October 13 & 14, 2018 – Pentecost 21
2 Kings 5: 14-27
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
It’s that time again. Elections are coming up. One of the topics that comes up during election time is having a national healthcare plan. Proponents of such a plan suggest that it is our duty to make health care free to all who need it. After all, they suggest, how can we watch fellow humans suffer because they cannot afford the medical attention they need? Opponents of such a plan suggest that it cannot really be free. Someone will have to pay for it. And those someones are the taxpayers. And besides, they say, do we really want the government making medical decisions for us?
Now, I don’t want to debate the politics of a universal health care plan. Rather, today in our text we see the account of a man who desperately needed health care. Although he had enough money to pay for the very best treatment available, he received free health care. In fact, he received treatment for an incurable disease. Another man thought that this situation was unacceptable, that the healed man ought to pay for the cure that he received. After all, he could afford it. The expense would hardly be missed. But God’s health care is not for sale. It is completely free. And thankfully, it’s universal. It wasn’t just for this man, but it’s for you and me too.
Let’s take a look God’s Universal Health Care. See how much you need it. Rejoice that it is universal. And rejoice that it’s completely free.
Leprosy was a horrible disease. One doctor described what a leper looks like: “The whole appearance of the face is changed, till the man loses his human appearance. The nodules grow larger and larger. They ulcerate. From them there comes a foul discharge. The eyebrows fall out, the eyes become staring. The voice becomes hoarse and the victim wheezes because of the ulceration of the vocal chords. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of the disease is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma, and ultimately death. The sufferer becomes utterly repulsive—both to himself and to others.”
This was the disease that Na’aman woke up with one day. His career was sure to be over. His life was sure to over. Nothing would be the same. And there was nothing he could do about it. But then a slave girl taken from Israel told him of her God and of the prophet who represented her God. “He can heal even leprosy,” she said. It was worth a shot. Anything was worth a shot. So he traveled a long way to see this man of God. And Elisha, that man of God, told him to dip in the Jordan River seven times and he’d be clean. Though skeptical at first, he was encouraged to give it a try. And when he did he was healed. “Then his flesh was restored like the flesh of a small child, and he was clean.” Pretty good health care. Perfect healing and it didn’t cost a thing.
But what does that have to do with us? We don’t have leprosy. Well, maybe not physical leprosy, but we sure are sick with spiritual leprosy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re like Gehazi in this health care account.
Gehazi’s request for some silver and suits seemed simple enough. After all the man’s life had just been saved, he was eager to pay for the treatment, and by the looks of the wealth he had, one talent of silver and a few new suits would hardly be missed. But how despicable Gehazi was. He was driven by greed. He wanted nice things in this life so much so, that his greed led to lies and deceit, theft and cover-up, and finally to leprosy. Why such a harsh punishment from God? Because Gehazi robbed God of his glory. Gehazi sought to use the grace of God granted to another individual for his own material advantage. This was equivalent to making merchandise of God’s grace. How despicable!
But how about you? Aren’t you despicable like that too? Don’t you at times have a Gehazi heart? Ever been tired of being the servant and cheated a customer behind the boss’s back? Ever wanted money so badly that you compromised your faith and did that which you knew to be wrong? Are you always content with the blessings that God has given you? If not, your malcontent and coveting say to God, “You have not blessed me sufficiently. Your salvation is not enough. I want more. And I will not be content until you give it to me.”
How sick we are with heart disease, since our hearts are not always set on the things God desires, but on what we desire. We have the leprosy of sin that disfigures us before God and kills our very souls. And the results of this disease are much worse than the separation from loved ones and the pain and death that physical leprosy brought. Our sin brings about a separation from God and eternal torment and death in hell. How utterly repulsive we are in our sin to ourselves and to others, but especially to God. And much like it was for leprosy in Na’aman’s day, there is no cure for our disease of sin. None, that is, except one, God’s Universal Health Care.
God was the only one able to cure Na’aman of his incurable disease. That’s why Elisha wanted to make it very clear that he had had no part in Na’aman’s cure. The glory belonged to God alone. And it’s the same way with our disease of sin. No medicine or doctor or surgery or effort or work on our part could ever cure us of this disease. One sin, one act of rebellion, one moment of malcontent, leaves us infected with sin and doomed to die.
But God has the cure: in Jesus. Though he had no home of his own, no material possessions but what he had on his back, and relied solely on the charity of others for his food and shelter, Jesus remained perfectly content. He praised God for the good gifts that had been given him. And we only hear Jesus offer words of thanks, never words of complaint. He was never greedy for more, but always looked for what he could give. And that perfect contentment, Jesus credits to mankind. And then he took every complaint, every lie, every deceit and attempted cover-up and every sin on himself. He took the blame for every rebellion against God and he took the punishment that those sins deserve, hell itself, as he was forsaken by God on the cross.
And this is the only cure for the disease of sin. But how do you know it’s for you? After all, what’s been called universal health care plan by some political candidates isn’t really universal. It’s only for those in the United States It doesn’t include citizens of other countries. They don’t qualify. It’s not really “universal.”
Gehazi seemed to think that a miraculous healing like the one given to Na’aman really belonged to just the Israelites, not foreigners. You can hear it in his comment, “My master was too easy on this Aramean, Na’aman.” But what comfort there is in the very fact that God’s healing was for Na’aman, “this Aramean.” God’s health care is not limited to any certain group of people. It’s not just for Democrats. It’s not just for Republicans. It’s not just for those who seem outwardly good or for those who belong to a church. It’s not just for Jews, but even for us foreigners. God’s health care truly is universal. It’s for all people of all time all around the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” (John 3:16) Do you live in the world? Then you can be certain that you are qualified to receive it. The cure for sin is for you.
But what will it really cost? That’s what people have asked of a national health care plan. It can’t really be free. So who’s going to pay for it? And surely a cure like this—one that saves you not just from physical death, but from spiritual death, a cure that gives you immortality in paradise for all of eternity—surely, it can’t be free. Someone has got to pay for it.
Well, it’s not free. It cost a great deal...for Jesus. He paid with his blood, with his life, with the hell he endured. It cost him a price too great for us to ever understand. But he paid it in full. And it is completely free for you and me. It doesn’t cost us a thing.
That’s why Elisha told Na’aman, “As surely as the Lord lives, in whose presence I stand, I will not take anything.” God’s grace is free. That’s why Gehazi faced such harsh consequences. He tried to sell the grace of God. (Incidentally, we’re saved from our sin by the same means that Na’aman was saved from his leprosey—plain ordinary water connected to the Word of God’s promise.) Whether it’s healing from leprosy or healing from sin, God’s grace is always free, to Na’aman and to you and to me.
Can you imagine the joy that Na’aman felt at the healing he received. One minute he was doomed to die a slow, painful, lonely death, cut off from all that he loved. But the next he was completely healed and restored. He got his life back. No wonder he vowed to serve the true God and serve him only. No wonder he offered generous gifts to the man who was instrumental in bringing him that wonderful grace of God.
And no wonder we offer our thanks and our gifts to God. We’ve been saved from a fate that’s much worse than leprosy. One minute we were doomed to die a slow, painful, lonely death for all of eternity in hell, cut off from God and his love. But the next we are completely healed, perfect and holy in God’s sight. How much greater is our joy. How much greater is our gratitude to God.
And that gratitude moves us to offer our generous gifts to our Savior and to the support of the work of sharing the good news of God’s grace with others. But all the more, our gratitude to God moves us to rid our hearts of all greed and malcontent and instead to find contentment, not with more money or property, but in our Savior and in what he’s done. So serve him in thanks, with your gifts and with your heart. Amen.