Delayed gratitude can be more powerful than gratitude at the moment we’re blessed. We may not fully appreciate what happened until time passes. Listen in to learn more.

A listener offers a correction

In episode 140 from a few weeks ago, I talked about the relational benefits of thanking people in writing for something they did to bless you. Writing a thank you note is a great way to deepen a relationship because it reminds us of the kindness we received, while at the same time it encourages the recipient of the thank you note to continue blessing others.

I also cautioned our listeners in that episode not to expect people to thank you for the good you do for them. Because often they won’t. But you do good things for people anyway, because it’s the right thing to do.

For example, I mentioned that in my reading of the Bible of all the times Jesus blessed people, I couldn’t recall a single time when someone thanked Him for what He did for them.

Soon after that episode aired, a listener – I think from Minnesota – quickly wrote to correct me. Keep listening to hear what she pointed out to me. It’s an interesting story we can all benefit from.

The healed leper who thanks Jesus

Our Minnesota listener pointed out to me that in Luke 17 there is the story of Jesus healing ten lepers, one of whom returned afterward to thank Him. I’ll read this short account from Luke 17: 11-14

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance,  crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Context of the story

The context of this delayed gratitude story is important. For one thing, Jesus had been traveling with his disciples when these 10 lepers appear. Jesus knew they were watching. What he said and how he presented himself was just as much for the benefit of his followers as it was for the lepers. He was teaching by showing, which for them, and many of us, has greater impact than by teaching by telling.

Geography is important in this story. Luke mentions the incident with the lepers takes place at the border between Galilee and Samaria. We can infer then that the 10 lepers were a mix of those from both places. If you were from Galilee, as were Jesus and his disciples, Samaria was considered the other side of the tracks. People from Samaria were looked down upon as second-class citizens. Why this is, I’ll leave for theologians and preachers to explain. They need the work and it keeps them off the dole.

One last thing in terms of context, you might wonder why Jesus told the lepers to present themselves to the priests after they were healed. This happened on other occasions when Jesus healed people. Presenting one’s self to the Jewish priests legitimized their cleansing. Without this, healing by Jesus was considered unofficial. One commentator this said

“It has to do with reintegrating lepers into society. Priests were able to verify that someone was healthy and had been cured (Lev. 13.49; 14:2ff.). Until that time, they were excluded from full participation in the community.

“In sending the lepers to the priests Jesus is giving them their opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, re-establish careers and resume normal worship.”

Who am I in this story?

This story of the 10 lepers raises two important questions for all of us. The first one is, “As a person of faith, where do I see myself in this story?”

I’d like to think I would be more like the one leper, the Samaritan leper, who came back to thank Jesus for healing him. Even though I didn’t realize at first Jesus would be healing me as I and the other 9 lepers went to see the Jewish priests, my delayed gratitude to Him would need to be acknowledged. I’d like to think I’d do the right thing in this regard.

But in reality, I think I am more like the 9 other lepers. They all had a measure of faith by believing they would be healed by Jesus, without Jesus actually being present. But it didn’t occur to them to go back and thank Jesus for this huge blessing he granted them.

This reminds me of my interview with Josephine in episode 143. She’s a missionary in Eastern Europe, and when she was on a recent home assignment, she went back to 3 of her former music teachers to thank them for the positive impact each of them had on her life. This was gratitude expressed many years after the fact that was quite powerful. I’ll have a link to it at the bottom of the show notes. It’s one of my favorite episodes.

It shows that sometimes it takes a significant distance of time and space for delayed gratitude to do its work. To touch our hearts in appreciation for how people – and God – have blessed us.

Who is Jesus in the story?

The second important question this story raises is “Who is Jesus?”

For example, at the end of the story, how do you picture Jesus when he asks this rhetorical question,

“Didn’t I heal ten men? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”

Do you see him as angry? Maybe disappointed? Critical, perhaps?

I can’t prove it, but I have a strong hunch he was smiling, maybe even laughing at the lack of gratitude from the other 9 who were healed. Laughing like a parent of a young child who sees the self-centeredness in their offspring. But who at the same time realizes it’s only a matter of time before their son or daughter matures, because he knows that deep down the child will eventually do the right thing.

I picture Jesus thinking and smiling like this and looking like the actor who plays this role of Christ in The Chosen. It’s that Internet series that’s become so popular. To me, he looks like Aaron Rogers, the star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. But this character who plays Jesus in The Chosen often smiles at the idiosyncrasies of his followers. I can easily imagine Jesus doing the same with us.

Don't you love a Jesus who laughs and smiles? I hope you do.

And I love how in this story Jesus points out the leper with the delayed gratitude is from Samaria. I’m sure Jesus did this for the benefit of his disciples who were from the right side of the tracks in Galilee.

We don’t expect people different t from us to be better than us. But that’s what happened here with the leper from Samaria who praised Jesus with his delayed gratitude.

So what does all this mean for YOU?

I’ll leave you with a question to think about. What is something Jesus has done for you in the past that evokes thankfulness within you now? Where would you be today if Jesus had not done what he did for you back then?

Here’s the main takeaway I hope you remember from today’s episode

Delayed gratitude can be more powerful than thankfulness at the moment we’re blessed. We may not fully appreciate what happened until time passes and the significance of the blessing penetrates our soul. When it does, our relationship with the person who blessed us deepens.

As always, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. You can even feel free to correct me as our listener from Minnesota did today.


In closing, I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect upon something Jesus has done for you, and then thank him for it, as the cleansed leper from Samaria did.

It’s one way to find the joy God intends for you in your relationship with Him. Because as we all know by now, You Were Made for This.

That’s it for today. In the meantime, spread a little joy in your relationships until we meet up again next time. Goodbye for now.

Related episodes you may want to listen to or watch

143: Initiate with People to Enrich Our Life – Part 1

140: Two Relational Benefits to a Thank You Note

139: Why Should I Listen to this Podcast?

Click here to watch The Chosen

Our Sponsor

You Were Made for This is sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry. We depend upon the generosity of people like you to pay our bills.  If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible donation, please click here. Thank you.