“Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’” –Luke 17:18
As Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem, He is approached by ten lepers. The laws about leprosy are clear: they must call out “Unclean!” as they pass by so no one will come to close and potentially catch what they have. But on this day, their calls are different: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” And Jesus does have mercy on them. He heals them from a distance and sends them to the priests to confirm the gift. That’s the first gift.
These “first gifts” are usually the ones that we name quickly when we give thanks or count our blessings. They are the gifts of “eyes, ears, all my members… clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all that I have.” These things are certainly blessings from God, but they are only half the story.
As the ten lepers head off to the priest, all of them receive healing but only one connects the dots and realizes who gave the healing. This leper returns to give thanks to Jesus, acknowledging the God-Man who gave Him his health and life back. In this simple action of returning to Jesus, the leper receives another perhaps deeper gift: faith.
It is faith alone that allows us to give thanks to God for all that He gives. Without faith, Satan will tell us that the good things we have in our lives have come from our hard work, our dedication, our 12-hour days, and our sacrifice. Faith informs us that all these things are gifts from God and His gracious work, His dedication to us in all circumstances, His eternal presence 24/7, and the His sacrifice for us on the cross. As we learn in the Small Catechism: “All of this He does out of fatherly, divine, goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”
As you sit around your table giving thanks this year, be sure to thank God for the faith that He has given you, a faith that enables you to count your other blessings.
Pastor Tom Vanderbilt