Almighty and everlasting God, grant that by your help we may grow in faith, hope and love; and so that we may obtain what you promise, make us also to love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
2 Kings 5 : 9 - 16
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away saying, “Behold I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel. Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” But he said , “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
Galatians 5 : 16 - 24
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. But those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Luke 17 : 11 - 19
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance, and lifted up their voices, saying. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.
In popular terms many skin ailments in the Bible were defined as leprosy. Various infections and diseases happened to cause the embarrassment and alienation of victims, and members of society were naturally afraid of close contact. Social distancing is an ancient policy for the preservation of sound health. Lepers were considered vile and unclean by the public which shunned them mercilessly.
Naaman, a successful military strategist and commander, was shamed by an ugly skin disorder that could well have brought him disrespect and exclusion from the social circles to which he felt entitled. News of Elisha’s miraculous healing power brought him to the prophet’s door. He came in grand style worthy of his eminence that would surely impress the man of God and elicit a famous display of deferential and ceremonial healing. Elisha was not having it. Any worthy approach to his Lord required genuine humility, and a mere messenger was despatched to greet the proud Syrian victor of recent success.
Instructed to bathe in the Jordan, “Wash and be clean”, Naaman concluded that such compliance was beneath his dignity and refused to comply. So much was at stake that Naaman’s servants persuaded him to obey the prophet, and dipping himself seven times in Israel’s waters the choosy leader of his army emerged clean. The experience of divine power through the command of the prophet, to whom he did not wish to defer, brought the arrogant Syrian to the point of reverence toward’s Israel’s God. He became convinced of the uniqueness and sovereignty of God. What followed, we can only hope, was a walk with God and the conversion of some of his men.
Walking to Jerusalem through terrain where Jews and Gentiles would cross paths Jesus was encountered by ten lepers, who, shouting from a safe distance cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”. Jesus advised them to register with the priests as cleansed men. As they went they were healed. In the act of going they became knowing of the miracle that instantly restored them. It was a glorious discovery of the help of the Lord. Only one individual stopped to take stock of the situation, and gratitude overwhelmed his soul. He turned back, extolling God for his generous mercy, and fell joyfully and humbly at the feet of the Savior. Among the ten his praise and thankfulness were exceptional. And he was doubly despised; first as a leper, and then as a contemptible outsider - “Now he was a Samaritan” of whom nothing worthy was expected. The grace of the Lord Jesus is astonishing and immeasurable.
Paul addressed the Galatians with the description of the worst infection possible - the leprosy of the human soul. Its vile symptoms are enumerated by the apostle in shocking and convicting candor. His warning is that the uncured disease of sin definitely excludes the unrepentant, unregenerate from the wellbeing and blessedness of the kingdom of God. An internal cleansing and purification is necessary and its evidence is detected as the fruit of the Spirit, the marks of which he delineates for us. Our moral vileness, discerned in our uneasy conscience, is purified by the blood of Jesus shed on our behalf. A Substitute has borne the consequences of our many offenses. We are accepted and forgiven by God, and no longer under the condemnation of the law. And the Holy Spirit renews and refines our desires from here on.
Naaman’s servants put him in mind of “the great word” spoken by Israel’s prophet. It was the remedy for his annoying plight. The people of God are now entrusted with the great word of the gospel, the only cure for the deadly pandemic of inborn sin that manifests itself in so many tragic and deadly ways in human life. By nature man is so often too proud to be reliant upon the merciful word of God, yield to the Lord Jesus Christ, and trust him for cleansing and cure. Our sinful ego must stoop before the Lord in faith and humility and trust the Redeemer who holds forth the only satisfactory remedy for the plague of human hearts.
It is spiritually and eternally fatal to repudiate the invitation of divine grace and forfeit life in the favor of God and everlasting communion with him. At this moment there is still opportunity for we lepers to cry out to the Lord Jesus himself, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”. Martin Luther opines that faith and humility are indissolubly united as one in the penitent heart.