TEXTS:  2 Kings 5:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:19-11:1; Mark 1:40-45
JESUS CHRIST IS WILLING FOR ALL TO WASH AND BE CLEAN!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear hearers of the Word made flesh! We have all come to know what an Amber Alert is. A child is missing - perhaps being carried off. Hearts race with fear and apprehension. The public plea is for others to wake up to the emergency.  Perhaps the child can be rescued and returned safely home.

Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.
Think seriously on the Amber Alert status – the widespread torment – indicated here. Raiding parties from a foreign land had carried off children from Israel. Perhaps her parents were slain in the raid or carried off in slavery elsewhere. Perhaps they were absent when the raid occurred and now mourned the unknown of their daughter’s safety. The evil and grief that people visit upon one another and that government and military forces may also bring about is sometimes beyond calculating. Mull over the anguish for this girl – carried off on a raid.





TEXTS:  2 Kings 5:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:19-11:1; Mark 1:40-45
JESUS CHRIST IS WILLING FOR ALL TO WASH AND BE CLEAN!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear hearers of the Word made flesh! We have all come to know what an Amber Alert is. A child is missing - perhaps being carried off. Hearts race with fear and apprehension. The public plea is for others to wake up to the emergency.  Perhaps the child can be rescued and returned safely home.

Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife.
Think seriously on the Amber Alert status – the widespread torment – indicated here. Raiding parties from a foreign land had carried off children from Israel. Perhaps her parents were slain in the raid or carried off in slavery elsewhere. Perhaps they were absent when the raid occurred and now mourned the unknown of their daughter’s safety. The evil and grief that people visit upon one another and that government and military forces may also bring about is sometimes beyond calculating. Mull over the anguish for this girl – carried off on a raid.

Then marvel with me about the actions recorded for her in her new vocation. Against her will – by ugly, brutal force – at the cost of sorrow and fear and who knows what – she had been forced into a new life. In that unsought and undesired station of life – she humbly and gently bears witness to the one true God who gives life! What incredible faith! What steady courage in loving one’s enemies and praying for those who persecute you. She worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” Why not pray evil on one’s captors? Why not seek to get even? Why in heaven’s name would she want to help the commander of the army whose forces had ripped here away from home and family? This little girl seems to have understood the theology of the cross.

She simply went about her daily life – a life that was beyond her control. As she did so, she sought the welfare of those around her. Her life reflects the graphic predicament reflected in the book of Ecclesiastes and also the sharp point of hope revealed therein. In her suffering she served those now given her to serve – in this case by pointing to God’s prophet. So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.”  And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”  Naaman, however, wasn’t at the Jesus point. In that regard, he was unlike the leper that came to Jesus in Galilee.

That leper who came to Jesus was not supposed according to the law. He was considered a walking dead man – the lowliest of the low – the preeminent class of the unclean. Nobody was more feared and more excluded than one infected with leprosy. He was at the Jesus’ point – the point where everything is up to Jesus. Would this healer of men bother with him? “If you will, you can make me clean.”

The requirements of the law were clear. The leprous person was to wear torn clothing…cry out “unclean” “unclean” while keeping a safe distance from others…and live outside the camp (see Lev. 13:45ff.). This man should not be approached or touched according to the law. But Jesus is the Lord of the law. He stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.”  He didn’t heal at a distance. God in the flesh stretched out his hand to take hold of that rotting man. He becomes unclean with the uncleanness of the leper. He touches the untouchable. He wills to help the helpless. And immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean.

Now back to the other leper, Naaman – a great and mighty man! He also sought healing for the leprosy that soon would have ended the power and promise of his life. Naaman, however, wasn’t at the Jesus’ point. He still believed he had something to offer for the healing he sought from the prophet of God. With his horses and chariots and with his piles of gold and silver and with his lofty reputation and with his, “I’m in charge attitude,” Naaman stood at the door of Elisha’s house.

The prophet sent a messenger saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you will be clean.”  But, in-control Naaman did not want healing in the manner God offered it! With incredible pride – this leper believes he can improve on the way God delivers healing. Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place (sores) and cure the leper. If water must be used, he even knows better water than God has commanded. So he turned and went away in a rage.

Naaman would rather remain a leper than accept the cure God offered him. He wants to be cured, but he wants it on his own terms, in keeping with his own estimation of himself, his resources, his worth. Sadly, there is a bit of Naaman in each of us.

What illness or dysfunction or disturbance or festering sin in your life are you hanging on to because the cure God has provided is uncomfortable or unappealing? God calls us to confess hidden sins. God calls us to seek the forgiveness of those we have hurt. God calls us to reconcile with family members – loving them as Christ loves us. God even calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us – as did the little girl from Israel.

The process that leads to healing means we must be brought to the Jesus’ point. “Lord helm me! Lord, I don’t have the answers or the resources. Lord, I’m not all that special or privileged or strong or right. I may be an A student at the university, I may be a hot shot businessman or woman, I may be a dedicated mother, I may be a seasoned senior citizen, I may be an LCMS pastor, but the truth is, I’m a mess.”  The leprosy of sin infects me just as it does you. My personal garments are not the 10 changes of elegant and expensive clothing Naaman hauled along. My personal garments are the torn clothing of a leper. Lord, have mercy on me. Lord help me.

It’s not that we don’t want the cure – it’s that we don’t like the process that God has given for the cure. So we worry and complain and compare. We doubt the cure and even fight the cure. We may get a stinky attitude or an angry attitude or a bitter attitude or a defeatist attitude or an elitist attitude or especially an “I’ll-do-it-my-way” attitude. We may play the victim or we may play the noble commander or any station in between. Like Naaman, you need to get over it - continually. Like Naaman I need to get over it - continually. Unless we are receiving the kingdom of God like a little child we will never enter it.

Thank God Naaman’s level-headed servants intervened. Like the little girl from Israel served Naaman – so now those who 6raveled with him served him in a beautiful way. They didn’t offer an alternative. They didn’t rationalize or theologize or criticize. They didn’t keep quiet. They simply continued to speak God’s invitation – even while their boss was throwing a hissy fit. “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

Beloved, it is a great word the risen Christ has spoken to you as He spoke it to Thaleia Sophia this morning. Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash and be clean? Yes He has on the day of your rebirth and your baptism has not lost its power. The word He has spoken to you is so great that Scripture says – Baptism now saves you – and forgives your sins – and clothes you with Christ. It is not magic, but it is a holy mystery, a miracle of God’s grace that He will never back away from. It was His servants who brought you to those cleansing waters even as Thaleia was served by these caring servants of God today. How can water do such great things? Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. (God actually has said – wash and be clean).

So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child. Salvation for Naaman was in receiving God’s healing even as a little child receives. That cleansing opened up Naaman’s life. It had ongoing effect on who he was and what he did. So also your baptism has ongoing effect on who you are and what you do.

What does such baptizing with water indicate?  It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. In that daily duel God also invites us to receive another cleansing gift that is a return to Baptism – His Word of Absolution.

So, if you feel that you have sin-caused wounds that are too deep or shame that oozes too abundantly or that you are too leprous for Christ to touch and heal, your feelings are simply wrong. That is why He Himself was baptized into the leprosy of our sin by John in the Jordan. Jesus was willing to defile Himself – to get down and dirty for the sake of those He came to make clean.

That is also why He connects His presence and His promised gifts to bread and wine. Has He actually said to you “Take and drink, this is my blood of the New Testament shed for you for the remission of sins?”  Yes He has! He comes so close as to touch you –under the very roof of your mouth. It is a great word that the risen Christ speaks to you – will you not do it?

The healing flows from Jesus and He is not at a distance. The healing flows from Jesus because one day He was distanced from both God and man. Suspended just a few feet from the earth on the cross He was forsaken by man and by God. He was suspended there as sin itself (2 Cor 5:21). He was damned and died there to wash away the whole leprous mess – taking away the sin of the world –yours included! So get over devising your own cure! It is a waste of time – now – and eternally!

Dear Christians, like the leper we need to recognize that we are continually at the Jesus’ point – dependent totally on Him. That is actually a beautiful point for He Himself has said, Blessed are the poor in spirit (the poor beggars) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. From that Jesus’ point – knowing that you are not in control – He would have you serve others as did the little girl from Israel and as did Naaman’s other servants. That beautiful service is simply to continue telling those in your life where healing is to be found.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a