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And one of them […] turned back […] giving Him thanks.

Friends, on this Thanksgiving weekend, today’s Gospel story from Luke reveals the power of thanksgiving.  

Ten people suffering from leprosy are made clean by Jesus. Only one of them returned to give thanks. And about him, Jesus says, “Arise go your way. Your faith has made you well.” Again, all ten were cleansed and healed. But only the one who returned to give thanks is commended for his faith and said to be made well.

Three different verbs are used here: cleansed; healed; and made well. ‘Cleansed’ means that these ten lepers were made pure after having been ceremonially defiled by the leprosy that barred from worship in the temple and ostracized them from society. ‘Healed’ means they were cured of this physical disease. But only the one who returned to give thanks is made well – a word that can also mean to be ‘saved’ or made ‘whole.’ 

You see, he was not just cleansed and healed of his leprosy, but by his faith expressed in thanksgiving he is made whole, complete.    

What did that one leper do after he was cleansed? How was he saved or made whole?

Luke tells us: he turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus, giving Him thanks.  What a wonderful sentence that is! Every part of it is laden with meaning:  

  1. He turned back. In our pride, we have turned away from God. We must turn back to Him in repentance.   
  2. With a loud voice he glorified God. That is what we are created to do – to exalt and glorify not ourselves, but God our Creator.  
  3. He fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus. What is this? An act of humility – the very opposite of pride.         
  4. He gave thanks to Jesus. There’s our theme for the day: thanksgiving, gratitude, a life lived with deep appreciation for what God has done for you in Jesus Christ.

Turn back. Glorify. Fall down. Give thanks.

Only thus are we made whole. We become who we’re created to be – creatures who glorify and enjoy God with grateful hearts, those who acknowledge our dependence on the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all.  

In the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.