2 Kings 5: 1-14
Mark 1: 40-45
Imagine the story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian was a play – which part would you most like to be cast in?
Naaman is on stage a lot of course – it’s his story in many ways so he has top billing. He is a very successful army commander but suffers from leprosy and needs healing. But although Naaman is the focus of the story I think he’s too prone to making mistakes to really be the hero.
Instead, you might like to look at the important parts played in the story by the 3 servants:
Naaman's wife's servant is the one who tells Naaman to go to Elisha for healing in the first place - she has faith in her God.
I think she’s quite a heroine in the story, actually. If she was resentful towards her owner (and remember she’s been captured in battle, so didn’t exactly choose to be serving Naaman’s wife) the story might never have got started. But when she sees Naaman’s suffering she has faith that God, through Elisha, can and will heal him.
Naaman's own servant is the one who persuades him to bathe in the miserable little river Jordan - he seems to a pragmatist, when he says 'if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?'. Whether he believes it will work or just thinks Naaman might as well try it, we don't really know. But without him, Naaman would simply have gone home unhealed. His attitude to Elisha’s offer of healing seems to be ‘it can’t hurt, so you might as well try’.
Elisha's servant appears twice – firstly he’s the one that delivers Elisha’s instructions to Naaman, since Elisha himself won’t even leave the house to talk to Naaman. Then, after Naaman has given in, bathed in the Jordan, and been healed, Naaman tries to pay Elisha for his services & the prophet refuses payment. Elisha’s servant appears again, going running after Naaman to claim some of the money. And he is punished with the skin disease. He thinks God’s power is something he can cash in on.
I think those three different servants help us to reflect on the 3 different reactions to God’s power to heal.
How do we feel about God’s healing?
Do we say ‘I suppose we could try it? – it can’t make things any worse – are we pragmatic like Naaman’s servant?
Do we see God’s healing power as something to cash in on – something we can offer people who come to our church, perhaps – an added extra for church membership?
Or like Naaman’s wife’s servant, the young girl whose name we do not know, do we accept God’s ability to heal and trust that if it is God’s will, healing can follow?
We may feel there’s an echo of this same trust in the words of the leper who comes to Jesus. “If you choose you can make me clean”.
And Jesus’ response is just as simple ‘I do choose. Be made clean’.
Jesus shows us God’s healing at work in the life of a man who desperately needs it.
He needs it because being a leper is a life sentence which leads to him being considered unclean and an outcast.
He needs it to be able to work.
He needs it to be able to even live in the same house as his family.
Jesus gives him the greatest gift, the gift of healing.
But did you notice that Jesus doesn’t waste time asking what this man’s attitude is to the healing Jesus offers? He may want his livelihood back and be interested in money, like Elisha’s servant; he may just be desperate and willing to give it a go, like Naaman’s servant; or he may have absolute faith, like the servant girl who serves Naaman’s wife.
Whatever his reasons or his thinking, he asks Jesus for help. And Jesus heals him.
When as Christians we start thinking about healing we may get ourselves in all sorts of knots. How does healing work? Why isn’t everyone healed? When will God heal us and when will he offer us the new life that comes through death?
We can’t answer these questions, and yet maybe the stories of both Naaman the Syrian and of the leper healed by Jesus teach us that if we can just find faith enough to ask for help, God will reach out and touch us, and make us whole.
Whatever our needs this day, may the risen Jesus grant us healing in his name, so that we may celebrate at his table in this bread and wine, just as one day we will celebrate the new life of heaven.
Thanks be to God.