The Blog: Pastor Parsley's Personal Blog Pastor Rod Parsley

Thankful – Like the One, or the Nine?

11/22/2013 9:00:00 AM — I’ve learned many patterns for prayer over the years – though nothing is better than the one Jesus gave the disciples in what we call the Lord ’s Prayer. But that’s another post for another day. One of those is the acronym ACTS, standing for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

It seems to me that we in the Church too often shorten ACTS to AS. We’re good at telling God He’s great and at asking Him for things. Less so at confessing our sins and thanking Him.

Shortly after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and days before entering Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, Jesus taught His disciples, and us, a lesson in thanksgiving we still need to heed.

The account, found in Luke, may well be familiar to you:
“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus's feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." - Luke 17:11-19, ESV
If Jesus was an efficiency expert, he likely never would have encountered this group of lepers. Lazarus was raised at Bethany, just at the outskirts of Jerusalem. Instead of directly heading to the great city, though, he evaded those who were trying to kill him by heading north, to Ephraim. That put him near the region of Samaria, and one Bible scholar speculates that Jesus may have taken the opportunity to see family and friends in Galilee before heading with them to Jerusalem for Passover. The encounter with the lepers may have occurred in Jericho, east of Jerusalem.

Jesus always agreed to heal those who asked for healing, and this was no exception. He chose not to lay hands on them, but rather directed them to go to the priests. And as they obeyed Jesus, their healing was manifested. Their leprosy was gone and their chance to become part of a family, a community, again was restored.

Think for a minute about how you would have responded to your healing, understanding that it happened because God’s representative – in this case, God Himself – had told you to do something, and you did it. You would be overjoyed, certainly, but then what? You might have lamented all the times you had ignored God’s instructions before that. Maybe that’s what nine of the lepers did. But one returned to offer thanksgiving, leading to Jesus’s remarks. It’s notable that a Samaritan, an outcast among the outcasts, was the one to return to Jesus to give thanks.

Perhaps you have a better track record for giving thanks than the group of nine lepers. But it may also be that you need a day like Americans will have this week, set aside to thank God for his abundant riches. We thank Him for health, for family, for security, for His calling, but most importantly for the opportunity to live in relationship with Him.

That relationship, of course, is possible because of the redemptive sacrifice Jesus made for us on Calvary’s cross. I am thankful for the response to my latest book, “The Cross: One Man…One Tree…One Friday,” and for the change I have seen and heard from in Christians who have taken the book’s message to heart. But in many ways, those believers are like the one leper – a fraction of those who benefit from the blessings of the cross and either ignore or ridicule its significance.

God’s Word asserts that He can be known and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). This week, as many of us pause to celebrate with loved ones, eat too much, nap on the couch in front of a televised football game, and prepare for a frenzy of pre-holiday shopping, I hope you’ll be like the leper who returned to Jesus – excitedly reflecting a gratitude that too few possess.

The brilliant lead worshippers at Bethel Music have put it this way: “(Y)ou’ve shown be love/By leaving your throne/By bleeding and dying on a cross, that wonderful cross/That took all my guilt and sin away.” How can we, knowing what He did for us, be anything less than or other than fully thankful?