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Summary: Through his baptism, Jesus transforms believers, heals us and we are adopted into God’s covenant community and thus we are no longer estranged from God.

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EVEN GREAT PEOPLE NEED A BATH SOMETIMES

II KINGS 5:1 14

MARK 1:1 11

POWER AND GREATNESS HAVE A TASTE. MAYBE YOU KNOW THAT TASTE. FOR YOU THE TASTE MIGHT BE SWEET AND STICKY, LIKE COTTON CANDY FROM THE COUNTY FAIR, EATEN ON A WARM AUTUMN NIGHT. IT MIGHT BE THE SALTY PLASTIC TASTE OF A MOUTHPIECE, WELL WORN FROM USE BY AN ATHLETE. IT MIGHT EVEN BE THE SLIGHTLY THICK PETROLEUM TASTE OF CANDY APPLE RED LIPSTICK.

A TASTE MIGHT NOT COME TO MIND FOR YOU. BUT IF YOU HAVE EVER FELT POWER OR GREATNESS THEN YOU KNOW THAT PHYSICAL SENSATIONS GO ALONG WITH SUCH AN EXPERIENCE.

OUR BIBLICAL TEXTS THIS MORNING HAVE TWO POWERFUL PEOPLE IN THEM BUT THEIR POWER CONTRASTS EACH OTHER. OUR OLD TESTAMENT READING IS ABOUT THE CAPTAIN OF THE KING’S ARMY, NAAMAN, WHO WAS A GREAT MAN, A VALIANT WARRIOR, RESPECTED BY THE KING OF ARAM, HIS MASTER.

OUR NEW TESTAMENT READING CENTERED ON THE BAPTISM OF JESUS. WHO IS THIS JESUS? FROM READING MATTHEW’S GOSPEL WE KNOW THAT HE WAS BORN TO MARY AND JOSEPH. WE CAN REMEMBER SOMETHING ABOUT WISE MEN. OH AND WE ALSO CAN REMEMBER THAT MATTHEW STARTS HIS GOSPEL OUT WITH A VERY LONG LIST OF JESUS’ RELATIVES. THAT IS WHAT WE LEARN ABOUT JEUSUS.

WE HAVE TWO STORIES OF POWERFUL MEN WHO COME TO PROPHETS SEEKING SOMETHING FROM GOD. ONE STORY OF NAAMAN THE WARRIOR AND THE OTHER ABOUT JESUS CHRIST THE MESSIAH. IN THE STORY ABOUT NAAMAN WE LEARN THAT HE WAS A VICTORIOUS MAN IN BATTLE BECAUSE AS THE TEXT SAYS , "BY NAAMAN THE LORD HAD GIVEN VICTORY TO ARAM".

I IMAGINE NAAMAN KNEW THE TASTE OF VICTORY. AT HIS HANDS MEN HAD DIED. YES, HE KNEW THE TASTE OF VICTORY IN BATTLE. BUT FOR NAAMAN THERE WAS ANOTHER TASTE.

NAAMAN KNEW THE TASTE OF ROTTING FLESH, HIS OWN, FOR AS THE TEXT POINTS OUT HE HAD LEPROSY. BECAUSE LEPROSY IS SUCH A FEARED DISEASE NAAMAN KNEW HIS TIME IN SOCIETY WAS LIMITED, JUST AS HIS LIFE WAS LIMITED.

HE MUST HAVE KNOWN THAT AS SOON AS HIS CONDITION BECAME

KNOWN HE WOULD LOOSE ALL OF HIS POWER, AUTHORITY, AND GREATNESS, LEAVING HIM WITH NOTHING BUT A BITTER TASTE IN HIS MOUTH.

THERE IS NOTHING IN OUR GOSPEL TEXT THIS MORNING THAT TELLS US THAT JESUS KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THE TASTE OF VICTORY, POWER OR GREATNESS. JESUS APPEARS ON THE SCENE WITH ONLY MARK’S INTRODUCTION AND JOHN’S WORDS. YET WE ALL KNOW THAT JESUS, LIKE NAAMAN KNOWS THE TASTE OF POWER, AUTHORITY, AND GREATNESS. YET UNLIKE NAMAAN JESUS DOES NOT HAVE LEPROSY.

LEPROSY WAS NAAMAN’S GREATEST ENEMY IN LIFE. ALL THE OTHER FOES HE COULD VANQUISH AND CONQUER, BUT NOT LEPROSY. THEN ONE DAY HE LEARNS OF A GREAT PROPHET WHO CAN HEAL LEPROSY FROM HIS JEWISH SLAVE.

HE GOES TO HIS KING AND ASKS HIM TO WRITE A LETTER TO THE KING OF ISRAEL ENTREATING HIM TO HEAL NAAMAN. IMAGINE THE REACTION OF THE KING OF ISRAEL WHEN NAAMAN SHOWED UP AT THE PALACE SEEKING THE PROPHET’S HELP. I IMAGINE THAT HE TASTED FEAR, FOR ARAM AND ISRAEL WERE ENEMIES. HE RENDS OR TEARS HIS CLOTHING AT HEARING THE LETTER READ.

NOW IN THESE DAYS THERE WE NO FAX MACHINES, NO WORLD WIDE WEB TO BROWSE, NO TELEPHONES, OR RADIOS. EVEN SO, THE PROPHET ELISHA HEARS ABOUT THE KING’S PREDICAMENT AND SENDS WORD FOR THE KING NOT TO FEAR OR GRIEVE BECAUSE HE, ELISHA, WILL SEE TO NAAMAN.

NAAMAN MUST HAVE TASTED THE EXPECTANCY IN HIS MOUTH, A TASTE LIKE THE ONE A CHILD GETS AT 3:00 A.M. ON CHRISTMAS MORNING OR THE ONE THAT A PARENT ACQUIRES WAITING FOR THE BIRTH OF A CHILD AFTER 30 HOURS OF LABOR.

NAAMAN GOES TO THE PROPHET ELISHA EXPECTING HIM TO GENUFLECT, ANOINT HIM WITH OIL, SPEAK IN A FUNNY LANGUAGE, PASS HIS HAND OVER THE LEPROSY, AND ACT LIKE A HOLY MAN. HE GENERALLY WANTS TO BE TREATED LIKE THE POWERFUL AND GREAT WARRIOR THAT HE IS.

WHEN ELISHA SENDS HIS SERVANT TO INFORM NAAMAN TO GO WASH IN THE JORDAN RIVER, NAAMAN MUST HAVE HAD, AS THE KIDS SAY NOWADAYS, A REALLY BIG COW. WHICH WE COULD IMAGINE MIGHT HAVE LEFT A BITTER AND ANGRY TASTE IN HIS MOUTH.

IF YOU LISTEN CLOSELY AND USE YOUR IMAGINATION YOU MIGHT EVEN BE ABLE TO HEAR NAAMAN’S HOSTILITY, INDIGNATION, AND CONTEMPT FOR THE WORD OF GOD’S PROPHET. YOU MIGHT EVEN BE ABLE TO HEAR HIM REPEATEDLY SPIT, LIKE A PERSON WHO EATS A BAD OYSTER MIGHT SPIT, TRYING TO RID HERSELF OF THE BAD TASTE.

NAAMAN COMES TO THE PROPHET ELISHA TO BE CLEANSED. HE IS SENT TO THE JORDAN RIVER TO WASH HIMSELF. THE SAME RIVER THAT JOHN THE BAPTIST USES TO BAPTIZE PEOPLE.

ACCORDING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT TEXT john the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. PEOPLE COME TO BE CLEANSED.

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