Where are the other nine?

“Don’t be like the other nine!”

Mr. Olchesi used to say that repeatedly to the first graders in our Sunday School class as they stared at him, tilting their bewildered heads as my dog does, clearly annoyed that their snack time was delayed.

Mr. Olchesi would then bow his head and say a prayer of thanks which extended way beyond the attention span of a six year old. I was in charge of crowd control until he finally said Amen.

Twenty years later, I think back to wise Mr. Olchesi who probably should have been assigned to the high school room rather than the elementary wing. His warning about the other nine has stayed with me.

What was he referring to?

Jesus was traveling toward Jerusalem when he was approached by ten men afflicted with leprosy. They had probably heard of Jesus healing the sick, and now they begged him for mercy. In those days having leprosy meant being ostracized from society, grotesquely disfigured, and in chronic pain. The disease was contagious and there was no cure. Jesus looked at them and told them to go to their priest. As the men walked away, the scales fell from their skin and they were healed. I imagine them skipping with delight at that moment of realization. After a lifetime of isolation, they could return to community, free of pain and full of hope.

One man, however, paused, and rushed back to Jesus, falling at his feet, thanking him and shouting, “Praise God!”

That’s when Jesus asked, Where are the other nine? Were there not ten men healed?

Are we among those other nine?

I know I am. My daughter and a friend recently drove 25 hours straight, from Florida to Chicago. They had to contend with curvy mountainous roads, the threatening remnant of a hurricane, and an engine light that decided to come on in northern Georgia. I was on my knees throughout their journey, asking, no pleading, with God to keep them safe.

When the text came at 4:30 AM with the news that they were back to their Chicago apartment, with the car fixed, I was overjoyed.

But the next day, did I return to Jesus to say thank you? I’m afraid I went on to the next urgent need.

Thanksgiving in 2020 is like no other. We will see the faces of our loved ones on a screen rather than from across the table. But that does not have to deter our level of gratitude. The Jesus who healed lepers, who fed a multitude with a few loaves and fish, who calmed a raging sea, who rose from the dead — still promises eternal life to those who simply believe and receive. And for that I am grateful.

I want to be that person who rushes back, maybe skipping, while shouting, Praise God. Even in late November of 2020.

Ten Healed of Leprosy

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 17, from the New Living Translation

11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Photo curtesy of http://clipart-library.com/clipart/pioA66qET.htm

Giving Thanks Pictures #1254254

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