The Motivation for Our Actions (Luke 17:11-19)

“Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they?”(Luke 17:17)


It had to bother him. It just had to! It had to hurt his feelings. Didn't it? He healed ten. Ten! Ten lepers! A group of ten that no one, not a single sole, would care if they lived or died. They’d been thrown away like trash on a heap. “Unclean”, they were called. Not allowed to be close to those who were “clean”. He healed them all. And rather than pound his own chest and say, “Look at me!”, he bid them go and show the priests that they were clean, following the Law and the Traditions.

They had cried out to him for mercy. Raising their voices, they called out; “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” And he did as they asked. The Master of Grace gave them their lives again, gave them community once again. When someone, anyone, asks Jesus for mercy, he grants the request. Never misses an opportunity! But that’s grace. And for Jesus, it’s all about grace.

When you and I read this story found in Luke 17, we get angry. Fist clinching, jaw jutting angry! Let’s admit that up front. This was a huge ask; “mercy”, “cleansing”, new life. And nine of ten never said “thanks Jesus”. Are you kidding me!!

You and I get frustrated when we hold the door for someone, and they don’t even bother to acknowledge it. No thank you. No smile and a nod. You and I get ticked when we graciously allow the car to cut in front of us and don’t see a thankful “wave of the hand” in grateful response. “How rude!” You and I get just a little perturbed when we send a gift to the new couple or for the new baby and don’t receive the thank you note as quickly as we would expect. It’s aggravating! That’s what we think; what we mumble to ourselves.

Not Jesus. He doesn’t express anger. No agitation. Just a question. “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they?”

I’m certain that Jesus was grateful for the one who returned to give thanks and praise. He says to that one, “Stand up and go, your faith has made you well”.

But immediately before Jesus encounters the ten lepers, he has been teaching his disciples. He speaks metaphorically about a slave who should not expect thanks for doing that which he was commanded to do. Jesus tells his friends, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:9-10)

I’m thinking that Jesus feels no anger or agitation with the nine who did not return to say thanks – he feels compassion. Should they have returned to say thanks? You bet! In fact, it’s the least that they could have and should have done! But Jesus did not “take back the healing” because nine did not say “thanks”.

It’s all about grace when we say a heartfelt “thanks”. But Jesus didn’t heal them in order to receive their “thank yous”. He healed them because that is what he was sent to do by his Heavenly Father. Isaiah foretold it and Jesus himself read it to those gathered in the synagogue that day in Nazareth, his own hometown. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”(Luke 4:18-19)

In his healing of these ten, Jesus was doing what he had been commanded by the Father to do. There was no judgment of the nine who deserted Jesus’ presence once healed. They were healed. And my guess is that once they realized the freedom they had been given, they told everyone who would listen about this man from Galilee, who on his way through Samaria, took away their leprosy and gave them their lives. That’s my guess.

Giving thanks, saying thanks, is all a part of grace. It’s the grace filled thing to do. Gratitude is a part of the Christian DNA. As Jesus followers, we should be grateful; grateful for the freedom we have been given in Christ Jesus; gratitude for his sacrifice for us, the undeserving, the “unclean”. But I wonder, how often do we turn our eyes to him and say “thanks”? Better yet, I wonder how often we say thanks to him by living and expressing the freedom he has given us?

I believe that doing for others what I would like done for me and that loving my neighbor as I, myself, have been loved by God is what I have been commanded to do. In my “followship” of Jesus, it is what he commands me to do; “to love others as He has loved me” (John 13:34). Maybe you and I can take a page out of the “grace book” of Jesus. While it is a thing of grace when someone says “thanks”, to receive that thanks should not be the motivation for my action. It wasn’t for Jesus. Grace and mercy were his motivation. It should be mine. Doing for others without the condition of receiving a “thank-you” in return is all about grace. And in loving others as I, myself, have been loved, I pray that the grace of Christ Jesus that is in me will ALWAYS remind me to make a special effort to express gratitude for any kindness shown by another.

It’s All About Grace!

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