A Thankless Job? Reflections on The Ten Lepers from Luke 17:11-19
When Jesus cleanses a leper in Luke 5:12, the response of people is to crowd around him wanting healing for themselves.
When Jesus heals a man with a withered hand, the response of his opponents is to be filled with fury and begin plotting his demise (Lk. 6:11).
When Jesus raises a widow's son, the response of the crowd was to be filled with fear and to glorify God (Lk. 7:16).
When Jesus casts out a legion of demons from a tormented man, the Gerasenes ask him to leave because "they were seized with great fear" (Lk. 8:37).
When a woman is healed by touching the hem of his garment, he quickly sends her on her way. "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace" (Lk. 8:48).
When Jesus heals a boy with a demon the crowds were astounded at the greatness of God (Lk. 9:43).
When Jesus heals a blind beggar near Jericho, the man "followed him, glorifying God and all the people, when they saw it, praised God" (Lk. 18:43).
He is not interested in having people hang around and thank him. Often, when he heals people, he doesn't say "Stick around and thank me." He says, "Go your way, your faith has made you well." I am reminded of the college president faced with a large graduating class. As each person came across the stage, he handed them their diploma, while shaking their hand and said, "Congratulations ...and keep moving." It was a stage direction to keep the ceremony moving, but it was also good life advice. Jesus says to those he heals, "Congratulations and keep moving. Don't stick around thanking me."
One of my students recounts how she was teaching a class of 2nd grade Sunday school children on the story of the ten lepers. "How do you think Jesus felt when only one person came back to thank him?" she asked. One boy raised his hand. "I think he would have felt happy that one person came back and thanked him."
Jesus' vocation was a thankless one. He poured himself out for others and, in return, his life's blood was poured out on the cross. The least we can do is fall at his feet and say thank you.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.