It is the same sort of gift of inclusion that a lonely teenage girl on of the side of the dance feels when, out of nowhere, someone comes up, takes her hand, and whisks her away toward the dance floor. “Someone cares enough to dance with me too?”
It is the same sort of gift of inclusion that the homeless veteran feels when someone cares to sit down with a cup of coffee to converse, listen, and help. “You would waste your time on me too?”
The tenth leper, the Samaritan, the enemy, walks away with the others expecting to be cut off from the healing that Jesus has to offer because that is just what happens when you are a hated Samaritan living in a Jewish world. But, to his surprise, he looks down and notices that Jesus has included him too. He too has been healed from his leprosy. He too has been noticed. He too has been loved. He too has the chance at a normal life. He has been healed too.
Jesus is like that you know. Jesus actually follows his own teachings and loves the enemy as well as those who are not. Jesus does not distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving before he sets out to heal. Jesus heals the Samaritan, even though Samaritans are known to worship in the wrong way, in the wrong place, and associate with the wrong people.
It is as if Jesus would be willing to go to the cross for people like that Samaritan man. It is as if Jesus loves the world, and not just those who with the right religion. It is as if Jesus actually cares that people like him be saved. And, it is that sort of unconventional and unexpected love of Jesus that causes a saving faith to well up inside the formerly leprous Samaritan. But, that type of faith does not well up in the other nine.
Just to be clear, Jesus loves and heals all of the lepers. All ten people, sequestered to the edge of the village because of their leprosy, are healed after they shout out for Jesus to show mercy. None of them had to prove anything to Jesus in order to deserve this healing. None of them had to demonstrate their incredible faith in order to be touched by the holy.
I would like to note even further that the other nine lepers listened closely to Jesus’ words and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests, as required by their religion to prove that they were clean, and they went away and did exactly that. They did nothing wrong.
The only difference that I can see between the nine and the one is that only the one Samaritan expected that the gift was not for him. Only the Samaritan had reason to believe that he would be excluded like every other time. But, when the Samaritan looked down and saw that he was healed too, he could not help but come back with a heart of gratitude and praise for what Jesus had done.
Now, you cannot manufacture this type of gratitude. It is like forcing your kids to sit down and write thank you notes for their Christmas gifts. It is the right thing to do, but the actual sense of gratitude might be somewhat lacking as you force them with pre-scripted words of appreciation.
The difficulty of showing gratitude does not stop with children though. I have heard many Christians express how they know they need to be more grateful, but someow fall short.
They have surely read, as I have, all the studies that show how much better the mental health of people is who show gratitude. Gratitude makes our brains healthier. It decreases pain levels. It allows for better sleep. It relieves stress. It reduces anxiety and depression without medication. And, gratitude can even increase your levels of energy. But, even with all the scientific evidence of effectiveness and the encouragement from the scriptures, people still tell me that they struggle with making it happen.
How do you make yourself be grateful? You cannot just make yourself feel something that you do not feel; can you?
In order to get at that question, I want to point out one more thing that I noticed about the Samaritan that I saw lacking in the other nine. Maybe you saw it also. He was the only one who looked down and saw that he was healed. This is such a small detail, but it is huge. The other nine lepers walk off, because they were told to, but they walk off without noticing that they were healed. It is only the Samaritan who looks and notices what God has done.
Here is the thing. God is at work and doing things in our lives all the time. There are a multitude of things that you could notice throughout any single day that God is doing. There are a multitude of things that could cause you to turn back and praise God.
Those who suffer from acute asthma can tell you how grateful they are for the simple gift of breath. But, it is only those with acute asthma who look and notice.
Those who have lost legs and arms can tell you how grateful they are to have prostheses that restore their lives back to something that looks like normal. But, it is only those who have lost limbs who look and notice what a gift they are.
Having your eyes opened to look and see is a gift from Jesus in and of itself, because the faith that gratitude creates comes from the act of stopping, looking, and seeing all that God has done.
In worship we sometimes get to see a young child accepted as a child of God through Holy Baptism. It is a gift from a loving God that draws the child into a holy family. Note, that like the lepers, nothing had to be done by the child in order to be given this beautiful gift. It is a gift after-all. But, we do pray that throughout the years parents, sponsors, and the church itself will be able to help the children to stop, look, and see the grace of God that has been given.
We help others stop and notice because Jesus stops and notices. Jesus sees you also. Jesus loves you also. Even if…even if you are not the one who is usually included with everyone else, Jesus sees you and gives you healing too.
May you see the grace that Jesus pours out on you even today. And when you see, may you hear Jesus’ words: "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."