Below is an imaginative tale based on a true story found in Luke’s gospel. I offer it as a Thanksgiving gift to each of us. Us? Yes, I
need its reminder too.
"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 - NIV).
I guess I ask too many questions and speak without thinking. I never intended to hurt Grand Pa like that. I love him and would never seek to shame or embarrass him. But I did - and shamed myself even more! It just caught me by surprise and I needed to hear his side of the story.
From childhood I had always heard this great story - "Grand Pa's Story"! It was a family centerpiece, a source of pride and joy. Now, to hear new details, which I had never heard before - a part that changed The Story so much - well, it threw me off stride.
Everyone knows Grand Pa. Everyone has heard "The Story". Grand Pa used to be an outcast. He smelled, was ugly to look at, and scary to little kids. He was dying the slow, painful, lonely death of leprosy. As a leper, he had to move away from all his family and friends. He had to live outside of town with the other lepers.
Good friends now avoided him - understandably so. Family could only visit from a distance, often in secret lest people fear you too were "unclean".
Unclean: I hate that word. "Unclean! Unclean!" Grand Pa had to say it as he walked near anyone, or if they approached. It was if he was saying: "Avoid me, shun me, scorn me. I'm a dead man, I'll defile you. Run away! I am unclean."
But, praise God, that all changed the day Grand Pa had his encounter with Jesus. He and nine fellow lepers heard Jesus was coming. They knew Jesus could help them - if He would.
They went near the road He was traveling. When Jesus' entourage came in sight, they started yelling for Him at a distance, calling out: "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us". I've always thought it neat they stayed a respectful distance, for Jesus' and the peoples’ sake. That's my Grand Pa!
Hearing them, Jesus turned and looked for them. He surprised them by what He said and did. Really, He did nothing. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests, who had the job of declaring people clean or unclean.
These Ten had already done this more than once. When you think you have a skin illness, you ask the Priest. He says to come back in a week to be reexamined. If it has not cleared up, then come back again in another week. After a final check – a final chance - if it is still there, you hear the awful verdict: "Unclean." A death sentence.
Jesus said "Go and show yourselves to the priest." As they were going, it happened: New skin! No longer unclean! Ten ex-Lepers.
That's why Jesus sent them: so the priests could give them a clean bill of health, and send them home to their families. That's what happened too. The priest declared them clean, and we got Grand Pa back.
That's why everyone knows Grand Pa. Its not every village that has a man miraculously healed by Jesus. Besides, Grand Pa never got tired of telling the story of how Jesus had healed him.
I was always so proud. I still am, but its just that, I'm still working through what I learned.
The other day, I heard a Preacher reading in Public Square a book about Jesus. It told about His birth, teachings and miracles. It was the stories Luke the Physician investigated and wrote down. What an amazing man Jesus was, I mean, is! I already loved him for what He did for Grand Pa. Now, I love Him for what He did for me!
The Pastor read the part where Jesus healed a leper. At first I thought it was Grand Pa, but then I could tell it was about a different leper; one who Jesus healed right there on the spot and then sent to the Priests.
As he kept reading, there was Jesus’ encounter with the Ten Lepers - Grand Pa's Story! I was so excited! I nudged and elbowed everyone around me. They knew I was the proud grandson.
Yet, some parts he read did not sound familiar. There were new details I’d never heard. The story spoke of one of the lepers who had gone back to praise and thank Jesus. Confused and excited, I ran to tell Grand Pa and ask about the new parts to the story.
Finding Grand Pa, I told him what I heard. In my excitement - without thinking - I asked why he had never told us about that Samaritan, the man Jesus praised for returning to thank Him. Then, I asked why he did not return and thank Jesus.
As soon as I asked, I saw the hurt in Grand Pa's face and realized what I had said. I did not mean to shame or embarrass Grand Pa, I simply spoke without thinking. Suddenly, I felt like an outcast, I felt unclean.
Reflecting on and recovering from what happened, both then and now, I'm asking myself some hard questions. Would I have done any different from Grand Pa? Do I thank Jesus for what He's done for me? I've never had leprosy, but Jesus has cleansed me too, the spiritually unclean. Do I thank and praise Jesus for His love towards me, or only ask for favors? Am I too only telling half the story?
Seeing my hurt and embarrassment, Grand Pa said he forgave my thoughtlessness, just as Jesus forgave his thanklessness. He knew how I felt. He knew that healed Samaritan went back. But he also knew Jesus' forgiveness and now thanked Him often.
Do yourself a favor, learn a lesson or two from Grand Pa and me: Think before you talk and thank God before you walk. Shalom!