True confessions: the ten lepers story from Luke 17 has always been a bit of a yawner to me. Of course, it’s the classic text for a Thanksgiving sermon, but the application has always seemed so humdrum: BE SURE TO SAY THANK YOU TO GOD. Now, of course, that’s really important to do – Momma said so, and moreover, true believers do it instinctively, but it still doesn’t seem like such a fresh application. Surely there must be something more here. And there is.
But first, a very brief review: On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus gets met by ten lepers who beg Him to have mercy on them. The Lord tells them to make a trip to the priests, and as they are going (that’s worth writing about on another day), they are cleansed. But when the cleansing happens, only one comes back to say thank you. Cue mom – be sure to say thank you, especially to God. Now, as I said, that is an excellent application; it just doesn’t have much preaching pop, if you know what I mean.
Until you take a look at the story that comes immediately before the account of the 10 lepers:
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” Luke 17:7-10 (ESV)
Who is the Master here?
Now, take note of Jesus’ pointed question in the center of the story: “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?” Aha, now we’re getting somewhere. Because the expected answer…is no. He is the master – he should not need to thank someone for doing what they were supposed to do anyway. And the master in this parable is clearly God. So, you see, I think Luke wants to help us see something.
There are many people in the world who see God as their servant. In fact, countless numbers initially come to him because they think he will serve them. He will answer their prayers and hold their hand through trouble and in general make a tough life less difficult. He is their servant. Is this what the 9 lepers were thinking? We can’t know, but maybe. Jesus healed them – that’s what they heard he would do, and so that’s what he was supposed to do, right? Or as Heinrich Heine once said, “God will forgive me. It’s His job.”
But these two stories provide a needed correction. He is the master; we are the unworthy servants, not the other way around. We serve God; He is not here to serve us.
Until, that is, we come to the life of the Lord Jesus. And this is where our world and all we understand about God is turned upside down. Because in Jesus’ life, we see God incarnate, the Master, becoming the servant. We see the one who should have had his feet washed…washing the feet of others. And we see the utter humiliation of the God of the Universe as he offers the ultimate service by dying for you and me. It’s enough to make you stare in wonder, and say…
For tomorrow, Friday, July 24th: Luke 18