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Story: Returning Thanks

(based on Luke 17:11-19)

Each one of the ten had a tale of personal horror to tell, but the stories were all the same. The nightmare had crept slowly across their bodies: white patches, lumps in the skin. Then the numbness had crawled up their limbs, stealing the feeling from fingers and toes. Finally, the faces had grown disfigured beyond recognition, and all that remained of the feet were crippled nubs.  Worst of all were the jeers from the children whenever the men passed too near a village. “Lepers!” they screamed, spitting the word like a curse.

So long ago these ten had been young and handsome, healthy and well-to-do, full of desires and dreams. But that seemed like another world, another lifetime. Now they were the walking dead. One morning, as they approached yet another village to beg, the crowds were cheering the name that for months had spread like a whispered wildfire through the leper colony: Jesus. The leper-healer from Nazareth stood by the village well, not far from the twisted outcasts. And He was looking their way.

All at once ten hoarse voices erupted in unison: “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!” He smiled – the first smile turned in their direction for many years – and said simply, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

He hadn’t even touched them. The ten examined one another. Clearly, nothing had changed. Were they once again the butt of a cruel joke?

One of them, a Samaritan, turned back to the road, set his face toward Jerusalem and the temple, and motioned for his comrades to join him. “If the priests throw me out,” he said, “then let the crowds stone
me. What’s left to live for?”

He hobbled down the dusty path, his crutch making holes in the scorched clay. And as the others followed, the miracle came. They were cleansed. Suddenly. Totally. Unconditionally. Nine men shouted and raced down the road like boys in a game, peeling off their rags to welcome the sunshine on their now childlike skin. They never even looked back, never saw again the face whose light had dawned on their darkness and ended their nightmare. But one man – the Samaritan – spun around, ran to Jesus, and flung himself at His feet. Tears spilled down cleansed cheeks. He looked up, trembling, and whispered two words.

“Thank you.”

~ written by Paul Thigpen, in Lessons in “Being Thankful: Twelve Ways to Cultivate a Thankful Heart.” Posted on Just Between Us: Christian Magazine and Ministry.

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