“…but only one returned to glorify God and fall down to worship Him in gratitude.” Luke 17:15
So, there I was, all of 8 years old and barely able to see over the “grown folks table” as the entire family held hands to pray. Just as I had prepared my strategy to get my small hand on a corner of dressing, my mother made an emphatic request that lingers in my heart to this day. “Before we begin, let’s go around the room and say one thing that we are thankful for…”
In my juvenile panic, my palms began to sweat. My eyes darted back and forth, searching for an exit. There was no evading the continual line of orations heading my way. And suddenly, aggressively, all eyes landed on me. It was my turn…
I can imagine Jesus in His busy schedule, constantly torn between places He had to go and places He was called to. One day in particular, He was passing through a village between Samaria and Galilee. He wasn’t scheduled to be there, but He knew there was a need. There, ten lepers called out to Jesus, begging for Him to have mercy on them and heal them. The condition was greater than the protocol. See, Leprosy was a taboo word and an incurable disease that is still prevalent today. Due to the gross contagiousness of the disease, lepers were sent to communities like this one, away from everyone. They were not allowed to speak to “regular people,” touch them, or have contact. The general thought was to isolate the disease and anything attached to it until it killed itself off and could no longer multiply. But these ten lepers had another plan. They refused to just sit and die, especially when Jesus was passing through.
This poses a moment of pause and introspection. How many spiritual lepers are in our land? How many people are dying from the inside out, isolated from the status quo, and left to fend for themselves? Are YOU struggling with spiritual leprosy? My hope and heart is that if you recognize this condition in yourself, you immediately cry out. Cry out against what people say; cry out beyond borders; cry out to touch your miracle. Jesus is constantly walking through the city. Call out to Him!
Jesus changed the game. Instead of hurrying to get away from the broken, He stopped to speak to them. He didn’t do all the work for them, though. They had to listen beyond their infirmity and follow the directions. Oftentimes, it’s not that people are broken, but rather they refuse to hear beyond their brokenness. Jesus saw them as they were and as they could become. He told them to rise up and go to show themselves to the priests. The Bible says that “as they went, they were healed…” Sometimes the results that we’d like to be immediate are meant to be progressive. As we walk out a path, as we obey God in a venture, as we trust what He has mapped out for our lives, we see the healing. But was healing the true end result?
There was a peculiar one in the bunch. There is always one who goes against the beaten path. He knew that it was a wonderful notion to be able to be seen again in society. To be included again in social life and to reunite with family seems like par for the course when Jesus asks you to go show yourselves to the priests. So why did one come back? Why bother The Master more with further conversation? It was because the transaction was not complete yet…
Consider going to a bank, or a restaurant, or a family gathering and being given impeccable customer service, and not saying thank you. Imagine parents buying gifts and not once hearing a thank you. Jesus did not ask the ten lepers for anything but to follow directions. But sometimes, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth HAD to speak. Sometimes healing is not enough. Thank you will ALWAYS make room for more! And so, one of the ten decided that he’d delay his trip to the priest to speak to a King.
Imagine, if you will, the imagery of Jesus, having done the miracle, excited to go forward in His journey, only to be stopped again. Imagine the joy and excitement to hear “excuse me, my Lord, I know you’re busy…but I just NEEDED to say thank you. You’ve given me what no one could have ever thought possible.” To those within earshot, it was only two words…But to The Master, it was a heart posture! Sometimes, we look for huge swelling words when really the heart speaks louder than the mouth ever could!
Jesus refused to let this act go unnoticed. The Bible says that this leper got more than just healing. If we read too fast, we lose the significance of what happened. Not only was he healed, but from that day, he was made whole. Sometimes we think that healing is the destination, when in fact, it is the first leg of the race. All throughout scripture, we see Jesus asking people if they want to be whole. This is not lost on theologians, who understand the vast difference between healing and wholeness. Healing is tangible. Healing is proof. Oh, but wholeness! Being made whole is reversing the curse forever! It is the act of removing the stain of the heart, memory, and future! He would not be known as merely the healed man. He was known as the WHOLE man. And gratitude opened the door to grace!
Much like the leper that day, I didn’t have much of an appetite after my nerves met the sobriety of labor. My family had slaved over stoves for hours just to speak a love language to me that only the soul could understand. It was no longer about dressing, cakes, or pies. It was about togetherness, love, and the bounty of a place called “home,” whose address was found in the heart. My little hands released the circle. I ran to my Mommy and hugged her tight. “I am most thankful for YOU, Mommy! Thank you and Dad for working so hard to feed us so much.” I guarantee you this; after the tears stopped, I not only got that corner of dressing, but I also got whatever else I asked for. It wasn’t to spoil me; it was because “thank you” had opened the door to more than enough!