There is another version of the Offertory, a song which is giving thanks to God, which is based of Psalm 116:17-19. Here’s what these verses say, “I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.”
As we sit around tables loaded with food, as we visit and surround ourselves with family and friends, as we watch football and take naps in our recliners and couches … we’re thankful, that’s for sure … but how much do we sacrifice? Even with the price of everything going up, how much do we sacrifice? And how much of what goes on with this Thanksgiving holiday or any day of our life for that matter, is done as means of giving glory to God? Most of what happens at Thanksgiving and our lives is probably done for ourselves. I couldn’t help but think about this in light of our Gospel reading from Luke 17.
In Luke 17, we’ve got Jesus on a mission. His eyes are set to Jerusalem. He’s got work to do there. His mind is set and focused on suffering and dying. He’s relentless in getting the job done. Nothing is going to slow Him down. He’s on the way to sacrifice His life as a ransom, as a payment for many others, for sinners who are undeserving of such great love and sacrifice, for you and me.
But along the way there are these lepers, these ten people with a nasty and highly spreadable disease. These lepers have to live outside of the city, separated from everyone else. They are considered a nuisance to society. Who’s got time for them? Worse yet, one of them is not even an Israelite. He’s an outsider, a mutt, a two-time loser as he’s a Samaritan and a leper. Why on earth would Jesus stop? He doesn’t have time or need to worry about contracting leprosy. He’s got a higher calling to fulfill.
But when Jesus gets within earshot, these lepers yell at Him, they cry out to Him, they beg Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13).
With a disease like leprosy and without any sort of modern medication or procedures, these lepers were as good as dead. Eventually their flesh is going to rot off completely. There’s no hope for them, so why even slow down? Jesus should just keep on going toward Jerusalem where He has work to do. And besides, if they’re going to just die anyway, why slow down to only give them some spare change or buy a loaf of bread? They can be forgiven for not seeing the big picture right? … But the thing is … Jesus sees the big picture. Jesus is going to Jerusalem not for Himself but to save the world, to save people like these lepers.
As the lepers cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”, Jesus doesn’t pretend to not hear them. No, Jesus stops. Jesus stops and immediately says to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). “Go to Jerusalem and show yourselves to the priests.” When you think about it, that makes sense. The priests are in Jerusalem and Jesus is heading to Jerusalem as well. They can all meet up together and maybe Jesus can do something for them then.
But there’s a twist. When Jesus says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests”, He’s telling them to follow the biblical procedure for lepers who had been healed. Had been. Jesus is telling them to show themselves to the priests because as they were going, they were going to be healed from their skin rotting disease. While they are still diseased, Jesus tells them to act as if they’re healed and are no longer outcasts from society.
And that is what happens. As they run along to show themselves to the priests, they’re healed. Jesus gave them the gift of healing and He gave them a new life … all with His words.
All ten of them run off, all ten of them are healed, one stops. One stops. The other nine, they kept on running. But one stops. This one who stops … he’s the mutt, he’s the two-time loser. The Samaritan leper stops and turns back. He turns back because he knows who healed him. He knows who gave him the mercy he asked for. The Samaritan runs back and throws himself down at the feet of Jesus. At His feet, the Samaritan is cleansed, he is whole. A new life has been gifted to him. A healed life. A complete life with Jesus.
But where are the other nine? Why is it that only one comes back and gives thanks to God? And even Jesus is astonished. “Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18 NLT). This foreigner isn’t even an Israelite. He’s actually one who is despised by the Jewish people! But that is exactly the way of Jesus’ divine love. His divine love ignores prejudices. It risks betrayal. It runs up against unbelief. Jesus’ diving loves accepts that some, if not most, will refuse this gift.
Jesus looks at this Samaritan and says, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19).
Faith … faith doesn’t trust in itself. It doesn’t look around the table seeing all the food, it doesn’t look around and see the family, the friends, the all so relaxing recliner and couch and say … I did this. These blessings are because of me. No … faith focuses entirely outside of one’s self. Faith focuses entirely on Jesus. On his own, the Samaritan leper would continue on as a two-time loser Samaritan. With Jesus … the Samaritan is healed, he’s restored, he’s got a new life, a new identity. He has this because he’s been received by his Savior. That’s how true faith talks. It doesn’t talk about itself … it says “Thank you!”. “Thank you!” to the One who gives healing and salvation. “Thank you!” to Jesus.
Jesus gives the Samaritan healing and salvation and then continues on to Jerusalem. Jesus continues on to the cross to take up in His body the leprosy of our sin, the sin of each and every mutt, each and every two-time loser, each and every sinner. He takes them away from us, from you. He takes you and cleanses you with His blood, He makes you whole, He gives you a new life with Him.
So what can we possibly offer to the Lord for all the benefits He gives to us? The answer … it’s found in Psalm 116. “I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Simply put … we say, “Thank you!”
And if we get anxious and want to do more than say thank you to Jesus, we can follow the Psalmist a little farther. “call on the name of the LORD.” We can call on Jesus just like the lepers so that He will be with us to bless us.
That’s Jesus’ Good Friday promise to you and me. Jesus always has time for us. He is never too busy! He will always stop and give us the words of eternal life. He will always assure us that His promise is trustworthy. As one pastor put it, “Jesus says, I am your Savior. I died for you. I rose for you. You are forgiven. I baptized you. You are saved. Eat my body. Drink my blood. It’s my last will and testament. You are the heirs of the salvation I won on the cross” (Brent Kuhlman, Thanksgiving Eve Sermon, 2009).
So … what shall we render to the Lord for all His benefits to us? A sacrifice of thanksgiving. We will call on the name of the Lord. We will take the cup of salvation and will call on the name of the Lord. We will give thanks for all the Lord’s graciously given by receiving His gifts and sharing them with others. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.