Many of us know that the Bible says that Christians are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8), but did you know there was a man that was saved by thanks?
Luke 17 records the time that Jesus was encountered by 10 lepers; lepers were people who suffered from the debilitating disease known as leprosy. Leprosy was thought to be contagious, although we now know that it wasn’t. Out of fear of causing an outbreak, lepers were quarantined and confined to spend out their days in leper colonies. Since there was no known cure for the disease, its victims would gradually decline until they lost their battle.
Since there were no real doctors in those times, people who were thought to be infected with leprosy had to appear before a priest, and that priest would follow the guidelines from the Law (Leviticus 13) in diagnosing it; in the same way, if a leper thought he had been healed he would go back before the priest. It is possible that the lepers we are about to see in Luke 17 had just been diagnosed by a priest and were on their way to their new fate in the leper colony.
As Jesus was passing by these 10 lepers spotted Him and asked for mercy; Jesus responded to their request by telling them to go show themselves to the priest, which meant that they would be going back to the priest for a second opinion. As they were walking they noticed that they had each been healed.
Although ten had been healed, only one man returned to Jesus to tell Him thank you. But what appears to be a simple story about thankfulness is really a picture of salvation.
Notice how the ten address Jesus at the outset of this event. They lifted up their voices and addressed Him as “Jesus, Master.” Now compare that to the one who returned: he fell on his face and glorified God. At the beginning Jesus was nothing more than a miracle worker that might heal these men of a disease. They address Him by name and call Him Master (or Teacher), showing that they regarded Him as a man with a lot of Scriptural wisdom, but they did not regard Him as the Son of God.
Also notice the healings that occur. All ten were healed of a physical condition, but the one was healed of a spiritual condition. Jesus told that man that his faith had saved him (not “made him well” as in the NIV). Your Bible might say his faith made him whole or well, but the Greek word that is used is related to salvation. It is very similar to the verses that say that all who call on the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13) and we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8).
Why would Jesus be telling this man that his faith made him physically well? All ten were made physically well; Jesus was telling this man that he would be saved because he had made a journey from viewing Jesus as a good teacher to viewing Him as a good God. Then, his knowledge of who Jesus was led to action and worship, in this case, by returning to Jesus to glorify Him.
And we cannot overstate the importance of his thankfulness. I do not believe that anyone can truly be saved if they are not thankful; once we realize that we are sinners who deserve hell and we are in desperate need of a Savior, and then we learn that Jesus is that Savior, our hearts should overflow with gratitude.
Romans 1 shows the steps that lead away from God, and before we look at steps like being disobedient or being idolatrous, we need to realize that the first step is to recognize what God has done and not be thankful (v.21).