“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19).

From what little I know about leprosy it is truly awful and would be similar to having AIDS today. Leprosy is an infectious disease that is characterized by disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation. Also, in Jesus’ era, it was incurable. So lepers were, for all practical purposes, socially and physically quarantined and up to this very day there remains a stigma associated with the illness. The life of a leper was truly terrible. I’ve never been healed of leprosy but I’m sure it is a huge deal. Clearly it was for these 10 men who were touched by Jesus’ power of healing. For one it seemed to be of special significance – for he was one of the Samaritans so detested by the Jews. The Hebrews scorned them as dirty to begin with and I imagine the disease compounded this man’s ridicule and isolation.

The lepers’ address of Jesus, while standing at a distance, as Master indicates they knew Him to have great power. So when He commanded them to go they listened. But also they did something to receive their gift. In an act of faith this Samaritan, along with the other nine, obediently went to the priests in response to the Lord’s direction. To underscore Jesus’ divine nature, the scripture says that the healing took place even before they could show themselves to the teachers of the law, the place they needed to go to be “declared” clean. It was a miracle! Yet a real part of the miracle had to do with them acting upon the promise of Christ. I’ve always wondered if their restoration would have occurred it they had chosen not to act. I doubt it. But, in the end, they went and they were healed.

Yet this Samaritan was the only one to be compelled by a thankful heart to return and praise Jesus. This passage suggests that all ten were healed. I think it safe to assume that all were appreciative given their dire circumstances. But only this one visibly demonstrated his gratitude to the giver of this supernatural cure. It is clear that with this Samaritan that his appreciation for Jesus’ benevolent act impassioned him to return to Jesus and display his affection and praise. In this I believe we see that gratitude is inextricably linked to love and to a visible exhibition of its effect on us.

Gratitude is much like love in that it means little unless it prompts us to act upon it. Love motivated gratitude should be verbally expressed and outwardly demonstrated. This is not about the debtor’s ethic we so often see associated with a works-based religion. This Samaritan would have been cleansed whether he returned to Jesus or not. He did so out of a heart that recognized the magnitude of Jesus’ deliverance and healing and not from a desire to show himself worthy or out of a sense of pure obligation. Just the opposite – when he returned to His deliverer the Samaritan did so with loud shouts of praise for the Master and worshipfully thrust himself at the feet of the Lord.

I doubt that anyone who reads this will ever be cured of leprosy. But His children have been cured of something far greater – the disease of our sin and its destructive power. Analogous to the Samaritan’s plight, God, through Christ, has removed from us the ugliness, spiritual alienation, and ultimate death caused by our transgressions. Because He had declared us “clean”, we can, by grace through faith, come close to our Master who has delivered us – the one, Jesus, who “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). And due to this, like the grateful leper, we should be moved to honor and praise Him.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches I pray we become more like this Samaritan. May our appreciation for our Savior be more than an attitude. Let’s all ask God for such a love-saturated gratitude for Him that we seek after Jesus with loud praises and worship at His feet with such authenticity that it permeates all of who we are, our every thought and, accordingly, the way we project and exhibit His beauty through worshipful living (Romans 12:1-2). That, I believe, would be genuine Godward gratitude in its highest form.