But does God promise us any of these things we think we're entitled
to? I don't think so. Here is what we are entitled to in this life. I am
reading from 2. Peter 4:12 and Jesus himself said: "the pupil is not greater
than the master, brace yourself for persecution." Nowhere in the entire bible does
God guarantee us an easy life in this-worldly standards. But he does guarantee us
salvation and eternal life and inner peace and joy inspite of adversity, he promises us to
be by our side always and anywhere, and He calls us to the love and support of the people
Sadly, even church-going people are saying in sync with the world,
"what can I get out of it?" And God is saying: "it's not what the
church of Christ can do for you, but what you can do for the Lord."
Today Jesus is calling us to a life of gratitude and thankfulness.
Am I going to be the one that returns? Am I going to be the one that lives a
life of thankfulness before him? Am I going to be the one that is loyal to Jesus for
saving me, forgiving me, and giving me the ultimate gift of life?
I want to be the one, I want to belong to the 10% that are loyal to
him, that always and everywhere thank God for anything. I want to be loyal to my
Lord who did so much for me. I cannot stand the thought of him asking in my absence:
"and where is Frank, didn't I heal him too? Didn't I give him new life?"
Why isn't he here to thank me."
Do you want to be the one? Let's be faithful to Jesus and return to
him today, giving him thanks for all he has done for us. Amen.