Our theme for this year is called Overflow as we look at various characteristics that we are to overflow with as the people of God. Our text for the year for our consideration is John 7:37-39.
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37–39 ESV)
Jesus says that people who believe in him will have rivers of living water flowing from their hearts. We come to Jesus and drink living waters and then our hearts are able to have living waters flow from us to others. So we have asked this question each month for our consideration: what flows out of you? What would people say flows from your heart and from your life? We have come to a time of the year that is exciting for many. We call this time Thanksgiving. It is a time of the year when we are asked to stop and think about what has happened to us and be thankful. Now this year might be a little more challenging to be thankful. This year has been a rough year. Yet God wants us to overflow with thankfulness, even in a rough year like this. Listen to the apostle Paul.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 ESV)
So how can we be thankful, even in a year like we have had this year in 2020? How can we be people who overflow with thanksgiving? Open your copies of God’s word to Luke 17:11-19 and we are going to look at Jesus’ teaching to help us overflow with thanksgiving.
The Condition and Cry (17:11-13)
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. As Jesus is on his way, he enters a village where ten lepers encounter him, though they stand far away. These ten lepers are standing far away because that is what was required in the Law of Moses. Listen to what the Law said regarding people who had these skin conditions.
The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45–46 ESV)
We can understand this picture a little bit in 2020. If someone has tested positive for Covid, what are you going to do with that person? You are going to stay far away. You are not going to that person’s house. You are not having that person in your house. You are going to limit your interaction with that person. In fact, even with Covid, the person who has tested positive is supposed to live in quarantine. Imagine living that way for more than 14 days but for years. Imagine that no one was allowed to come near you for years. You have to live alone for years. You have to stay away from society in a time when there is not technology. You cannot call someone. You cannot text someone. You cannot Facebook, tweet, or snap someone. You are just cut off from the world. We have to understand that their lives are over at this point. You do not have a life.
So the ten lepers are standing at a distance like they are supposed to do. They are following the law. But they are crying out to Jesus. Listen to what they are yelling. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” These ten understand that Jesus has the power to do something. They do not look at Jesus as just another teacher. They do not see him as merely a rabbi who is teaching good things about God. They understand that Jesus has the power to do something about their condition. They are crying with loud voices to Jesus as they stand far away from him. Master, have mercy on us! Master, have mercy on us!
Now what Jesus says and does is strange. Jesus tells these ten to go show themselves to the priest. The reason you would go show yourself to the priest is because you have been healed from your skin disease and the priest was to verify your cleanliness so you could be allowed back into society. It would be like needing two negative Covid tests today before you can go back to work. You would not take the test while you are still sick. But Jesus is telling these lepers to go see the priest while they still have the skin condition. It does not make sense. But notice that these ten lepers do what Jesus says. Even though it did not make sense, verse 14 declares some powerful words. “And as they went they were cleansed.” They are on their way to wherever the priest is in whatever city he may be found and, as they are going, they are cleansed.
The Question (17:15-18)
But this is not the point of the account. Look at verses 15-16. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praised God with a loud voice, and fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. He is on the ground thanking Jesus. You can imagine the thanks and the praise that this man is offering. This man just got his life back. He was destined to death but Jesus has given him life. He was destined to remain an outcast, but Jesus has restored him to society. He was destined to be alone, but Jesus has brought him back into the community. What a beautiful picture of gratitude that we see in this man!
But Jesus asks an important question in verse 17. “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Where is everyone else? Look at verse 18. “Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Is no one else going to come back and give thanks to God? Is no one else going to come back and praise God? Why didn’t all ten of them return?
Now think about what has happened for a moment. If you could ask the other nine who were healed, do you think they would say that they were grateful for the healing? Do you think they were excited that they no longer had this terrible skin disease? Do you think they were say that they were thankful for what Jesus did? Yes! But the problem is that they did not express it. The problem is that they did not come back to Jesus and tell him. The problem is that they did not praise God for their healing.
This is the problem that Jesus is identifying. We think that we are thankful in our hearts. But if we do not express our thankfulness, then you are not thankful at all. Rather, not expressing thanksgiving actually shows ingratitude. That is what is happening in this scene. The other nine are certainly grateful for what has happened to them. But they did not use what had happened to them to draw closer to Jesus and give him thanks. They did not use what had happened to them to praise God and give their new life to him.
The Result (17:19)
But one person did return to Jesus and it is going to be life changing. Look at verse 19. Jesus tells this one man who returned to thank him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you” (CSB). You may have a translation that says, “Your faith has made you well.” But you will notice that the reading as a footnote that says that the Greek literally is, “Your faith has saved you.” I think this is the right reading because 10 people were healed. But this one who has come back to Jesus is saved. He is experiencing something more than what the other nine experienced. All ten were healed but one is experiencing so much more because he came back to Jesus with thanksgiving.
So what is Jesus teaching us? Jesus is teaching us that feeling grateful is not enough. It was not enough for the ten to think about how great it was that they were healed. It was not enough to just think about being thankful. Jesus is teaching us that thanksgiving must be expressed, not merely felt.
We need to tell other people that we are thankful for them. We need to tell people that we are grateful for who they are in our lives and what they mean to us in our lives. Think about how the apostle Paul started almost every letter he wrote that we have in the scriptures. “I give thanks to my God always for you…” (1 Corinthians 1:4). Paul would tell others how he thanked the Lord for them. Thinking it was not enough. Feeling it was not enough. Paul always expressed his thanksgiving to others. If we do not tell people that we are thankful for them, then they will never know. Not only will they never know, our lack of words will come off as ingratitude. We might feel thanksgiving but others will see it as ingratitude. As the people of God we are to overflow with thanksgiving and that means we express it in words to others.
Not only this, we need to tell the Lord that we are thankful to him. We need to feel gratitude toward God and we need to express gratitude to God. Is it not shocking that only one person returns to thank Jesus? It is hard to believe considering what Jesus did for them. You have to see your healing to overflow with thanksgiving. Our appreciation to God will only come when have a desperation from our condition. We need to see that we are the lepers in this account. We are the ones who are cut off from God, living alone, and destined for death. Jesus has come and has been merciful to us. Jesus has come and has freed you from your sins. Now what will you do next? What you do next is everything, according to Jesus. Ten are healed but only one is saved. You can be healed but you are missing out on more if you are not returning to Jesus expressing praise and deep thanksgiving.
Think about how easy it is to fall into this trap. It is so easy to take for granted what Jesus has done for us. There is a reason that God has given us so many symbols and memorials so that we would not forget but continue to be grateful every day for what Jesus has done for us. But I want us to think about how thanksgiving could be the very thing that we are lacking that is keeping us having the relationship that God wants us to have. Let us return to verse 19. What does Jesus say that this person has? He has faith. How was his faith expressed? His faith was not fully expressed until he came back to Jesus with thanksgiving. The interest of the other nine was superficial. They got what they wanted out of Jesus. But by doing so, they missed so much more. This one desired to worship and give glory to God because he truly loved Jesus and believed in him. Thanksgiving shows that we did not just get what we wanted out of God. Thanksgiving shows that we are in this for far more than what we have received. A lack of thanksgiving shows a lack of salvation. Hearts full of thanks which is expressed through our lives and through worship shows that we truly appreciate what Jesus has done for us. Giving thanks is an expression of saving faith. Even in a year like 2020, we have so much to be thankful for in our lives. The most important thanks we must offer is that we were destined to death but Jesus has given us eternal life and another day to come to him and praise him. Jesus gave you your life back. Thank him for it in your life.