Ten lepers cried out, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" Ten lepers were healed of their leprosy. One returned to give thanks to Jesus.
Perhaps you'll say, "Well that's typical. People are rude. They don't think to give thanks. I need to remind my kids all the time. Perhaps this is the lesson of the one polite leper."
But, no. This is not the lesson of one polite leper. This is the lesson of the one leper, who had faith. Jesus said to the man, "Your faith has saved you." In your insert the text says, "Your faith has made you well." The translators thought "made well," made more sense because of the context. The man was just healed of a painful disease. But Jesus said, "Your faith has saved you." And the man made his faith known by giving thanks.
Thanksgiving is a fruit of saving faith. The man thanked Jesus, because he believed that Jesus made him well. Our text says, "When he saw that he was healed, he turned back, praising God with a loud voice, and he fell down at Jesus feet giving him thansk." He gave God thanks at Jesus' feet, because Jesus is God. Jesus is his Savior, the one who not only heals him of a bodily ailment, but cures his soul from the rot of sin and rescues him from hell. He gives thanks, because he has faith.
The desire to be healed is not the same as having faith. Anyone will cry out for help when they are in trouble. Cries for mercy ring with unemployment, when cancer strikes, when need is high. But such cries fall silent when the bank account is cushioned, when the doctor gives a clean bill of health, and you have more than you need. Faith is more than simply wanting. Faith is believing that God will give. That is why the one who has faith trusts in God through the good and the bad. The one leper showed that he trusted in God even when his ailment left him. Because God is the one who will provide for both the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick. If you have faith you know that you depend on God just as much after he answers your plea as you do before.
The Apostle writes, "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:12-13) The Apostle doesn't write that he is never hungry or in need, but that he has strength through God even when he is brought low. He has faith that God cares for him always.
You give thanks, because God cares for you. Thanksgiving needs to have a cause. The Psalmist writes, "O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever." (Psalm 118:1 KJV) You give thanks, because you know that God has done you good. That is faith. It is confidence that God does for you what he says. So for the one who has faith, thanksgiving is not something you do when all things are going well, when you are not in need, when your belly is full, when you can afford to give generously, but if you have faith you give thanks at all times, during the good and the bad, because you have faith in the one who strengthens you. Notice how St. Paul teaches us to give thanks even before our prayer is answered, "But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God." (Phil. 4:6) If you have faith, you know God will care for you.
The Psalmist writes, "O Lord My God, I will give thanks to you forever!" (Psalm 30:12) But how do you give thanks? First, and this is most important, you must have faith. Thanksgiving without faith is meaningless; empty words. It is faith that gives true glory to God. It is faith that trusts in God above all things. It is faith that compels the healed leper to praise God at the feet of Jesus. So to give proper thanks you must first have faith that God loves you and that he saves you. You must believe his holy Word and desire to hear it.
The Lord's Supper is called the Eucharist, from the Greek word for give thanks. This is because Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread and gave thanks (Luke 22:19), also he took the cup and gave thanks (Matthew 26:27). The Christian receives Christ's body and blood in the Sacrament with thanksgiving, because he has faith that this Supper truly forgives sins and gives eternal life for the sake of that body that was once broken on the cross for us.
Faith believes God's Word. Faith receives the gifts God offers through the means of grace, his Word and Sacraments. It is through this faith and in response to these gifts that you give proper thanks to God.
Yet giving thanks is more than songs of praise, although these are beautiful to the ears of our Father in heaven. Thanksgiving is sacrifice. We offer sacrifices of thanksgiving not only in word, but in action; not only in Church, but everywhere we are; not only on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. The Apostle writes, "giv[e] thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5:20)
Thanksgiving is a fruit of faith, in fact you could say it is the fruit of faith. Every act of love, of sacrifice, of submission by the Christian, is an act of thanksgiving toward God. As the people of Israel offered sacrifices of thanksgiving in the Temple, so Christians offer sacrifices of thanksgiving by offering their time, money, strength, and abilities to God. This involves giving out of their abundance to support the mission of the Church, sacrificing time to help others, feeding the poor, comforting those who mourn, praying for your enemies, visiting the sick, and confessing Christ to the sinner tormented by a guilty conscience.
Because God constantly cares for you, not only for your physical needs, but Christ Jesus currently and forever intercedes for you before God declaring you innocent by his blood, so your faith holds to this promise constantly. And because your faith constantly trusts in God's protection and salvation, so you constantly give thanks to God, in plenty and hunger, in abundance and need, in prison and freedom. Give thanks to the LORD always, because he always keeps you in his grace.