September 18, 2022 A+D
St. Luke 17: 11-19
NO SERMON AUDIO
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We are familiar with the healing of the 10 lepers. Jesus heals all 10 but doesn’t tell them He has healed them. He only tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they go, they discover they have been healed. One returns, worshiping Christ and thanking Him. Jesus condemns the nine who did not return. The problem is not just general ingratitude. The problem is that they don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah and therefore do not worship Him. We must learn to watch for this in our own lives, that we become complacent or entitled or focus on the wrong things, that we do not become grateful for creation but take forgiveness and salvation for granted. We need to keep our eyes on the one thing needful: we belong to Christ.
Ingratitude implies a rejection of God. This hardness leads to further sin and eventual judgment. St. Paul teaches that unbelievers are without excuse. The invisible attributes of God are seen in creation. All humans know there is a God but they do not glorify Him as God, nor are they thankful. Professing to be wise, they become fools, and change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (Ro 1:18–23). That sounds harsh. Paul says that it doesn’t matter how much pagans might say thank you to their false gods. Since they do not know the forgiveness of sins in the cross and do not worship Jesus, their gratitude is a fake as their idols. True thankfulness is rooted in the Gospel.
In another place St. Paul teaches that giving thanks to God is the status quo of saving faith.
Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:15–17 (NKJV)
Therefore all of our life in Christ—whether in worship, at meals, or otherwise—should be thanksgiving. This is not generic gratitude. Even pagans should be thankful for the beauty and bounty of creation. All Americans should be thankful for constitutional rights. Everyone in the world should be able to see the goodness of penicillin. But that is not faith and while it is seemly it is not pleasing to God.
Consider Simon the Pharisee. He might have been thankful for Jesus teaching at his house but he treated Him poorly. He did not recognize Him as the Messiah and worship Him. Meanwhile a woman, who was a sinner, brought an alabaster flask of costly oil. She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair and anointed them with the oil. Simon found the display unsettling. He judged the woman to be a sinner and Jesus to be less than a prophet.
Jesus then told this parable: “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both.” He then asks Simon who loved the creditor more. Simon answered “The one whom He forgave more.” Jesus then applies the parable directly to forgiveness. The woman has been much forgiven so she loves much. Simon is too self-righteous to be forgiven. So he loves not enough. Jesus then says the same thing to the woman that He says to the Samaritan leper: “Your faith has saved you.”
The Samaritan leper returned because he recognized that Jesus was the great high priest that mattered, the antitype to all of the Temple and ceremonial Law. He healed the Samaritan of more than a terminal illness of the body. He healed him of sin. It doesn’t matter what the other nine think of him, for not being a Jew, for not following Jesus’ instructions about going to the Temple, about overreacting and nerding out about how great Jesus is. He is forgiven and healed. He has been brought into Jesus’ family, is His beloved. Even if he relapses into leprosy, is judged harshly by the world, rejected by his family, all is well. Jesus lives. Jesus receives Him. And no one who believes in Jesus dies.
The temptation to not embarrass the pagans is strong. Outward acts of polite piety seem like a reasonable solution. Why go upsetting the Jews or Simon or Academia? The devil says we can have the best of both worlds: we can belong loosely to Jesus and to the world, getting all of the benefits of Christianity and none of the cross. That is a false, misleading dream. Jesus wants more than outward acts. He wants all of us, all that He bought: heart, mind, and soul. Take the risk. Suffer the embarrassment. Love much for you have been forgiven much. Praise Jesus with a loud voice, thanking Him. You belong to Him. Nothing else really matters.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.