Sep 15, 2013

Luke 17:11-19 -- A Story

If you’re working with Luke 17: 11-19 (where Jesus heals the ten lepers), you might want to take a look at Paul Thigpen’s wonderful re-telling of that story, “Returning Thanks.” If was first published in Lessons in Being Thankful: Twelve Ways to Cultivate a Thankful Heart.  You can find it posted on Just Between Us: Christian Magazine and Ministry.

Update:  For some reason, the story at that site is almost unreadable -- at least, it is on my computer.  If you are also having trouble reading it, I've also posted the story below. But be sure to check out the link above:  Thigpen's story is just the opening to a longer article on gratitude which might inspire some fine Thanksgiving sermons.

Returning Thanks
by Paul Thigpen

Each one of the ten had a tale of personal horror to tell, but the stories were all the same.

The nightmare had crept slowly across their bodies: white patches, lumps in the skin. Then the numbness had crawled up their limbs, stealing the feeling from fingers and toes. Finally, the faces had grown disfigured beyond recognition, and all that remained of the feet were crippled nubs.

Worst of all were the jeers from the children whenever the men passed too near a village. “Lepers!” they screamed, spitting the word like a curse.

So long ago these ten had been young and handsome, healthy and well-to-do, full of desires and dreams. But that seemed like another world, another lifetime. Now they were the walking dead.

One morning, as they approached yet another village to beg, the crowds were cheering the name that for months had spread like a whispered wildfire through the leper colony: Jesus.

The leper-healer from Nazareth stood by the village well, not far from the twisted outcasts. And He was looking their way.

All at once ten hoarse voices erupted in unison: “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!”

He smiled – the first smile turned in their direction for many years – and said simply, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

He hadn’t even touched them. The ten examined one another. Clearly, nothing had changed. Were they once again the butt of a cruel joke?

One of them, a Samaritan, turned back to the road, set his face toward Jerusalem and the temple, and motioned for his comrades to join him. “If the priests throw me out,” he said, “then let the crowds stone me. What’s left to live for?”

He hobbled down the dusty path, his crutch making holes in the scorched clay. And as the others followed, the miracle came. They were cleansed. Suddenly. Totally. Unconditionally.

Nine men shouted and raced down the road like boys in a game, peeling off their rags to welcome the sunshine on their now childlike skin. They never even looked back, never saw again the face whose light had dawned on their darkness and ended their nightmare. But one man – the Samaritan – spun around, ran to Jesus, and flung himself at His feet. Tears spilled down cleansed cheeks. He looked up, trembling, and whispered two words.

“Thank you.”