Wrestling with the Bible: A Leper I Admire

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Accepting a gift isn’t easy for me, whether the gift be one of love, friendship or healing. For me, pride gets in the way.

Like the King of Israel and the mighty warrior Naaman, I often find myself keeping friends, spouses, children, admirers (and God?) at arm’s length lest –

Lest what?

Lest the gift be too good to be true – as the king of Israel suspects when he is presented with ten talents of silver, six thousand sheckels of gold, and ten sets of garments.

What a treasure! But the king cannot trust this generous overture of friendship from the faraway king of Aram. He assumes the worst, that “he’s trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

At other times the gift requires us to humble ourselves, as it did the warrior Naaman. Wash seven times in the Jordan? Humiliate myself by taking a bath in someone else’s river? I don’t think so. I’ll keep my sores and lesions, thank you.

Which brings us to the leper in Mark 1:40. He comes to Jesus begging and kneeling. More than that, he relinquishes the power to be healed – or not to be healed – to Jesus. “If you choose,” he says, “you can make me clean.”

If I were in that leper’s sandals, I’d have hedged my bets, done a little circumlocution, said something like, “I hear you heal people sometimes. Does that ever include leprosy?”

That way, if Jesus refused me, my pride would still be intact: I didn’t really ask, therefore, I didn’t really get turned down.

But the leper risked everything. He asked, and Jesus acted. “I do choose. Be made clean.”

How do the king of Israel, the mighty Naaman – and I – get to be more like that leper?

LECTIONARY, Epiphany 6:  http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearB_RCL/Epiphany/BEpi6_RCL.html 

2 Kings 5:1-14 1

Corinthians 9:24-27

Mark 1:40-45

Psalm 30

“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.’

“He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, ‘When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.’

“But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.’ So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 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?’ He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.”  – 2 Kings 5:1-14

“A leper came to Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’”   – Mark 1:40-41

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© 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Barbara Falconer Newhall. and www.GodsBigBlog.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog's author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Barbara Falconer Newhall and www.GodBigBlog.com with appropriate and specifc direction to the original content. Bible texts are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA. The Psalms are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. Material originally published and copyrighted by the Oakland Tribune is posted here by permission. WordPress theme adapted from Thematic Theme Framework