I love Thanksgiving. I love the food. I love the football. I love the family. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that everyone celebrates the holiday. No matter what your background is, you have something for which to be thankful to God.
The Bible is constantly telling us to be thankful (Psalm 105:1; Colossians 3:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). When I was growing up during Thanksgiving we would go around the table and say what we are thankful for. Everyone had something to say. Everyone had something to say because as Psalm 145:9 says “The Lord is good to all and his mercy over all he has made.”
As Christians, we are thankful for many reasons, for God’s grace to us in Christ, for our salvation, our standing before God (Romans 8:1).
But, have we truly thanked Jesus for what he has done for us? You might ask, how can I thank Jesus for the gift of eternal life? The answer to that question might be obedience. God does call us to obedience in response to his grace, but not to earn his favor. From the moment God saves us, he cannot love us anymore and he will not love us any less. His love is steadfast.
So, how can we thank Jesus? There is a story in Luke 17:11-19 about Jesus healing 10 lepers. They ask the Lord, while standing at a distance to have mercy on them (vv. 12-13). He first calls them to obedience in showing themselves to the priests. Showing themselves to the priests is a law that goes back to Leviticus 13. They would go to the priest and present to them their skin disease and the priest would pronounce them unclean and then after seven days if the disease has cleared, they would be pronounced clean. But, before they get to the priests, after walking away from Jesus, they are miraculously cleansed.
A miracle has happened. The ten lepers are cleansed of their leprosy. Christ has healed them and called them to obedience by showing themselves to the priests. This is great cause for thanks, one would think. But, not all of them are thankful.
Luke 17:15-16 “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’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.”
The way that this man gives thanks tells us a number of things. One, I should be praising God with a loud voice and falling on my face more often, thanking Jesus. Two, he is a Samaritan, which tells us that everyone, even those who are seemingly outside the kingdom, can be brought in and give thanks. Samaritans were seen as those who are not worthy of the standing that Israel had with God. Additionally, he did not hesitate to thank God. He was obedient in giving thanks, even though Christ told him to show himself to the priest, he stopped to give thanks.
Jesus responds in v. 17 “…Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give thanks except this foreigner? And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus is surprised that the others, who we can assume to be Jews and rightful children of God, do not thank him. Instead, one, whom Jesus calls a foreigner, thanks him and on top of being healed, is also saved.
Thanksgiving is for everyone. Jesus says, also salvation is open for everyone, from every tribe, tongue and kingdom (Revelation 7:9). For this, as foreigners (Gentiles for the most part), we should be thankful.