The orange Brinjal – Monday, 3rd Week of Lent – 2 Kings 5:1-15a/ Luke 4:24-30
We seem to be a generation that is disdainful of the mundane, ordinary and simple. But throw a challenge, make the mole hill seem to look like a mountain or paint a Brinjal in the colour orange and every one sits up and takes notice.
We seem to attach too much importance to the spectacular; to that which is lit up in bright lights and to powder and paint. Yet much of life is simple and its truth stands out even though it may appear ordinary.
Sadly, even God is sought after only in his glorious splendour. His presence in the Eucharist is often not enough for many of us and so we seek him in miracles and great signs. Yet the Son of God, the King of Kings was born in an ordinary manger, a helpless babe, a refugee at birth. He left us ordinary signs of bread and wine as a memorial of his eternal presence. Ironically, faith is still sought after in the spectacular.
Naaman the commander of the king of Aram was clearly desperate. Leprosy was not something that you took lightly. This silent death was made even more silent by the isolation that one had to be subjected to; away from family and friend. It reduced a person to a thing and left one despised and shunned.
Naaman now comes to the King of Israel with a hope that the prophet of the people of Israel would heal him as suggested by his captive Jewish slave girl. It is clear that the heart of Naaman is tuned towards the spectacular. We are told that Naaman goes to see Elisha, but instead of meeting with him, Elisha sends a messenger to him with instructions to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Two things stand out in this series of events: first, Naaman comes to Elisha with the trappings of his greatness, “his horse and his chariot” (5:9). Second, Naaman is “at the door of the house of Elisha” (5:9), but even so, Elisha does not come out.
Naaman gets angry at this apparent snub, and the text reveals his reasons: “I thought he would come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and remove the skin disease” (5:11). To top it all he scoffs at the Jordan river as a source of his healing.
If you see the river Jordan, you would be greatly disappointed too. At several spots this river is more like a muddy brook of water and Naman wondered what was so miraculous in this river that the great rivers of Aram, the Abana and the Pharpar could not do. Because his expectation of how the God of Israel should work, he was crushed and Naaman wanted nothing to do with Elisha.
Naaman’s analysis is correct, except for one thing. They do have rivers where he lives, and he could have washed in them. But if he had done so, he would not have been healed, because he would not have been submissive to Yahweh’s will. It is not the water of the Jordan that restored his health, but submission to the will of Yahweh. It is not through the might of a flowing river but in the faith of a little heart that God often works.
At a time when Naaman is riled, it is his lowly servants who possess great love and wisdom challenging Naaman’s belief system, “If the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult would you not have done it?
Naaman’s physical submersion of his body into what he deems the deficient waters of the Jordan is what restores his flesh to that of a young boy. But this was also for Naaman an immersion in faith.
We are told that Naaman now goes back to the prophet. In this, he becomes for us a fine example of how gratitude needs to be lived. Naaman was like the one leper out of the ten Jesus healed who came back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:12-19). He was also a foreigner, like the one thankful leper of Luke 17. As his physical body was restored and made clean, he declares his revelation about the God of Israel, “Now I know there is no God in all the earth except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15).
Healing God, you healed your servant Naaman of his affliction when he came to you, through Elisha, for help. Heal our afflictions, and make us faithful servants. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Amen.