Turned to Thanks (Luke 17:11-19)

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Why does pain exist[1]? Is pain one of God’s mistakes, that if there were a do-over he would eliminate?

–          Several years ago, Dr. Paul Brand received a several-million-dollar grant for the express purpose of designing an artificial pain system. He knew that people with diseases like leprosy and diabetes were in grave danger of losing fingers, toes and even entire limbs simply because their warning system of pain had been silenced. Dr. Brand had the assignment to design a substitute pain sensory system to alert the human body to danger.

–          They studied acceptable and harmful pressures on various nerves (difference between gripping a railing and a rose thorn). They created a glove with sensors on the fingertips that when hurtful pressure was being applied gave an audible signal…tried again with blinking lights but each of these signals were ignored by those numb to pain. They had to resort to electric shock because people had to be forced to respond; simply being alerted to danger was not enough. The stimulus had to be unpleasant in order to protect.

–          In the end, the project was stopped after 5 years of work, thousands of man hours and several million dollars; re-creating a pain system was just too complex and sophisticated.

–          Dr. Brand says, “As a physician I’m sure…Ninety-nine percent of all the pains that people suffer are short-term pains: correctable situations that call for medication, rest, or change in a person’s lifestyle…Pain is often seen as the great inhibitor, keeping us from happiness. But I see it as a giver of freedom…Thank God for pain!”[2]

–          Pain is essential to recovery. It is not God’s great goof. Pain is a gift from God but unfortunately nobody wants it.

▪          In OT times, leprosy was the deadly disease that cancer is today.

▪          Leprosy was so feared that anyone having the disease was banished from society.

  • Skin patch discoloration
  • Skin patch spread externally on body & internally to organs
  • Tumors appear & Tissue disintegrates to deform hands/feet
  • Nerve endings destroyed
  • Leviticus 13:45-46 “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.”

–          YET, the NT reminds us that pain is unavoidable for the believer
“In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
“and the power of his resurrection and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Php 3:10)
“endure hardship” (2Timothy 2:3)


EXAMINE             Luke 17:11-19         3 reasons why we can be thankful, even in painful circumstances

Jesus is approachable (17:11-13).

In Luke’s Gospel, this is the third timeJerusalemis mentioned as Jesus’ destination (9:51; 13:22). The point is that Jesus knew his mission was a cross and death inJerusalem. Even further pointing out geography, Luke references that Jesus was passing betweenSamariaandGalilee. Most Jews would have no dealings withSamaria. It was a nation of mixed race – Jews & Assyrians (Gentiles) and considered ungodly. Yet, Jesus entered such a village. He goes to all people. Lostness, hopelessness, sickness, suffering and death permeated his mission.


As Jesus entered the village he is met by 10 lepers. As mentioned, lepers were viewed as unclean and untouchable. Apparently, this group is considered a complete outcast because not only are they leprous but they are mixed with Jews & Samaritans together (v.16). They know this themselves and stay at a distance from Jesus. But in hope they still cry out to Jesus for mercy and healing. The point is that they knew Jesus’ identity. Jesus’ reputation had preceded him such that 10 exiled lepers still had hope that Jesus cared and could help.


ð      Do you think no one cares about your life or circumstances? Jesus does.

  • Lift up your voice and pray. — > Is going to Jesus in prayer your first resort or last? Jesus wants to be first.
  • Identify Jesus as Master, Lord – submit to His authority in your life
  • Humbly request mercy. This implies recognition of deserving judgment.
  • Prayer is knowing Jesus personally as Master & Lord
  • Prayer is humbly requesting mercy. This implies recognition of deserving judgment.
  • Prayer is believing His power and acting on His promises.


Psalm 16; 18:1-6; 77:1-14, 19


ð      Do you view others as unapproachable? Jesus didn’t.

  • No person, place or pain is unapproachable by Jesus and God’s mercy. We must enter the pain of our cities, communities and homes as an incarnational witness.

Romans 10:13

Jesus is compassionate (17:14-16).

In response to the lepers’ cry, Jesus told them to go in faith of their healing. Lepers had strict ceremonial laws to follow in getting inspected and approval from a priest and allowing time for healing before re-entrance into the community (Leviticus 13 – 14). In essence, Jesus was telling them to act in faith as though they would be healed.


Luke says, “when Jesus saw them…” he responded in compassion and healed them. As Christians, we must see people… not as objects, or projects; but as real people, like us, who have a desperate need of God’s mercy.

ð      What will it take for you to see people and respond in compassion?

ð      Where and to whom is God calling you to give compassion?

  • Start compassion at home.
  • Share compassion to one another as believers
  • Spread compassion beyond church; “as you go…”


Luke says, “as they went they were cleansed”. And upon their healing, one leper turned back in gratitude for Jesus’ compassion. His model of response to God’s grace was 1) Turn to God, 2) Praise loudly, 3) Gratefully and humbly worship. It is important to remember that faith is more than just mental assent or good intentions. Faith is not just a noun but a verb – an action to be lived out. God’s grace works in cooperation with our faith. Our faith must be moving faith {our faith moves mountains when it first moves us} – moving and compelling us to action. Be careful… this is not saying salvation and healing is a result of our works; it is only God’s declaration of healing. So, as a result Christian faith is not a works salvation but a salvation that works!


ð      Where or what in your life do you need to start moving in faith?


Jesus is justifier and judge (17:17-19).

After the one leper gave appropriate recognition and gratitude, Jesus asked a series of questions about the other nine healed lepers. I do not believe these were rhetorical questions but questions to the healed leper. Where were they? Some to consider:

–          Perhaps they assumed Jesus already knew their appreciation; Jesus knows everything ya know!

–          Perhaps they became too busy enjoying their new found freedom.

–          Perhaps they didn’t know where to find Jesus since he was a traveling man.

–          Perhaps they really were ungrateful.

Judge: Jesus’ questions show his expectations

Justifier: Jesus’ healing/saving of the man shows His power and grace

These cause us to reflect as though today, Jesus questions His Church concerning the indifference and ungrateful attitudes that pervade our own lives.

ð      Gratitude and Worship are the defining marks of true believers

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Revelation 4:9 “[all] creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne”

ð      Ungratefulness is leprosy of the soul.


µ      Thanksgiving is not just a day but a decision to recognize God and His gifts. No one is forced to be ungrateful or indifferent, but it happens by choice. Will you decide to be turned to thanks?


[1] Idea explored in Where is God when it hurts?  by Philip Yancey.

[2] Ibid. p.34, 44

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