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Thanksgiving Eve

Luke 17:11–19

James T. Batchelor

Thanksgiving Eve
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Wed, Nov 26, 2014 

The reading that we recently heard from the Gospel according to St. Luke is one of those events that stays in your mind.  It is one of a handful of traditional readings for Thanksgiving.  Ten lepers approached Jesus for healing.  Jesus sent them to appear before the priests in Jerusalem according to the law.  While they traveled the leprosy left them.  Then one leper, a Samaritan, returned to give thanks to Jesus.  It is always a struggle to find a fresh way to fulfill the preachers calling to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins with a story that is so well known.

The Holy Spirit inspired St. Luke to tell us that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem and was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.  The animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans even affected the travel plans of the Galilean Jews as they made their way to Jerusalem for the Passover.  Jews who were traveling to Jerusalem were not welcome in Samaria.  This meant that they had to go around Samaria as they traveled south to Jerusalem.  Lukes words inform us that Jesus was traveling east along the border between Samaria and Galilee for that very reason.  This little detail reminds us that Jesus was at work in a world of hatred and division.

In spite of this hatred between these two cultures, we learn that one of the healed lepers was a Samaritan a man who belonged to the very culture that forced Jews to detour around their land.  The Samaritan was a cultural enemy, and Jesus healed him anyway.

This healing is similar to the way that Jesus deals with us.  We are born enemies of God. [Ephesians 2:3] We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.  Never the less, [Romans 5:8] God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It is Gods desire to dwell with us and bless us, but we hate God by nature.  Until He redeems us to Himself, His presence terrifies us.  The Word of God teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own.  We would be lost forever unless delivered from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.  By nature, all the cultures of the entire world hate God and are full of division.

In spite of our terror and hatred, God is still our creator and sustainer.  He feeds and cares for us.  He gives daily bread, indeed without our prayer, even to people who dont have a clue who He is even to people who hate Him.

Millions of people will have a sort of generic sense of gratitude tomorrow.  They will credit their good fortune to a sort of vague combination of luck, skill, and hard work.  Tomorrow, there will be many people who sit down to turkey and all the fixings and have no clue that their good fortune indeed their very life comes from the God who not only cares for their temporal needs, but wants to give them the eternal gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

How much different is Gods mercy to those who trust in Him!  The Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified them.  They actually have the eternal gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  They receive a cleansing forgiveness that removes the impurity of sin, an impurity that is far worse than leprosy.  On account of Christ, God calls and sustains our souls by His Word and Sacraments.  Christ has secured eternal life for us.

Jesus met the Ten Lepers while He was en route to the last true Passover in Jerusalem.  It was the last true Passover because Jesus would fulfill the Passover by becoming Gods Passover sacrifice the sacrifice by which God would pass over our sin.  Jesus took our sin onto Himself so that He became a child of wrath in our place.  Then, on that last Passover, He offered Himself up on the cross.  As He hung there, He endured the wrath that we deserved for our sin.

Jesus died on the cross to take away the sins of the Samaritan who returned to thank Him.  He also died for the other nine who did not return.  His death transcended the cultural barrier between Jew and Samaritan.  It transcended the barrier between Hebrew and Gentile.  Most importantly, it transcended the barrier between you and God.  Jesus dealt with something far worse than leprosy.  He dealt with sin, death, and the power of the devil.  He reconciled you and God.

At the end of this evenings reading, Jesus said the Samaritans faith had saved him.  This is the faith that the Holy Spirit worked in this man so that he realized that Jesus is the true High Priest that the priests in Jerusalem were merely shadows that pointed forward to Him.  The Samaritan believed in Jesus and received, not just healing for his body, but also salvation for his soul.

The Holy Spirit is still at work among us.  He still offers salvation to sinful souls through His Word.  He gives people new birth through the wet word of baptism.  He continues to give the forgiveness we received in that baptism with the Word of absolution after we confess our sins.  He sustains us with the Word that we hear and study.  He comes to us in body and blood as His Word consecrates the bread and the wine.  He still works the same faith that saved the Samaritan in this evenings Gospel.  It is by this gift of faith that we also receive eternal life.

Tomorrow, we celebrate a national day of Thanksgiving.  Christians have a better reason to give thanks than any other group of people.  We have a Savior.  We have eternal life.  We have peace with God.

In fact, Christians are the only ones who can properly give thanks.  Only Christians know who blesses us so richly.  Only Christians are true children of God and have the right to call Him their father.  Only Christians have actually been instructed to enter the throne room of Almighty God and talk to Him as dear children talk to their dear father.  We Christians have all this, not because of any special merit or worthiness on our part, but because of the Fathers grace for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ.  We have this because Jesus finished the journey to Jerusalem and to the cross.

Enjoy all the riches of God.  Enjoy both the earthly riches and the heavenly treasure.  They are all gifts from our dear Father in Heaven who loves us and sent His Son to save us.  We have good reason to give thanks not just tomorrow but every day.  In fact, we look forward to giving thanks for eternity.  Amen

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