Summary: Comparison and contrast of the leper healing in Old Testament to Christ healing the leper. Why we need to believe in miracles.
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 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 the air five or six times and slammed him into a tree. Then he pounded him on the ground several times, dunked him under water in the nearby watering hole, and finally dumped him 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, “Hey, look just because you don’t know the answer is no reason to get mean about it.”
This is where we meet Naaman. He is the subject of our Old Testament reading that Madge read us today. Naaman was a very important man, the commander of the army of Aram. He was everything that was successful; powerful, important, well looked upon by his king and the people of his land. He was as proud and sure of himself as the lion. But Naaman met up with an elephant of his own. The elephant of leprosy.
Leprosy was and still is a horrendous disease. Modern leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease. At the beginning of 2002 the number of leprosy patients in the world was six hundred thirty five thousand as reported by 106 countries.
In the book of Leviticus, chapters 13 and 14 there are detailed laws of diagnoses, classifications, treatment and action, in addition to cleansing rituals.
In the NIV version they use the politically correct term of infectious skin disease, in the King James Version they call it a plague. No matter which term we deem to use it was a horrible disease with great social stigma attached to it. Sounds like some of our modern diseases today, doesn’t it?
The lepers had to separate themselves form society; they had to exhibit signs of mourning—tearing of their clothes, covering their lower face with the hem of their robes and warning people that they approached with the cry of, “Unclean, unclean” and they were required to live outside of the city.
If and when they were cured, they had to go through ritualistic purifications. Not to cleanse them of the leprosy but to remove the residue of residual impurity. Of course, these were the laws of the Jewish people.
We do not know how Naaman got leprosy and we do not know why if he had it was he still surrounded by servants. We just know that Naaman was not a happy soldier.
His servant girl was a Jew and knew of the miracles of Elisha. So she told her master and the king of Aram wrote a letter to the king of the Israelites asking for him to heal Naaman. The king of Israel not being a trusting soul thinks it is a trick. And the old boy is a bit panicky and afraid that he is being set up for failure. Then Elisha comes to the rescuer and steps up and tells Naaman how he can be healed. But not in person; no Elisha sends a messenger. The prophet didn’t come to the great Naaman, a messenger is sent with the instructions.
Now remember that we have determined that Naaman is a proud man. Proud and strong like our lion. And Naaman doesn’t understand the instructions. First off he probably wasn’t too happy that a messenger came to speak to him and not the prophet himself. Why would one river be different than another, they had rivers where he came from? And why in the world seven dunkings? Naaman gets into a bit of a snit. We can probably safely say that our friend Naaman might have been getting grouchy and childish, like some men get when they are sick. I won’t name any names, though a few do come to mind. But finally he agrees and goes down to the Jordon and does as instructed. He is cured. He was not defeated by his elephant. But he was not a prideful lion now either. He understood that the God of the Israelites had caused a miracle to happen.
Now jump ahead with me to the book of Mark. We have seen in our previous weeks that Jesus’ ministry is intensifying. He is performing miracles and they aren’t your run of the mill miracles. They are miracles that give you that shiver up the back of your neck. They are ones that are fulfilling the prophesies of the Old Testament of the Messiah.