Summary: God is bigger than ANY elephant.
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Has anyone here had the flu this winter? Even the 24-hour virus kind of knocks you down, kicks you in the teeth, and leaves you an aching, shivering blob. And there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. The elephant is on the rampage. No one likes to be sick, but it happens, it’s a fact of life.
It’s not a fun thing because you can just feel it coming on. You just don’t feel quite right and as the day passes you just keep spiraling downward, right into bed. Soon, you can’t do anything you want to do. You can’t work, you can’t take care of the house, you can’t have a normal conversation, you don’t feel like eating or drinking or doing anything, because you are sick.
You can’t do anything except ride it out, suffering in the knowledge that SOMETIME in the near future, the sickness will loose it’s hold on you and you’ll start to feel like a human being again. You know what I’m talking about. You start feeling better and it’s such a relief. You never really appreciate feeling healthy until you’ve been sick.
The lion was proud of his mastery of the animal kingdom. One day he decided to make sure all the other animals knew he was the king of the jungle. He was so confident that he by-passed the smaller animals and went straight to the bear. "Who is the king of the jungle?" the lion asked. The bear replied, "Why you are, of course" The lion gave a mighty roar of approval. Next he asked the tiger, "Who is the king of the jungle?" The tiger quickly responded, "Everyone knows that you are, mighty lion " Next on the list was the elephant. The lion faced the elephant and addressed his question, "Who is the king of the jungle?" The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk, whirled him around in the air five or six times and slammed him into a tree.
Then he pounded him onto the ground several times, dunked him under water in a nearby lake, and finally dumped him out on the shore. The lion--beaten, bruised, and battered--struggled to his feet. He looked at the elephant through sad and bloody eyes and said, "Look, just because you don’t know the answer is no reason for to get mean about it!"
This is where we meet our buddy Naaman in our Old Testament scripture for today. Naaman was a very important man – commander of the army of Aram. He was powerful, important, and successful in the sight of the king and of all the people of the land. But Naaman had a problem – the elephant of leprosy had been running rampage on him.
When we’re sick we’ll do almost anything, try any “home remedy”, to get well. Well, Naaman is willing to do anything to get well, even seek the help of a prophet in a foreign country. Just like people who will fly across the country to try the latest “miracle cure”, they’ve heard about. We’ll do ANYTHING to feel “whole” again.
So what did Elisha do? He doesn’t go outside to tell Naaman what to do, he doesn’t even get up from his chair where he is writing some words of wisdom. He sends a messenger to give Naaman the prescription. Of course, that doesn’t sit well with Naaman at all.
Naaman was told to go and wash SEVEN times in the Jordan river. Not 3 times, not 5 times, not 6 3/4 times, ...but 7 times.
So I can just see Naaman. He’s going down to the Jordan, muttering under his breath………
He gets to the river, walks down into the water, goes under, and then surfaces. He looks at himself, shows his servants like, “See!” Of course they gently reminded him that Elisha said SEVEN times. So he drops into the water 6 more times, all the while grumbling & muttering about what a stupid idea this was.
After the seventh time, he walks toward the bank. Then, he looks down at his arms. The spots are gone. He gets out of the water and looks at his legs. Clean! He looks at his torso. Clean! A miracle has happened. Naaman is clean once again. The leprosy was gone. Naaman was a great general, but he couldn’t defeat the elephant of leprosy. But God could.
Jump with me now to our reading from Mark 1. Remember, Naaman was willing to do ANYTHING, even listen to a foreign prophet to be healed. Mark 1:40 says, “A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’”
This is in direct violation of the rules laid out in the Old Testament. A leper was exiled from society. A leper had to constantly cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” lest anyone get too close. Like Naaman, this leper is willing to do ANYTHING to be healed, even break the law.