Thanksgiving (Lk 17:11–19)

November 26, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO


What’s with these 10 lepers? Well, I guess for some people it’s really a question about those nine. What’s with those guys? Is it that they have poor manners? Their mom’s didn’t teach them right? They didn’t learn to say thank you? Were they rude? So often we look at the healing of the 10 lepers as a story, a moral lesson, on how to be a thankful person. That you better not forget to say, “Thank you.” That you better be thankful to those around you but especially to God, or else! But when we look at what Jesus does and what He’s got to say, we find out that it’s not really about all that at all. It’s more about Jesus giving, more about faith receiving what Jesus is giving than about how thankful we ought to be.

First, we need to talk about what faith is. Faith is of course a gift of God, worked in us by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the Word and Sacraments. Baptism is “the washing of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit,” as Paul writes in Titus 3. “All Scripture is God-breathed” and so “faith comes by hearing” that Word read and preached. The Spirit is there in the Word of Absolution as John records, “Jesus breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven.’” Faith, given by the Spirit, is nothing other than trust. Trust that Jesus died and rose for you. That’s it. This faith that is trust in Jesus, who was sent from the Father, seeks and receives from Him all that He has to give: forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.

This is where we come to our text about the 10 lepers. From this text we see that

(2.) Faith seeks.

Now, from what I just said, we know who or what this faith is going to seek. “While He entered a certain village, ten leprous men greeted Him, they stood far off, and they lifted their voices saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” These 10 lepers, not just the loan thankful one, seek from Jesus. Jesus is going through Samaria and Galilee. He’s heading to Jerusalem, He’s heading to die and rise, and He’s taking the most direct route to get there. Straight south through Galilee and straight through Samaria. It’s why He’s come, and the time was fast approaching. So Jesus takes the fastest way to Jerusalem. Now He comes to some random village in the middle of nowhere. Is it in Samaria? Galilee? It doesn’t matter, I suppose, but Jesus is greeted by these men. In faith they were seeking Jesus. They’d heard of Him. Luke tells us earlier in His Gospel, “News of Him went out through all the surrounding region.” In faith they were not only seeking Jesus, but they were seeking from Jesus. When they greet Him, they’re far off, as they’re supposed to be, but they aren’t shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” as the Law prescribed. Instead they’re shouting, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They knew that He would be merciful, just as they were asking Him. They trusted He would be that way.

Now, faith that trusts Jesus doesn’t just seek, but

(1.) Faith receives.

Faith receives from Jesus—not just once or twice or three times! Faith continually receives from Jesus. Faith never says, “I can receive too much.” Faith never says, “I don’t need to receive.” Or “I can do something else instead of receiving from Jesus.” This is what we see from the Samaritan in our text. In faith He went to receive mercy from Jesus. Jesus cleansed them all as they went to the priests, as Jesus told them to do: “He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And it happened, when they went, they were cleansed.” Yet faith doesn’t just receive from Jesus once but continually! He heads back where he came from to receive more from Jesus. He didn’t just want mercy. He didn’t just want cleansing. He wanted more—always more with Jesus! And so Jesus says to this man: “Arise, go. Your faith has saved you.” This man also sought salvation from God alone. This is why he goes back to Jesus. Jesus is God and so this Samaritan goes to the fountain and source of all blessings. This is why Jesus says, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Jesus describes what this man knew by faith: Jesus is God, who gives blessings. The man also gives thanks. Faith receives with thanksgiving: “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’ feet, giving him thanks.”

That’s what faith does: continually receives from God and gives thanks. That’s not just this Samaritan’s faith but our faith too. God gives good gifts to us because of Jesus, and He gives good gifts through Jesus. Jesus has died and risen. God showers on us blessings. We don’t want to think that God only gives good gifts to the thankful, that He’ll only give the blessings of His Son’s death and resurrection because we’re thankful. It’s not that God thinks, “Well, they’re truly thankful, they’ve shown how thankful they are, and so I’ll bless them.” That’s all wrong. God gives. He gives faith through His Spirit working in us by His Word and Sacraments. That faith receives even more from God: forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation. That faith in turn is thankful for what it receives. In fact, God’s giving of Word and Sacrament works in us the very thankfulness we give. He saves us in the sending of His Son, He gives that salvation to us. Faith receives what He’s giving, rejoices and gives thanks. That’s why after we receive Jesus’ body and blood we say, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endureth forever.”

Mercy. That’s what Jesus has. The lepers knew it. They sought Jesus because of it. They knew He’d give what they ask. They trusted it—that’s faith.


Jesus has cleansing. He freely gives it to them all. Yet faith doesn’t just receive once and then it’s done. It receives continually—over and over! So the man returns and gives thanks. There’s always more with Jesus: “Your faith has saved you.” Faith receives Jesus’ salvation: cross won, empty-tomb assured. Washed over you, fed to you with His body and blood. Trust in Him. Rejoice! Jesus gives; you receive.


1 thought on “Thanksgiving (Lk 17:11–19)

  1. Love the direction this sermon took! Easy to cudgel us with the moral responsibility of thankfulness, which we actually like and expect. What faith is and does, “worthiness”, great Lutheran topics.

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