Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reason for Thanksgiving

The Grateful Living: Part 2

In part 1 we looked at how ingratitude is part of the human condition. No matter what God has done for us in the past it always seems that we take a “what have you done for me lately approach”. Humans are just not very grateful.

Thanksgiving should be a mark of a follower of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:
6 So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live in him. 7 For you have been rooted in him and are being built up and strengthened in the faith, just as you were taught, while you overflow with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7; ISV)

We should be thankful for all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Even if God doesn’t do another single thing for us besides what He has already done we have enough to be eternally grateful.

I ended part 1 with the encounter Jesus had with 10 lepers. Since this is what will be the foundation for what I have to say about gratitude let me provide you with some context for what is happening in Luke 17:11-19.

After the raising of Lazarus the Sanhedrin has made it clear that Jesus is to be arrested. Jesus is aware that His time hasn’t arrived so He moves toward Galilee and further away from the influence of the Sanhedrin. There he spends time laying low in a village called Ephraim, but now spring has arrived and Jesus begins the journey back to Jerusalem for the final time. This marks Jesus’ final teaching tour and a large crowd follows him from Ephraim down to Jerusalem.

Traveling between Galilee and Samaria, Jesus is about to enter one the the border villages when he is hailed by a group of lepers. It appears that in this group there were nine Jews and one Samaritan. Ordinarily the Jews would not have been seen with a Samaritan, but their common fate has brought them together. (Mark Moore, pg. 95, The Chronological Life of Christ: From Galilee to Glory)

In Leviticus 13 God provided to Israel the regulations for dealing with those people with leprosy. But from there religious leaders, rabbis, and scholars added to what God had said.

Leprosy was not merely the emblem of sin, but of death, to which, so to speak, it stood related, as does our actual sinfulness to our state of sin and death before God. Even a Rabbinical saying ranks lepers with those who may be regarded as dead. They were excluded from the ‘camp of Israel,’ by which, in later times, the Talmudists understood all cities walled since the days of Joshua, who was supposed to have sanctified them. Lepers were not allowed to go beyond their proper bounds, on pain of forty stripes. For every place a leper entered was supposed to be defiled. They were, however, admitted to the synagogues, where a place was railed off for them, ten handbreadths high and four cubits wide, on the condition of their entering the house of worship before the rest of the congregation, and leaving it after them. (The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, Alfred Edersheim, pg. 286)

True, as wrapped in mourner’s garb the leper passed by, his cry “Unclean!” was to incite others to pray for him--but also to avoid him. No one was even to salute him; his bed was to be low, inclining towards the ground. If he even put his head into a place, it became unclean. No less a distance than four cubits (six feet) must be kept from a leper; or, if the wind came from that direction, a hundred were scarcely sufficient. Rabbi Meir would not eat an egg purchased in a street where there was a leper. Another Rabbi boasted, that he always threw stones at them to keep them far off, while others hid themselves or ran away. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pg. 342, Alfred Edersheim)

So once again we see that our Lord’s response to Lepers was not the typical response. He listened to their plea rather than running them off. He had compassion on them rather than judging them (since leprosy was thought to be a sign of some terrible sin). He healed them rather than ignoring them.

These lepers demonstrate faith. Not only do the appeal to Jesus for help, but they leave to show themselves to a priest before they were healed. It is only after they respond in faith that they were healed. In part 3 we will explore the first of the two different responses to they lepers had to this remarkable gift.

Point to Ponder: Thanksgiving should be a mark of a follower of Jesus Christ.
Passage to Remember: Colossians 2:6, 7
Question to Consider: Why should you be grateful to God?

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