October 24, 2004: Where Are The Other Nine?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we all know how easy it is to formulate excuses when we are forgetful.  We also know that when blessings come our way, it is easy to get so caught up in them that we sometimes forget to thank You for handing them out.  Today, as we sit surrounded by more blessings than we can recount, accept our thanks and inspire in us a spirit of ongoing gratitude.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 17: 11-19

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

This familiar lesson of the 10 lepers is often the gospel for Thanksgiving worship.  More than once I’ve preached on it and more than once you’ve heard sermons based on it.  Many years ago, one of our elderly members (who was much younger then) attended one of our Thanksgiving Eve services.  This text was the focal point that night.  Afterwards, as we were shaking hands at the door she looked up at me and said: “Where are the other nine?”  Of course, she was referring to the fact that many members weren’t in attendance that night.  Not knowing the motives of those folks or their schedules, I immediately began to make excuses for them.—“Well, some are traveling, some have people visiting, some get off work late, others are preparing for tomorrow.”  Still, she shook her head and said: “That’s not good enough.  They needed to be here tonight.  They needed to thank God.”  After her rather precise sermon to me, I simply had to nod my head in agreement and say: “You’re right!”

Of all the things we do in life, nothing is more important than thanking God.  That’s a mouthful, but it’s true.  For in taking time, in making time to thank Him, we’re showing a spirit of love and gratitude.  We’re showing Him who we are as people, as Christians.  And we’re also giving Him great joy.  Giving God joy is a profound concept.  Making His heart sing for joy by giving, showing, and saying “Thanks!” is even more amazing than the Red Sox winning the ACLS against the Yankees!  And so, today, I ask you:



Now, this lesson is a miracle text.  And what a miracle it was!  In our day leprosy isn’t such a dread disease as it can be cured and treated with modern antibiotics.  But, in Christ’s day, there was no cure.  Leprosy was awful.  If you contracted it you were immediately ostracized by society and cut off from family, friends, and everyone else.  You had to go and live in leper colonies where you subsisted on scraps of food until you died.  If you went for a walk, you had to shout: “Unclean, unclean” for all to hear.  You could not come within 100 or so feet of other people under the pain of death.  And the reason they instituted such tough quarantines was that the disease could be passed from person to person and it was hideous.  It ate away your fingers, toes, nose, and then went on to destroy arms and legs before death ensued.

Obviously, these 10 lepers knew who Jesus was.  We see that in how they address Him.  “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  No doubt, they have heard people discussing this great prophet and the miracles He has wrought.  And now, in His presence amid their own hopelessness, hope is standing before them!  Maybe, just maybe, He can heal them, too!  And so they take the chance and ask Him.

As God’s eternal Son, Jesus has all power.  He has power to create and power to destroy.  He has power to heal.  He has power to not only make the body clean and pure, but also to make the heart and soul pure, too.—Just as He did for little Anthony this morning in baptism.   For Christ is the author of life itself.  And because Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” and these men were definitely the “lost” of their society, He now acts.  He simply tells them: “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

We may wonder at that comment.  Why the priests?  The answer is: only the priests could examine a leper and determine whether or not he or she was healed.  Only they had the power in that society to determine whether or not they would be allowed back into the masses.  It’s simply the way it was done.  Today we see little connection between physical health and spiritual health.  Doctors’ roles and pastors’ roles are considered distinct and separate.  But not so at this time.  The Jews considered physical health  and spiritual well-being as one.  Hence this custom.

“And as they went, they were cleansed.”  We don’t know how far down the road they went before they noticed that their bodies were healed.  But, we do know that they must have been overjoyed at it all.  Those of you that have experienced great pain in life—imagine how you would feel if immediately it ceased!?  Those of you who have had cancer, imagine how awed you would be if someone simply spoke a word of comfort to you and your cancer disappeared!  No doubt, thoughts of long-lost families and friends came to mind.  No doubt, they were in a hurry to be reunited in the loving arms of joyful embrace.


“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.”  Only one returns to thank God and to thank Christ for this blessing.  Obviously he must have told the others what he was doing and where he was going as he split off from them.  So, they, too, had the opportunity to turn back with him.  But, none did.  And when this Samaritan, this non-Jew, this man who would have been considered a heathen by all, reached Christ, he fell at His feet and poured out his gratitude.

Jesus then asked him: “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then He said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”

This cleansed Samaritan knew Who Jesus was.  He knew that Jesus was the Son of God for this miracle proved it!  And the small flame of faith within him just had to express itself.  It had to say: thank you!  After all, faith and gratitude go hand-in hand, don’t they?  Isn’t gratitude simply an expression of faith?   Moreover, as a result of expressing his gratitude and faith, this man also received an even greater blessing than mere cleansing from leprosy.  He received forgiveness for all his sins.  Christ cleansed His heart just as He had his body.  And the tool Jesus used was again,  simple words.

Where are the other nine?  Those are sad words from our Savior.  And if we’re honest, we must confess that sometimes they have applied to each of us.  And yet, we have an opportunity to rectify that situation.  For in giving God our daily thanks, in regularly honoring Him in worship, in an active prayer life, in ongoing communion, in recalling our baptism and seeking to live up to His high calling of us—in all those things we can take His sadness away.  And in the process, just like this unnamed fellow, we receive even more and greater blessings.  Some might look at this lesson and conclude: “Well, I guess 90% of people are ingrates.”  But, that must also mean that the other 10% are very special to God.  I don’t know about you, but I kind of like being special to God.   Amen