Healing Is the Answer

2 Kings 5:1-14

Healing Is the Answer

July 3, 2016 Maple Grove UMC

1. In the Old Testament, a prophet is someone who:

  1. Leads prayers in the temple
  2. Reminds people how God wants us to live
  3. Predicts the future

2. Elijah got the best of the prophets of the god Baal by:

  1. Bringing fire from heaven to light a sacrificial fire
  2. Walking on hot coals without being harmed
  3. Making a bush burn without being burned up

3. Elijah fed a poor widow and her son

  1. By turning stones into bread and serpents into fish
  2. By giving them a miraculous catch of fish
  3. By making their flour and oil not run out

4. Elijah confronted these rulers because they had a man killed in order to take his vineyard:

  1. David and Bathsheba
  2. Ananias and Sapphira
  3. Ahab and Jezebel

5. Elijah heard God’s voice in

  1. A powerful wind
  2. Silence
  3. An earthquake

6. As Elijah was being taken to heaven, his successor Elisha asked for this:

  1. Access to Elijah’s hidden fortune
  2. Elijah’s sword and shield
  3. A double share of Elijah’s spirit (Answers at the end.)

You could preach any number of sermons on today’s Old Testament story. I shared with the children how in a story about generals and kings, it’s a little slave girl who sets things in motion. That would preach. There’s also a message in this story about healing and ego. Naaman was offended that Elisha didn’t come out to meet him in person. He was offended by the trivial thing Elisha asked him to do. He almost let his pride prevent him from accepting the healing that was at hand. And so it is with our salvation. You can’t earn it or pay for it; there’s nothing hard to do for it. Will your ego allow you accept a salvation that you cannot deserve and that any fool can have? That would preach too.

But the message I want to give this morning has to do with the sort of person it is that Elisha healed. I can just hear the conversation. Elisha tells people that by the power of God he was able to heal a man of leprosy.

"Oh, who was it?"

"Naaman."

"You mean Naaman, the Syrian general? Naaman, public enemy #1 who has defeated us in battle and killed our fellow citizens?"

"Yeah, that’s the one."

"Do you mean that dirty dog was right here in Israel, and you could have killed him, or held him for ransom, or tortured him for information?"

"I suppose I could have, but I healed him. I sent him home with all his money and fresh clean skin." Probably not the most popular thing Elisha ever did. Jesus ran into the same trouble. He started his healing ministry in Capernaum, which was said to have a large non-Jewish population,1 and when he got back home to Nazareth they wanted him to do some miracles for his own people for a change. But Jesus told them, "There were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." And talk about offended--the people tried to throw him off a cliff. Being kind to foreigners and loving our enemies has never been popular; still isn’t, if you watch the news.

So why did Elisha do it? Why heal the enemy’s #1 general? Well, he says, it’s so the foreigner would know there was a prophet in Israel. And after he’s healed, Naaman come to believe in the God of Israel. In other words, Elisha heals this foreigner to establish God’s reputation, to show the world that God’s healing is the answer.

At the end of WWII the United States did a surprising thing, perhaps unprecedented in the history of the world. In the European Recovery Program—usually called the Marshall Plan after the Secretary of State—the US spent today’s equivalent of $120 billion to rebuild not our own country, but the devastated economies of other countries, including the equivalent of $13 billion to help Germany. What an astonishing thing to do—to spend billions of dollars to help rebuild a country that just tried to destroy us. It would be unthinkable in today’s political climate. But it gained the US international goodwill for decades to come, a lasting reputation for healing.

I once served an inner-city church where we faced frequent vandalism and graffiti. Almost every week someone would break a window or paint vile words on our sign. We tried a kind of neighborhood watch, we called the police, but nothing helped.

About that time a guy from the Catholic church around the corner asked if he could do an after-school basketball program in our church’s little gym. Nothing formal, just let kids drop in and shoot around for a while. When I took the request to the Trustees, most of them wanted to say ‘no.’ One woman asked, "Do you really want to take those kids who are vandalizing the outside of our building and let them ruin the inside too?"

"No," I said. "I just want to let kids have a place to play basketball. . . In the name of Jesus." Reluctantly, they voted 6-3 to allow it.

And I’m here to tell you, that we did not have any more graffiti or vandalism for two years after that. Why? Because we had a new reputation among neighborhood teenagers. Healing is the answer.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. There were times when Israel had to go to war against Naaman and his Syrian forces. Elisha healed him when Naaman came and asked for healing, not while he was waving his sword. And the United States didn’t offer the Marshall Plan while Germany was still fighting, and we didn’t hand spray paint to the kids on their way into the gym. Healing is not the only answer that’s ever needed. But it is the answer that’s needed most, and the one we often seem most reluctant to give to foreigners and to enemies. Elisha wanted Israel’s God to have a reputation, and healing was the answer. It still is.

  1. See Fred B. Craddock, Luke, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 63.

1)B 2)A 3)C 4)C 5)B 6)C

 

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