by David G. Woolley
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared in September, but given this weekend of Thanksgiving it seemed, at least to the Top of the Morning Staff, a good replay for the holiday break. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Gratitude. The expression of thanks. Do it and you become a little more like a child. Submissive. Humble. Full of love. You also risk becomimg a beggar. That's right. Say thank you and you place yourself metaphorically below the giver. Less in control. Less the decision maker. Less important. Less status. Weak. And in a world that preys on weakness, does anyone really want to say thank you too often?
When Jesus entered a certain village, ten lepers stood afar off. Ostracized by their neighbors. Not permitted to associate with friends or neighbors. It was an unfair circumstance that led to their exile. A small rod-shaped bacteria, invisible to the eye, infected their hands, feet, nose and mouth. Red lesions appeared first, dark around the edges and pale in the center. The loss of feeling followed. And without sensory perception many of these ten men suffered injury to their faces and disfigurement to their feet. The disease crippled their hands. Some may have lost fingers. And without proper care, bleeding was common, gangrene almost certain.
Leprosy was the most dreaded disease of their time with no cure and little hope to return to the life they were forced to abandon. In a few shorts years after contracting the disease they lost their jobs. Their status in the community. Their friends. Their family. Their entire lives. Is it any wonder that they "lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us?" They were told to present themselves to the priest for a medical examination (Luke 17:12-13).
In the James Christensen painting above, the artist captures the healing moment. The self-examination. The return of feeling to the mouth and nose. The disfigurement melting away. The lesions gone. Their pace quickened and the flowing robes swirled around their no-longer-hobbled feet. It was a moment of joy. A new lease on life. A miracle. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed (Luke 17:14). All that they'd lost was returned. Their health. Their wealth. Their family. Their friends. In a few shorts words the most dreaded disease of their time was healed. Go ahead and click on the painting to enlarge it and see their elation at being made whole.
Healing. It's one of the inspired legacies of Christ's ministry. It's also a metaphor for atonement. In this video clip titled His Hands, there are scenes from the earthly ministry of Jesus healing the lame, the sick, the afflicted. Jesus did for the ten lepers what they could not do for themselves. All were healed, but only one returned to give thanks. He was the tenth leper. The priest could wait. There would be time for a medical examination later.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at [Christ's] feet, giving him thanks.(Luke 17: 15-17) Like all of us, he was a beggar, the one asking for the merciful healing of atonement only Christ can give. And, in the eternal after math of this life, are we not all beggars? (Mosiah 4) Don't we hope for Christ to do for us what we can not do for ourselves? To make us whole?
There were not found any of the lepers that returned to give glory to God, save one stranger. And Jesus said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole (Luke 17:18-19).
Gratitude. It's the beggar's faith in Christ that makes us whole.
Join author David G. Woolley at his Promised Land Website.