November 22

The Act of Gratitude: What Can We Learn from a Leper?



In the Gospel of Luke chapter 17, Jesus was traveling between Samaria and Galilee. While He was traveling, he went into a village nearby. During that time, he met with ten lepers. These lepers stood at a distance. Once they saw Jesus, they cried out, saying, – Jesus, Master! Show mercy upon us!

When Jesus saw them, He said – “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” While they were on their way, they were cleansed. 

They were ten who heard Jesus say – Go and show yourselves to the priests. They were ten who were on their way to the priests. But only one noticing that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice he gave glory to God; he fell down at Jesus’ feet; he thanked Him. Then Luke indicates that he was a Samaritan – a people’s group who were hated. 

Now comes the sad question: Jesus asks, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” The nine did not return as the one who came back and gave glory to God and thank Him! They were gone. 

And Jesus, ironically addresses this one man who came back as a “foreigner!” By the end of this passage (11–19), Jesus tells the leper, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”


There is so much packed in verses 15–16: “But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him.” 

You see, thanksgiving is not a new concept. It is noticed frequently in the Bible, especially by the way of offering thanks to God for His provision, deliverance, at worship and at meals. 

What we see in this passage is unique. It is unique because it includes: 

(1) the Subject: Christ Jesus 
(2) the benefactors: the lepers 
(3) the request for cleansing 
(4) the process of cleansing 
(5) the gratitude shown towards God for cleansing 
(6) the ungratefulness of some people, and 
(7) the sad question Jesus asked!

In verse 13, the lepers raised their voices when they saw Jesus saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” How do they know that Jesus could show mercy on them? There is some hope in their voice that Jesus would heal them! They did not come there to “figure out” if Jesus would do anything good to them. They “knew” that He would – so they cried – have mercy on us. 

By saying, Jesus – they are asking the Savior to save them, to cleanse them. By saying, Master, they acknowledge that Jesus has the authority (same sense of usage in 5:5; 8:24, 45; 9:33, 49). For example, in Luke 8:24, when a fierce windstorm came down the lake, the disciples noticed they were in danger, and they woke up Jesus saying, “Master, Master, we are going to die!” Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves; they ceased and everything was calm. This Master has the authority over nature!

So the lepers noticed somehow or understood that Jesus = Master would save them. So they asked. The response Jesus gave was also interesting! He did not say, you are healed. He asked them to go to the priests.

Why? Because, it was the duty of the priests to confirm that these men are clean, so that the lepers might live in the community.

In verses 15–16, one man comes back, gives glory to God and thanked Him!

What this one leper did was he showed gratitude to God for what He has done to him through Jesus Christ! It is not just a verbal act of gratitude, but it involved his whole being – he fell facedown at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him. What this tells us is this one man’s act is an act of worship.

However, Jesus questions about the nine who received the cleansing. That is the sad part. Ten received cleansing, but only one, a foreigner, came back and gave glory to God.

What do we learn from this?

We express our gratitude to God, both for small and big things, but at times, we take God for granted for many things He has done in our lives. We thank him with superficial words – ah, God, thank you.

When we are in desperate need, and when God answers our prayers, we thank Him with all our hearts; when we are not in a desperate situation, we still thank Him, but it is not on the same emotional level of the previous one. Why? Is it not God who helped both times in both situations? Yes, but we respond to certain situations in a certain way. 

But praising God or thanking Him should be done consistently. We write notes for several days – that we are thankful for this and that. Who knows, right after thanksgiving, we may forget that list – this is inconsistent, and God is not glorified by it or is pleased by it.

However, God is pleased when we thank Him with a sincere heart; He is pleased when our motives are right. God doesn’t just hear our words; we cannot impress Him with our words; He sees our hearts!

So, my point – Don’t be like these nine lepers who took God’s mercy for granted. But, be like the one who is sincere. Thank God consistently!

If we think about it, our gratitude isn’t really enough to thank Him for what He has done to us. But, God delights when we offer thanks in sincerity. 

Now, why we should thank Him consistently?

  1. Thanksgiving pleases God (Psa. 69:30,31)
  2. Thanksgiving is a command from the Scripture to give thanks to God (Psa. 100:4; Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:15, 17)
  3. Jesus set an example – He thanked God regularly (John 11:41; Matt. 11:25)
  4. Early Christians thanked God regularly (Acts 2:46, 47)
  5. Thanksgiving is a vital part of our prayer life (Phil. 4:6).

Give thanks to God with all your heart and being!

What can we learn from the leper? Acknowledging the work of God in his life through Jesus Christ; sincerity in his presentation of gratitude, and glorifying God, thus receiving even more than what he asked – Go, your faith has saved you.

My prayer is that we will thank God with a sincere heart consistently, not just occasionally.

About the author 

Joel Madasu

Joel Madasu is a third generation Christian. His desire is to teach the Bible as it is given. He is passionate about people, discipleship and relevant communication of God’s truth – his Word, the Bible.

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