Thankful For Small (and not so small) Mercies
“He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.”
Luke 17:16 (NIV)
Sometimes, we tell people who are in an unfortunate situation that they should be ‘thankful for small mercies’. We are pointing out that even though times may be hard, they can still appreciate the slight benefits that can be found. To be fair, such suggestions are not always readily accepted. But being thankful, despite adverse situations, should be a way of life for Christians. For, let’s face it, we are recipients of far more than just small mercies when it comes to salvation.
The story surrounding the title scripture helps explain this a little more. The incident involves Jesus as he came across ten men with the dreaded disease of leprosy. This condition meant they were totally excluded from society and could not enjoy a normal existence. They had heard about Jesus’ ability to heal because they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (verse 13). Jesus told them to carry out instructions found in Leviticus 14: “’Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 11:14). Those lepers could now be accepted back into the community. Their physical healing was complete.
But the story doesn’t end there —for like all Jesus’ stories, there is a spiritual parallel for those who have eyes to see. “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 “(verse 15-16).
Samaritans did not consider themselves under the Old Covenant. So, although this particular individual went to the priest as instructed, he knew something more was needed and he returned to thank Jesus in person. And Jesus’ response? “’Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well’” (Verses 18-19).
That last sentence is significant. This man had already been made ‘well’ from the physical leprosy. So, Jesus meant something more than that—and it involved faith. This Samaritan, like all mankind before conversion, suffered from spiritual leprosy. That doesn’t keep us out of our human society, but it does mean we are foreigners, excluded from God’s household. That’s the real healing we all need, and which this individual appreciated. He realised he needed more than the work of the Levitical priest; he required the spiritual healing that is only possible through the ultimate High Priest, Jesus Christ. And his return to his ‘healer’ was an act of faith that all people need to go through if our human condition is to be remedied.
Yes, the healing of all ten was a wonderful example of the physical mercy of Jesus Christ. But that was a ‘small mercy’ compared to the infinite kindness of God when it comes to healing our spiritual condition so that we can be included in God’s kingdom.
Dear Father, thank you so much for our spiritual healing. We acknowledge our appreciation in the name of the one who made it possible, Jesus Christ.
Study by Philip Stevens
Worldwide Church of God Great Baddow
United Reformed Church
CHELMSFORD CM2 7HH
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