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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

Where Are The Other Nine?

Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

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.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19

The healing of the ten lepers sums up what Jesus is saying, both to His disciples and to the Pharisees. Both groups have been given the great privilege of hearing the word of salvation from the lips of the Savior himself. The Pharisees do not respond with acceptance and gratitude, and they represent the majority of people. But there are always some who, like the penitent sinners and tax collectors, do respond wholeheartedly.

A particular miracle took place in the course of the journey towards Jerusalem that is a living illustration of what Jesus has been teaching. Of the ten men who are touched by the healing power of Jesus, only one realizes that what has happened deserves a personal, heartfelt response to the Savior from whom that power had flowed. Having been privileged to receive all this teaching, which is the message of salvation for all men, we also face the challenge that is spelled out in the words of Jesus, and illustrated by the story of one of Jesus’ great deeds.

It's the challenge to be like the one, and not like the nine – actually turn back, praising God with a loud voice, and fall on our faces at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.

But sometimes we take our prosperity and our blessings for granted, and we forget who they came from – and we forget to “render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.” And then Jesus would ask us, as He asked of the lepers long ago, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

Let me suggest a couple of areas where we sometimes forget to give thanks. First of all, I think of people in our lives. God so often blesses us through people – like our parents, or our children – our husband or wife – our brothers and sisters – grandparents, aunts, and uncles – neighbors, teachers, or pastors. And we need to thank God for the people He’s used to bless us – and thank the people for allowing themselves to be used by God.

My parents brought me into God’s family in baptism when I was a baby, and then taught me, so that I have no memory of any time that I didn’t know and love Jesus as my Savior. And I have thanked them for that. But it was my confirmation pastor that made the Bible come alive and opened God’s Word to me in a new and exciting way. Did I ever thank him for bringing such a blessing into my life? Yes, I did – but barely. I was in seminary almost 40 years after confirmation, and I wrote to Pastor Rydbeck to tell him what I was up to, and to thank him for the way his teachings had influenced my life, and how it now had culminated in God’s calling. He died before I was ordained, but his wife told me how much my letter had meant to him. And when I heard that he had died, I was so glad I’d finally written to him!

My wife did something unusual a number of years ago. (She’s done a lot of unusual things, but I mean in this context!) 😊 She sent her mother a birthday card on her own birthday – after she had 3 children of her own. And she thanked her mother for having her – right in the middle of the Great Depression. She said, “You’re the one who went through the work and the pain – it’s more your day than mine.” And she thanked her mother for the care she’d taken of her, and for putting up with the abuse she’d taken from her – and wished her mother a happy birthday.

How about you? Is there someone you should write to? Or call? Or go see? If there is, thank God for them and then thank them for allowing themselves to be used by God to bless you.

There’s another area I’d mention, where we sometimes forget who gives us what we have, and so we fail to “render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all His blessings.” And again Jesus would ask us, as He asked of the lepers long ago, “Weren’t ten blessed? Where are the other nine?”

This second area I’d mention is our God-given talents and abilities.

· When we do a good job at something, whether it is doing a cross stitch, building a book case, repairing our car, or fixing the plumbing – do we think “How handy we are!” Or do we give thanks to God for our dexterity and the ability to use our hands?

· When we’re able to sing or learn to play a musical instrument well – do we think “How talented we are!” Or do we give thanks to God for the skill He’s given us?

· When we study hard – or hardly study – and get good grades – do we think “How smart we are!” Or do we thank God for our intelligence and our ability to think and concentrate and remember?

· When we work hard and get a raise or a promotion or a bonus – do we think “How industrious we are!” Or do we thank God for our health and strength, our abilities and opportunities?

“Where are the other nine?” Jesus’ question points to the common failure to give thanks. The nine lepers who didn’t return to give thanks had faith enough to ask, but not to thank. They looked to Jesus for help. They even obeyed Jesus’ word without question. They were glad to be healed but felt little gratitude to the Healer.

Are we inclined to ask more often than to thank? When we were delivered from a calamity we perhaps cried out, “Thank God” but did we continue to live each day in gratitude to God? If things have gone well for us, have we remembered to thank God for those good days? If things have gone badly for us, have we been able to thank God for the good that can come to us, even through trials? Can we PTLA: Praise The Lord Anyhow!

“Where are the other nine?” Then, and now, this question points to the common failure to give thanks. We so easily begin to take God’s blessings for granted. In our lives there is more petitioning than praising!

Knowing that we are the most blessed people on earth, we realize that we are to share our blessings with other, less fortunate nations. To be blessed giving, it must be sanctified by love for our Savior, Jesus Christ.

After He had healed the ten lepers, He was bitterly disappointed when only one returned to give thanks. How much greater His disappointment, if those of us whom He has healed from the leprosy of sin are not thankful!

He is our benefactor. When we were enslaved by sin, He set us free. He purchased and won us with the cost of His blood. We were the slaves of Satan, but God made us His children and heirs of salvation. Today we pray for world peace, while thanking our Savior for inner peace.

May the Holy Spirit make us better Americans by making us better Christians. May He bless our land as He has so richly blessed it in the past. And may He bless us and make us a blessing to others.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!!


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