Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram (Syria) had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver (750 pounds), six thousand shekels of gold (150 pounds) and ten sets of clothing.6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”7 As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!” 8 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” 11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. 13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.– 2 Kings 5:1-15
Naaman, the great Syrian General, was offended when Elisha the prophet commanded a simple remedy for his leprosy. “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored.” Instead of doing so, the general went away angry. He expected the prophet to initiate some grand ritual, waving his hands and calling on the name of the Lord. So Naaman went away angry, and he went away still a leper.
Naaman’s servants saw the matter clearly. “If the prophet had told you to some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed?’” So Naaman followed their advice, humbled himself, and bathed in the Jordan river, receiving the great blessing from God.
God invites us to do some pretty simple things through which he promises to give us his greatest blessings- forgiveness and eternal life. In Baptism, He asks us to take ordinary water, apply it according to His command and promise, and wash away our sins. In His Supper, He asks us to take a little bread and a little wine, consecrated with the words of Jesus, eat and drink with believing hearts, and thereby receive forgiveness and eternal life.
How foolish Naaman was at first when he was offended at the simplicity of the order given him by the prophet! How foolish it would be for us to neglect these things God invites us to do because they seem too plain and simple!
On the other hand, when we adorn administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper with long and ornate rites, ceremonies, vestments, furnishings, traditions, and rituals, we risk the appearance that we have lost confidence in the bare rite. Let’s insist on the simple means of grace Christ has committed to us. Let us do what Christ told us to do- no more, no less. And may we trust with all our hearts His words of promise, that through these means he truly forgives our sins and gives us Life.
Lord God, the unimpressive waters of the Jordan, accompanied by your Word, were far better than the great Abana and Pharpar of Damascus. Help us to treasure the simple means you have given to your Church today for the comfort and salvation of sinners. Help us cling to your words of command and promise, that we might never cast our eyes around for replacements seeming grander and more impressive. Thank you gracious Lord, for in our humble water, bread, and wine, we possess the world’s richest treasures. Amen.