Gospel Reading: Luke 4:24-30
24 And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian." 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away.
Old Testament Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-15
1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little maid from the land of Israel, and she waited on Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, "Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, "Thus and so spoke the maiden from the land of Israel." 5 And the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten festal garments. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy." 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he rent his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me."
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, "Why have you rent your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel." 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean." 11 But Naaman was angry, and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.
13 But his servants came near and said to him, "My father, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather, then, when he says to you, `Wash, and be clean'?" 14 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, and he was clean. 15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him; and he said, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant."
Meditation: Do you believe that God wants to act with power in your life today? Power to set you free from sin and hurtful desires, fear and oppression. Throughout the Scriptures we see God performing mighty acts to save his people from death and destruction - from Noah's ark that spared his family from the flood of wickedness that had spread across the land to Moses and the Israelites who crossed through the parting waters of the Red Sea as they fled the armies of Pharoah their slave Master and oppressor.
Throughout the Gospel accounts Jesus praised individuals who put their faith in God as they remembered the great and wonderful deeds he had performed time and again. Jesus even praised outsiders - non-Jews and pagans from other lands who had heard about the mighty deeds of the God of Israel. One example Jesus mentioned was Naaman the pagan army commander from Syria who was afflicted with leprosy - a debilitating skin disease that slowly ate away the flesh (2 Kings 5:1-15). Naaman's slave-girl was a young Jewish woman who had faith in God and compassion for Naaman her master. She urged him to seek healing from Elisha, the great prophet of Israel.When Naaman went to the land of Israel to seek a cure for his leprosy, the prophet Elisha instructed him to bathe seven times in the Jordan river. Namaan was indignant at first, but then repented and followed the prophet's instructions. In doing so he was immediately restored in body and spirit.
Healing the leprosy of soul and body
What is the significance of Naaman's healing for us? Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD), an early Christian teacher from Edessa, tells us that Naaman's miraculous healing at the River Jordan, prefigures the mystery of the healing which is freely granted to all nations of the earth by our Lord Jesus through the regenerating waters of baptism and renewal in the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
"Therefore Naaman was sent to the Jordan as to the remedy capable to heal a human being. Indeed, sin is the leprosy of the soul, which is not perceived by the senses, but intelligence has the proof of it, and human nature must be delivered from this disease by Christ's power which is hidden in baptism. It was necessary that Naaman, in order to be purified from two diseases, that of the soul and that of the body, might represent in his own person the purification of all the nations through the bath of regeneration, whose beginning was in the river Jordan, the mother and originator of baptism." (commentary ON THE SECOND BOOK OF KINGS 5.10-1)Jesus told Nicodemus, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). The Lord Jesus wants to renew in each one of us the gift of faith and the regenerating power of baptism and the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) which cleanses us of the leprosy of sin and makes us "newborn" sons and daughters of God.
Confronting the sin of indifference and unbelief
When Jesus first proclaimed the good news of God's kingdom to his own townspeople at Nazareth (Luke 4:23-27), he did not hesitate to confront them with their sin of indifference and unbelief. He startled his listeners in the synagogue at Nazareth with a seeming rebuke that no prophet or servant of God could receive honor among his own people. He then angered them when he complimented Gentiles who had shown more faith in God than the "chosen ones" of Israel. Some who despised the Gentiles (non-Jews) even spoke of them as "fuel for the fires of hell." Jesus' praise for "outsiders" offended the ears of his own people because they were blind-sighted to God's merciful plan of redemption for all the nations. The word of rebuke spoken by Jesus was met with indignation and hostility. The Nazarenes forcibly threw him out of their town and would have done him physical harm had he not stopped them.
We all stand in need of God's grace and merciful help every day and every moment of our lives. Scripture tells us that "the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning" (Lamentations 3:22-23). God gives grace to the humble who seek him with expectant faith and with a repentant heart that wants to be made whole and clean again.
The Lord Jesus will set us free from every sinful habit and every harmful way of relating to our neighbor, if we allow him to cleanse and heal us. If we want to walk in freedom and grow in love and holiness, then we must humbly renounce our sinful ways and submit to Christ's instruction and healing discipline in our lives. Scripture tells us that the Lord disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Do you want the Lord Jesus to set you free and make you whole again? Ask him to show you the way to walk in his healing love and truth.
"Lord Jesus, teach me to love your ways that I may be quick to renounce sin and wilfulness in my life. Make me whole and clean again that I may delight to do your will."
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me continually, "Where is your God?"
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.
3 Oh send out your light and your truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
A Daily Quote for Lent: Could anyone refuse to love our God?, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Fulfill the commandments out of love. Could anyone refuse to love our God, so abounding in mercy, so just in all his ways? Could anyone deny love to him who first loved us despite all our injustice and all our pride? Could anyone refuse to love the God who so loved us as to send his only Son not only to live among human beings but also to be put to death for their sake and at their own hands?"
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.
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