This is a story of contradictions.
Naaman is presumably a very physical kind of man as a commander of the army of the king of Aram. As a commander he is no doubt highly intelligent but to be an army commander I think he likely would have needed to have a commanding physical presence to be obeyed by those who served underneath him.
And yet despite his physical prowess it is Naaman’s body that betrays him. He has been infected with a bacterial disease we call leprosy. This is bad news for Naaman as this is one of those diseases that carried a huge stigma around it. WebMD says that in reality it isn’t all that contagious but it was a huge problem for people in Naaman’s day. Not only is Naaman going to lose his position and power, he will be outcast from society.
Turns out there is a simple solution. A complicated route with kings and slave girls involved but Naaman finally ends up before Elisha who has a simple solution. And Elisha says simply through a messenger, “Go wash in the river seven times.” Now, any rational person would say, “Great, let’s get this done and be rid of this disease that is going to get me thrown out of regular society and will eventually kill me!” But not Naaman. He get’s annoyed. He’s offended Elisha didn’t come out and speak with him and secondly, Naaman is expecting Elisha to call down fire from the sky to heal him. Apparently just taking a bath wasn’t good enough.
It puts him in an interesting position, thanks to his servants lighting him up by asking him, if it had been difficult how far would you go to be healed of this disease. Naaman finally gets a clue and takes his bath. Which ends up in his being healed from leprosy and acknowledging that God is God.
We’re not so different, really. One way or the other our bodies are going to betray us. Whatever else happens in our life there comes a day when our body will say enough is enough and we’ll experience the reality of the inevitable conclusion found in death. We know this is how it works out eventually as death overtakes us all. This is not a surprise and so it is that this day we honor family and friends who have joined the church triumphant.
That would be scarily depressing were it not for the hope we find being washed in the waters of baptism. Because in baptism death is not the final answer for any of us. If I have walked with you after the death of someone you’ve likely heard me quoting the first part of Romans 6. The confirmation class heard about it a couple of weeks ago and I invite you to take a minute and highlight this in your Bible app or your Bible if you have it with you. The bottom line is that when we are baptized into Christ we are baptized into his death. And if we have been baptized into a death like his then we have been baptized into a resurrection like his. This is a fairly simple solution to the problem of death.
Like Naaman we tend to make things overly complicated. We want to earn our way to God’s blessings. We have this notion of earning our way, like to heaven. We want to do it the hard way! Oh, we’ve heard the words, and even believe the words, we’ve been saved by grace through faith but that’s often time in our head. The struggle is the committing body and soul to our faith in Christ and then trusting God with whatever comes next.
Our hope and prayer is that we, like Naaman and those saints who have gone before, will recognize the simplicity of the promise of forgiveness and the hope in eternal life that we have as a gift from God.