Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reason 14,732 to Be Thankful

Day of Thanksgiving
November 24, 2010
Luke 17:11-19

The 14,732nd reason to be thankful is that the sun rises every day. It may not always be shining, but each day you can count on it. You could easily think of several more reasons to be thankful off the top of your head. If you put some time into it you could come up with many more. I was glancing at a sports columnist’s analysis of the teams in the NBA and sometimes after analyzing a team he would say, Reason 17,435 why I love the NBA, or some other massive number. Some people may have no reason to like America’s professional Basketball league, others can’t get enough of it. But those who love it love it for many reasons. Taking a cue from him, I thought I would pick one reason we can be thankful. Reason 14,732 to be thankful: the sun rises every day. There are thousands more, perhaps millions. I don’t know, I haven’t tried to count.

In actuality, there is one reason to be thankful. All the thousands and even more are all because of the one reason we can be thankful. The one reason we have to be thankful is Christ. And I’m not just talking about for Christians. It would be easy enough for us to say, You know, non-Christians have a lot of reasons to be thankful even though they don’t believe in God, but we Christians know the one reason to be thankful. That’s close, but it’s actually that even though non-Christians don’t know the one reason they have to be thankful they nevertheless have the very same reason to be thankful that we do: Christ.

When God created the universe everything was perfect. Adam and Eve didn’t really have to set aside times to be thankful, they were in a perpetual state of gratitude toward God. God was the reason for all that they had. It all was due to God’s grace and favor. His love toward them moved Him to lavish all of His blessings on them.

What happened when they threw it all away? More grace. More love. All of His favor lavished upon them in mercy. His love was the same but was now applied in a specific way. In Christ. In Himself, God the Triune God, pouring out His blessings upon them in the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one reason to be thankful, because God acting toward us apart from Christ is God acting toward us according to His holiness and justice. Because of the Fall into sin, because of our inbred sin and the actual sins we commit, God must act toward us in judgment, eternal punishment. Without Christ this is what we would have. We would not be here. We would be in hell for eternity. We would not have discussions about what we are thankful for. We would have eternal agony and torture. Thank God He acts toward us in Christ instead of His wrath and judgment!

God did not put the account of the ten lepers in the Bible to give us a little lesson on being thankful. Look how nice God is to you, so you should be thankful like that Samaritan was. Or conversely, you ought to be ashamed of yourself that you are ungrateful, haven’t you learned anything from those nine lepers who didn’t say Thank You to Jesus?

This is the reason Jesus healed the lepers: because of His suffering and death on the cross. No, He hadn’t suffered and died yet, but that’s what He came for. He healed those men in view of His promised suffering and death. It’s exactly the same thing that took place at the Fall when Adam and Eve sinned against God. He acted toward them in mercy, in view of His only-begotten Son’s promised suffering and death. Adam and Eve didn’t know the name ‘Jesus’ but they were thankful to God because of Jesus. It was in fact immediately following their fall into sin that God promised the Savior. That’s why they could be thankful.

It’s also the reason those men who were lepers could be thankful. It wasn’t just that they were healed. They were healed because Jesus was going to suffer and die on the cross, whether or not they knew it or believed it. It appears that nine of those men didn’t have a clue, or didn’t care, that there was a reason to be thankful to the one who healed them. The one who came back to Jesus in gratitude received something from Jesus in addition to being healed of leprosy: Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well. Jesus said this to the man in view of the cross. In view of His own suffering and death He would endure on the cross. Jesus could have taken on the man’s leprosy but had come for something so much more, so much greater! He came to take on the man’s sin. The man’s life was burdened with a disease that was sickness to his soul. His body having been rotting away was really a manifestation of the sickness we all share. That is what Jesus took on Himself, not just leprosy.

There are plenty of non-Christians who are thankful people. There are many people who do not believe in Christ who realize that they have many blessings. We know that the reason they have many blessings is because of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. We know that everything for which we are thankful is purely because of Christ. Without the mercy of God in His Son Jesus there would be nothing we have, let alone anything for which to be thankful. So while it’s a blessing on Thanksgiving Day and often throughout our lives to think of all the many things to be thankful for, as Christians we have the bonus of knowing the basis for our blessings. Even if God hadn’t granted us countless blessings we could still look to the cross and give thanks for the greatest blessing of all. Amen.


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