What Is Jesus Really Looking For From Us?

Read Luke 17:11-17

Why did only one cleansed leper return to thank Jesus?  The following are nine suggested reasons why the nine did not return:

One waited to see if the cure was real. – One said he would see Jesus later. – One decided that he had never had leprosy. – One said he would have gotten well anyway. – One gave the glory to the priests. – One said, “Oh well, Jesus didn’t really do anything.” – One said, “Any rabbi could have done it.” –  One said, “I was already much improved.”  (from Charles L. Brown)

The suggested excuses probably represent the truth – if not from the text about the nine who failed to give thanks, then certainly for most of us.  We have been blessed by God on numerous occasions in extravagant ways.  We are loved by God from before the foundations of the world.  We have been touched by God’s grace and made alive in Christ.  We have been filled by God’s spirit; encouraged by God’s church; and inspired by God’s word;  yet, after all these blessings have been offered and received, we quickly forget the source of the assistance we had so desperately sought.

So, all this begs the question: “What is Jesus really looking for from us?”

 Leprosy was painful and debilitating illness, replete with all sorts of social and religious stigmas (not unlike HIV or AIDS).  You might say that it was just about the worst thing that could happen in a person’s life.  Lepers were cut off from their homes, their families, their church and the whole of their society.  They were forced to live in groups away from the “healthy” populace, and survived only thanks to the kindness of strangers.  Leprosy was a hopeless existence.  Lepers were often referred to as the “walking dead.”

 To be healed from leprosy was something akin to being raised from the dead.  Healing meant returning to one’s home, one’s family, one’s friends, one’s job.  It was like coming back to life from the grave.  It was the greatest of miracles.  Certainly you would expect that anyone who might receive such a blessing would be eternally grateful.  You’d think that might be the case – but you’d be wrong.  There were 10 lepers in the colony Jesus healed – 10 who received an extraordinary blessing from God.  There were 10 lepers who experienced the resurrection power of grace.  Yet only one returned to say “thank you.”  Ten lepers requested and received mercy; only one paused to express his praise to the One who had wrought this wonderful miracle in his life.

What Jesus was looking for from these lepers – and still looks for from each of us – was more than simply good manners or common courtesy (though these values are woefully lacking in our society).  And Jesus wasn’t seeking praise or glory; some sort of “Ain’t God grand!” kind of confession.  Jesus was seeking something else.  He was exploring whether or not any of the lepers (or any of us) realized that God had given them life through his (Jesus’) touch.  Jesus had revealed the heart of God to these broken-down lepers.  The heart of God was loving, intimate, and willing to reach into our dark places with healing love.  When Jesus touched the lepers, the power of the Holy Spirit worked in a fashion akin to bringing resurrection.   What Jesus was looking for in response went way beyond the ritual of offering gratitude.  Jesus was looking for relationship.  Jesus was not looking for a simple “thank you.”  Jesus was looking for the dawning of faith in a person’s life.

 Following the return of the one leper, Jesus sent him on his way declaring, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well, (Luke 17:19).  What Jesus recognized and commended in the man was not his gratitude but his faith.  What was the content of his faith?  The man realized that Jesus reveal something about God that he’d never thought possible.  Jesus revealed God to be a loving Father who brought healing and hope by his touch. 

Had the other nine been healed?  Absolutely!   Had God the Father reached out and touched them through the Son, in the power of the Spirit.  Without question!  All ten had been healed, redeemed, made whole, been (for all intent and purposes) resurrected.  But it was only one who fully appropriated the gift of god by entering into an intimate relationship. 

The 10th leper, however, came to realize that Jesus brought something from God that was even more important than the removal of leprosy.  It wasn’t enough that he felt the touch of grace and resurrected life.  The 10th leper felt compelled to respond – to offer praise and gratitude.

 It is so easy to go through the motions week after week after week.  We say our prayers, read our Bibles, attend worship gatherings, and acknowledge that God’s grace has saved us.  Isn’t there something more to this enterprise called Christianity?

Or maybe we are more honest.  We know we are beneficiaries of God’s healing touch – but we are not going to pretend to be religious.  We know that religion is not what this new life is all about.  Still, we still miss the point.  It’s not about the religion, but the relationship.  Yet we miss that too.

 Or maybe we are just oblivious to anything deeper.  “Once I was blind, but now I see.”  “Once I was a leper, but now I am made whole.”  It’s just random good luck.  We miss the glorious truth that there is a God who loves us like a Father and brings his blessings into our lives.  We miss relationship as we bumble through our days. 

 Or maybe, just maybe, we sense something more.  Maybe we are like the 10th leper.  Maybe we are so overwhelmed by the blessings of God that we want more.  We run to the God we see revealed in Jesus the Son.  We do more than believe, we cast our whole selves into the arms of this God who has already welcomed us.  We follow this God, not out of obligation, or under burden, but because of love.  We realize that this salvation is not just for the moment, but for eternity, and so we accept this God’s acceptance of us!

 That’s what we call faith!

One Response to “What Is Jesus Really Looking For From Us?”

  1. Good observations, Bill.

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