In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There were ten men who had the dreadful disease, which slowly
ate away at their flesh. Ten men had this terrible malady not only hurt the body, but isolated them from social contact with healthy people. Ten suffering a miserable existence. Fascinating that in this true story there are ten of them; one for each commandment. Even in setting up this chronicle, God shows that the Law cannot save or heal. The Law always accuses; and the Law always shows our sickness.
We always seem to put down the other nine for being “unthankful.” That is not the case at all. They were thankful. They were on their way to the Temple, to show themselves and give their offerings of thanks, just as Jesus told them to do.
The problem with the nine is not that they were not thankful. (Perhaps that misunderstanding is even greater because this Gospel has been assigned for days of national thanksgiving.) No, their problem is far greater.
You see, all ten had leprosy. All ten were told by Jesus to go show themselves to the priests – the action of somebody already healed. They still had the disease as they left, and Jesus healed them during their walk to Jerusalem. So they had faith that the Lord would heal them as they went.
But the problem arises when only one recognized that this indeed was God in the flesh! All ten were planning on thanking God. Only one realized that God was right there in person, and could be thanked directly. Nine did not recognize who Jesus Christ is.
You do not always recognize Jesus either. For some, it might be doubting or misunderstanding that Jesus comes and works a miracle in Holy Baptism. He does not simply sit in some far-off kingdom and zap children with His magic. He does far more than hover around like some spirit. The Lord Himself comes in Baptism and binding the promise of His Gospel to the water in the font, causes and gives forgiveness, rescue, and life!
You do not always recognize Jesus. Perhaps you suffer from moments of doubt about the Holy Supper. “It’s a reminder of His love and forgiveness,” you say. “We simply do it, obeying His command, ‘In remembrance of Me.’” It’s a good token of what He did a long time ago. Dear friends, that follows some serious Protestant misunderstandings. If that would be the case, then there is no need to have the Sacrament frequently.
But there is a need! You desperately need our Lord in His Supper, and the healing and gifts that He brings. Our Lord Jesus says: “This is My Body. This is My Blood.” No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. Infinitely more than a reminder or obedience, which ends up focusing on our actions and thoughts, the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar is God feeding us His Flesh and Blood, for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Even though this passage is not really emphasizing the thanks, on this day we pause and consider the application to our Day of Thanksgiving. We do fail in giving God the thanks we ought. When we stop and even try to begin to count our blessings, we are miserable failures, forgetting infinite gifts. Our thanks would never be good enough, or complete. We fall flat on our faces, and have no excuse.
But Jesus, our loving Lord, comes to us, and gives thanks for us! As He celebrates His Holy Eucharist among us, He gives thanks! That’s what Eucharist means: “to give thanks!” The ancient Church often used this word for the Divine Service and for Holy Communion itself. Some Lutherans shy away from using the term, because they fear it emphasizes our supposed work in the Sacrament. But actually, no! The One giving thanks is not you or the pastor; the One giving thanks is Christ Jesus Himself!
Day to day we fail at giving thanks. We pause over this holiday to offer our thanks to God. Still, our lists will always be incomplete; our prayers lacking.
We will always come up short, omitting blessings in our giving of thanks. But our Lord takes our prayers and perfects them. He provides the words where our minds and mouths fail. Our Blessed Savior speaks for us, giving thanks. Being God as well as Man, He is the only One ever to be perfect and complete in His thanksgiving. He gave perfect thanks during His earthly ministry. And ultimately, He gave perfect thanks in the offering of His Body and Blood on the cross. He continues to give thanks as He cleanses, forgives, and nourishes us through His Holy Word and Sacraments.
Christ Jesus comes to you today through His Holy Gospel. He speaks His perfect thanks and fills your ears with His perfect words. He transforms you, speaking life into you. And on Sunday, once again, He will come to you in the greatest, most intimate way in this life: His Holy Eucharist!
The sin of this world infects you. And it wants to slowly eat away at your body. But our precious Savior comes and brings His Body to you. He places His holy and perfectly, righteously healthy flesh into you, and it transforms you. It makes you cleansed and whole, that you may show yourself to Christ, the heavenly high priest, and In perfect and holy thanksgiving, He will welcome you and your cleansed, transformed body into His heaven forever!