Summary: We may come to Jesus hoping and expecting for a particular need to be met; but he also wants to meet a deeper need - the cleansing of our heart.
Scripture Text: Mark 1.40-45
His name was Naaman. He was a leader; …a valiant-soldier; …a warrior. He was a great-man, who commanded the respect of everyone who knew him.
But, he had two-strikes against-him. As-a-matter-of-fact,…it’s absolutely startling that we know anything-at-all about him! The first-strike against-him was the fact that he was a foreigner… a Gentile. He was an Aramean and that meant – …as-far-as the Israelites were concerned ~ …that meant that he was an outsider; …Naaman was not one of God’s-people. It also-meant, that sometimes, his nation would-sometimes war with Israel ~ …so it’s absolutely-remarkable that he’s included in the Old Testament.
The other strike-he-had against-him, …the other-strike was that he was a leper. In the ancient-world, …leprosy struck fear in everyone. It was a terrible-disease. And-because they didn’t have a good-understanding of how leprosy was passed on ~ …the only thing that people knew-to-do, …was to fear-lepers and to force them to live in isolation from everyone else.
Apparently, Naaman was such a valiant-warrior, though, …that the King of the Arameans made-allowances for Naaman to continue as the commander of his army.
For the sake-of-time, I need to give-you-the-short version of Naaman’s story. But, I wanna encourage you to read the whole-thing in 2 Kings, chapter 5. But, Naaman was told to go to the Israelite prophet Elisha; …because, some-believed that Elisha might-be-able to-heal Naaman. He went. But, when he got there, Elisha didn’t-even come-to-meet him at the front-door! Elisha simply sent-word to Naaman, …to go-down to the Jordan River and dip-himself-in-the-water seven-times.
That’s it! Easy-skeezy! But, Naaman took-offense! He thought that Elisha was toying-with-him. He expected a show! He expected a lot of hoops to jump through. But, Elisha said to simply-go and dip-himself in the Jordan siete beces (seven times)!
Naaman threw a perfect fit! He was ready to storm-away ~ …except-for-the-fact that cooler-heads prevailed. His servants basically-told-him, “Don’t get so-bent-outta-shape!” If he’d been told to climb some mountain, he’d have put on his hiking boots. If Elisha had told him to hold his breath underwater for 3 minutes, …he’d have done it for 4. If Elisha had commanded him to burn his clothes and offer a bull on the altar-of-sacrifice, ….Naaman would have offered two!
But, since all-he-was-told to-do, …was to-dip in the Jordan seven times, …Naaman was ticked-off and just-about stormed-away. But, cooler-heads-prevailed.
And-so, Naaman went down to the Jordan, put one-foot-in-front of-the-other, …and baptized-himself, seven-times. And when he arose out of the water – after-that-seventh-dip – …when he stood-up out of the water the seventh-time, …his flesh was clean! No-more-leprosy! No-more disease, …no-more scabs and seething-sores. Healed. Restored. Given a new-lease-on-life! Naaman was beside-himself ~ …he said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel!”
It’s an incredible story of healing and transformation ~
…for not-only was Naaman’s disease cured,
…but-also, there was a healing-that-happened in his heart!
Fast-forward about 700 years. Leprosy is still feared. It’s still a terrible-disease. If you contracted the disease, you were thrown-out ~ …out-of-town, …out-of-work, …out-of-the-family. Leprosy was such-a-terrible thing, for so-many-reasons!
And-so, you can imagine that any-leper who-had-gotten-wind of the things-that-Jesus was-doing ~ …driving out evil spirits, …healing people of fevers and illnesses, …even restoring the health of all-those-people in the city-of-Capernaum ~ …as-word-was-spreading throughout the country-side, …you-can-imagine that people-struck-with-leprosy heard-the-word. And, (as-the-old-saying-goes): hope springs eternal! These men and women who were treated no-better-than-trash ~ …cast out of the villages and cities, …made to scrounge a living, out-in the remote-country-side ~ …lepers throughout the land of Israel whose hearts and spirits had-been-crushed with despair, …you-can-imagine how they might hold-onto-a-hope! A hope, …a wish, …a prayer that someday, Jesus would pass-by-their-way!
In Mark’s Gospel, it’s-amazing-to-me, to-see how quickly-things took-off, for Jesus! In a matter of a few-weeks, …he’s gathered-disciples to follow Him, …He’s performed some pretty-might-miracles, …and His fame is spreading-throughout the land. In Mark, chapter 1, verse 39, …we find that Jesus is takin’ the message on-the-road ~ …going through Galilee preaching and teaching and healing and delivering. And, it was while-He-was moving through the land-of-Galilee, …between one-town and the next, …that’s-when Jesus had the encounter with the leper who begged Him to make him “clean”.
Now… I know that often we come to Scripture ~ …and maybe-even our approach to sermons is like-this-too; …but, sometimes our-approach is like we’re going to a museum. We expect to find some interesting-things. Maybe we’re a little-curious. Hopefully, we’ll-be “wowed”!
But, I think-that when we come to Scripture, …we should bring-our-heart with-us. Bring your emotions, …bring your questions, …come to the Scripture with your heart laid open and let God speak directly into the confusion, …the despair,…the disappointment with others, ..the disappointment with yourself. This is not a museum ~ …where the Word of God is a relic contained safely-under-glass! This is not a laboratory ~ …where our emotions and life-experiences have been sanitized and covered-up by layers of latex! No!... This is a sanctuary ~ …where it’s safe to open our hearts and lives, …and let the Spirit of God speak to us, right where we’re living.