2 Kings 5:1-14
New International Version (NIV)
Naaman Healed of Leprosy
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents[b] of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God?Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
Mark 1:40-45New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy40 A man with leprosy[a] came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was indignant.[b] He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,”he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
A guy suffering from a miserable cold begs his doctor for relief. The doctor prescribes pills. But after a week, the guy’s still sick. So the doctor gives him a shot. But that doesn’t help his condition either.
"Okay, this is what I want you to do," says the doctor on the third visit. "Go home and take a hot bath. Then throw open all the windows and stand in the draft."
"I’ll get pneumonia!" protests the patient.
"I know. That I can cure."
Leprosy is a chronic disease of the skin, peripheral nerves, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae. In tuberculoid leprosy, cells of the immune system crowd into infected areas of the skin, forming hard nodules, or tubercles, that spread along nerve fibres. This type of reaction commonly leads to claw hand, gross deformity of the foot, and paralysis of muscles of the face, eye, and neck. (Which is the one that was most common during the Biblical era). In the first type, bacilli multiply freely in deep layers of the skin and spread widely through lymphatic channels and along nerve fibres, causing thickening and corrugation of the skin, raising soft nodules on the ears, nose, and cheeks, and sometimes destroying the septum of the nose and the palate. Leprosy has a long history. Until the 20th century, infected people were ostracized from society or at best segregated and cared for in isolated leper colonies. Today the disease is entirely curable through multidrug therapy, though tissue damage caused before drug treatment cannot be reversed. Some 600,000 new cases arise every year, mostly in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and the Pacific Islands. About 60 percent of new cases occur in India.
At many points during the Bible there are references to leprosy and other various forms of mental and physical afflictions. That is because if one reads into the New Testament there is an important theme of “healing”. Moreover there is a distinct to be able to help others whenever the opportunity arises. I believe there are several reasons why leprosy is used in the frequency that it is. However there are also a few passages that bring out some other themes that I would like to touch upon.
Firstly, in Second Kings Namaan was clearly upset about being asked to dip himself completely seven times in the Jordan which one might say would be the Chateauguay river of the rivers in the province of Judaea. He listened to Elisha, and his “rage” subsided. So, he listened to the prophet/servant of God and he was calmed, healed. Secondly, Namaan had expected Elisha could pray to God and heal him because he was a prophet. Um, that’s not how healing or even miracles work, at least not in my opinion. I think that listening carefully and taking initiative is essential in understanding and finding peace. Thirdly, his flesh became like new, smooth like a newborn baby. Since there was no baby powder around we cannot attribute the silky smoothness to any skin care product but the healing grace of God. So I would like to suggest that he was “born again”, or made into a new man, once again through following the instructions of Elisha. Also, I believe that the mentioning of the skin like a child is important, represents a new beginning, an honest or a naïve feeling if you will. Since children are arguably more prone to taking advice eventually, no matter how much of a fuss they put up they do eventually come to their senses. No matter how many times I am told to go kiss Aunt Gertrude on the lips and refuse I will make my way over at some point through the somewhat delicate coaching of my father. Similarly, Namaan eventually swallowed his pride, displayed his courage and dunked himself in the river.
Let us for a minute, take a bit of a closer look at when Namaan listened to Elisha and had his anger then his sickness healed… Yes, at first he was a little upset to say the least. He refuted Elisha and probably caused a scene similar to a toddler in Toys R Us who wants a new toy, But he DID listen eventually. And I think this is very similar to use as everyday Christians. I’m not suggesting that we’re all modern day Namaan’s or at least like his train of thought but the way he was unsure, even doubting the word of a prominent prophet. I do not think we need to be shocked about what we need to do in order to find comfort or become closer to God. And along the same train of thought, do we need to have something wrong in order to seek out healing or God’s help? Absolutely not. I think that there are many people, myself included that could use some prodding or guidance from God from time to time. In that respect, we are like Namaan sometimes as well. We do not always seek God when everything would appear to be well and good. Although leprosy only shows on the outside and we may not have it, it does not mean that we are “clean” and all is dandy.
The second item I would like to analyze and talk about is the expectation of Namaan going to see Elisha. Being a prophet and arguably believed to be one of the closest to God at that time Namaan believed that he would be absolved of this affliction. Not only was that a misnomer then but it is also one now. It is very wrong for us to simply assume to see a man of God and be healed, cured or comforted. Yes, believe that it is necessary to go through the act of consulting a minister in the church or a lay preacher but we cannot expect to be healed right there and then, it is not fair to them or to ourselves. What do I mean? I would like to suggest that going to see a religious/holy man is but the first of many steps to find inner and therefore outer peace. I do applaud Namaan for seeking out Elisha and asking for his help being the noble man that he was and asking for help… But as we read, it took Namaan following through with the instructions to be healed. Healing is a journey, it is not an overnight trip where all you need is a pillow, pyjamas some homemade food *cough cough mom*. But it something like the leper Namaan that we must seek out and heed the word of God, and through following his instructions or Jesus’ teachings we can find ourselves free from the burden of sickness.
To wrap up the chapter of 2 Kings I would, for a moment, like to delve into the qualities of Namaan’s skin post- 7 dips in the Jordan. He comes out with the skin of Marilyn Monroe or those E-Trade babies you may have seen on TV. Smooth, clean and child-like or “newborn” depending on one’s translation of the Bible. Yes it’s a miracle, or at least a feat of some medical phenomena but that’s not necessarily as important as his skin. (No, im not promoting skin care products but do head to Uniprix for the best in… whoops, sorry I got off track). Namaan is healed after following Elisha’s instructions and his skin is like that of a young, innocent child eager to explore and learn from this wild world. That is the genre of healing we need to and should and probably do go through more often than we think. The healing grace of God, if I may be so bold turned back the clock on not only his skin but also of his faith. He now has faith and trust in God. Like a young child heading to school, or being homeschooled he is now free to mould and be taught in a new way…
Personally, I do not believe that stories of sickness and affliction should be the one’s that drive us to seek out God more and more. I don’t know that is a good, let alone healthy idea to rely upon sickness to help us find God, but that there is a lot we can do through simply going to church, speaking with a minister or reading a book. Faith, it sure is fickle.
If I may continue on this same vein of healing, leprosy and what we may have to learn from the lepers in the Bible readings this morning I would like to look at the verses from Mark for a little while. The reading starts off by the man saying “if you are willing, can you make me clean?”. In one translation the next line if you will says Jesus was filled with compassion, he was touched by this sick man and replied that indeed, yes he is willing. Of course, to us this comes as no surprise, or does it? Are we sometimes hesitant to approach someone when we are afflicted? Maybe embarrassed, when we’re not ourselves? Or is it the opposite? Do we only approach when we are harmed or prohibited from doing something? Continuing on in the scripture lesson … So this healed man, filled to the brim with happiness goes on telling everyone after Jesus asks him not to. He was only supposed to tell the Rabbi what had been done so he could then make the proper sacrifice (which was the normal ritual at that time). So, this man ended up spreading the good news all over that region over the miracle that had happened. As a result Jesus now had to limit himself to the outskirts so he would not be swarmed by people asking for healing of one sort or another. Now, we could draw several conclusions here I believe so there is no really “right answer”. My interpretation is not one of disappointment towards the man because that is not the way. No, I think that Jesus knew that this man would spread the word, and inadvertently led to the increasing in quote unquote fame of Jesus. In that same regard I think the being limited to places outside the larger metropolis areas allowed Jesus to teach and be as successful as he was. And the people came from everywhere. From the butcher, the corner store, the saloon and who knows maybe the birds and the bees even came.
Furthermore I believe this story is a lesson that can and really should be applied to us as Christians. God isn’t asking nor does he require for one to put up posters everywhere looking for more congregation members or letters urging people to come to church. I think that the human beings that he chose to heal is important. More often than not it was people where you could tell that something was clearly wrong with them. So everyday people like for example you and I could tell people. Is it that we as healthy people were not relied upon to spread the word? Is it that we needed to see these miracles in order to believe? I’m not sure, but I think that it is on the backs of healing the sick and helping the poor that Jesus becomes such a prominent figure. I mean, it is through them that he kind of becomes who he is. The middle class, upper middle class and others who were going through the motions weren’t necessarily the ones who were going to spread what he was teaching and follow him. Yes, many did but the numbers of those who had been touched by Him, who had sought him out are much higher than those who had a fairly decent life did.
In conclusion, I think we as a Christian people, as human beings can learn something from the lepers and the sick in the New Testament. They found Jesus, they spread the word… And, that Jesus made followers out of non-believers and the sick and lowly before hitting up suburban Bethlehem is a sign. A sign that there perhaps are those who have a better grip on life and what is important than we day. That is just my opinion. But, I believe if anyone can change the way we think, rather if anything can help us to realize our full potential that not only do we have to look within ourselves to find that spark, but look around…Don’t look down, don’t look away. For we are ALL equal in the eyes of the Lord.
- A leper, can change our spots…
- Thank you.