Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. -William Arthur Ward
I have always been intrigued by the extraordinary life of a man known simply as Jesus. He was not of this world, but he was born into this space-time continuum with a mission and a message that would alter the course of the human race forever. When he was here on earth (nearly 2000 years ago) He gained quite a reputation around ancient Israel’s Galilee region for his amazing abilities including the power to heal the sick. Imagine him walking along a dusty road on the outskirts of a town when all at once ten lepers see him approaching. From a distance, perhaps just across a footpath or maybe a small field, they began to shout, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
A record of this event can be found in the Newer Testament book of Luke:
11-13 In the course of his journey to Jerusalem, Jesus crossed the boundary between Samaria and Galilee, and as he was approaching a village, ten lepers met him. They kept their distance but shouted out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14-18 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.” And it happened that as they went on their way they were cured. One of their number, when he saw that he was cured, turned round and praised God at the top of his voice, and then fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him. This man was a Samaritan. And at this Jesus remarked, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”
19 And he said to the man, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)
Lepers posed an interesting conundrum. Under Jewish law, they were not allowed to mingle within society. They were considered perpetually unclean and the good people of the community were forbidden to have any physical contact with them. Lepers lived banished lives, dwelling on the fringes of the social order. This is why Jesus never drew near to the lepers nor did he place his hand upon them as he had so often done before when healing the sick.
Now here is what intrigues me: when Jesus saw them, He shouted, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.” Why would he tell them to do that? Again, it has to do with Jewish law at the time. If a leper was truly healed of this horrible affliction, he must go before a priest to validate the cure. Once confirmed, the formerly leprous individual could then obtain permission to mingle again in society.
Given His growing notoriety as a miracle worker, the words that Jesus spoke to the lepers most likely gave them motivation to believe they would be healed. Nonetheless, advising them to visit the priest (before any visible indication of a cure) was a deliberate test of their trust in Him. Evidently they did have faith in Jesus as off went the ten men still manifesting the horrible contagion. Suddenly, as they were walking along, they began to notice their leprosy was disappearing.
One of the ten lepers was a Samaritan. And, just in case you did not know, the Jews at that time hated the Samaritans. They worshiped the same God, but they didn’t get along. This is why Jesus made note of him. When this particular leper saw that he was now cured, he freaked. Wouldn’t you? In his elation the once diseased Samaritan loudly screamed praises to God. But here’s what I really want you to get: filled with gratitude he turned around, found the amazing man from Galilee and “fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him.” (Luke 17:16)
Where were the other nine presumably Jewish lepers? No one really knows. Only this one Samaritan leper returned to give thanks to the Almighty. This did not escape notice. Jesus said, “Weren’t there ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is nobody going to turn and praise God for what he has done, except this stranger?”
Imagine. An obvious miracle has taken place in the lives of ten desperate people but only one stopped to give thanks with a grateful heart for the saving grace and power of God. By the way, did you notice that Jesus credited the leper’s faith for his healing? He said, “Stand up now, and go on your way. It is your faith that has made you well.” Hmmm.
So, ten men took a walk for the cure but only one came back to say thank you. It seems pretty clear to me that leper number ten had the attitude of gratitude. If I were a gambling man, I’d wager he never forgot the lowly Nazarene called Jesus who literally saved his life that day.
Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” – Henry Van Dyke
Paul Harvey, the much beloved American radio broadcaster and writer, passed away in February of 2009. It is estimated that at one time his various programs reached 24 million people each week on over 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations and 300 newspapers. In a 1977 broadcast of his widely popular “The Rest of the Story”, Paul Harvey shared this historic tale,
“It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit a broken down pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.
Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean…For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark…ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. In Captain Eddie’s own words, “Cherry,” that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, “read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off.”
Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking… “Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice.
So, now you know that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker made it. And now you also know…that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, just about sunset, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy eye browed, and slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls…to remember that one solitary gull which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness.” ***
What do a grateful Samaritan leper, an old war hero, and I – a grateful sinner now redeemed by God’s Amazing Grace – have in common? It’s the attitude of gratitude.
Maybe you have something to thank God for today. I hope you will take the time to tell Him. Our Creator loves you no matter what, but I think He likes to hear those two powerful words – THANK YOU – as they fall from your lips. What’s that? Not feeling very thankful right now? Life’s treating you unkindly at the moment? I understand. The Newer Testament writer Paul once wrote,
16-18“Be happy in your faith at all times. Never stop praying. Be thankful, whatever the circumstances may be. If you follow this advice you will be working out the will of God (in your life) as expressed to you in (by) Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – Phillips)
We all experience difficult times in life; we fail, loved ones get hurt or die, and we may struggle with many personal challenges as well. This is spaceship earth, a penal colony for a fallen race. Every moment of love, joy, peace, and happiness is a blessing from above. Remember to count your blessings carefully – and give thanks to the Lord above with a grateful heart.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656