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God has not asked of us great things

2 Kings 5:1-15

Pastor David Ernst

Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Jan 27, 2019 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We continue with the stories of the revelation of the divinity of Jesus Christ. In the readings for today, Jesus responded to requests from several people to be healed of diseases. The emphasis is on the character of prayer and faith. What does faith consist of? Where do we find the power of prayer?

In our readings we find two lepers. Leprosy is a very ugly skin disease. Today leprosy is found in Africa and the Middle East and, in this hemisphere, Brazil. It is not that contagious, however, according to the Law of Moses, lepers had to live apart from the community and could not enter the Temple to participate in worship. Leprosy could last for many years, but not necessarily for life. If the disease passed, the leper could be examined by a priest to be certified healthy and reunited with his family.

The man in 2 Kings was not a Jew. "Naaman, general of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man before his master, and held him in high regard, because through him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a valiant man, but a leper."

In those days, Syria was a powerful and conquering nation. "And from Syria crews had gone out, and a girl had been taken captive from the land of Israel; who, serving Naaman's wife, said to her mistress, If my lord should pray to the prophet who is in Samaria, he would heal him of his leprosy. And Naaman went in to his master, and told him, saying, Thus and thus said a young woman, who is of the land of Israel. "

Naaman went to his king and the king sent Naaman to the king of Israel with a letter of safe passage and gifts from one king to another. Please note, gold and silver and garments, like the Magi brought gold, incense and myrrh to the Child Jesus. But when Naaman came to the king of Israel, the king was angry, because he believed that Naaman and the king of Syria would blame the king of Israel if the leprosy was not healed.

"And it came to pass that when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes, and said, Am I God, that I should kill and give life, that he should send me to heal a man of his leprosy? Consider now, and see how he looks for an opportunity against me. "

But, when the prophet, Elisha, heard of Naaman's arrival, he sent a letter to the king of Israel. "Come now to me, and you will know that there is a prophet in Israel."

And Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha did not leave his house, but sent another letter, saying, "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored to you, and you will be clean." And at that moment, Naaman was angered by the disrespect of Elisha, who did not leave his house to receive the great general and hero of Syria. "Behold, I said to myself, He will go out later, and when he stands, he will call on the name of the Lord his God, and he will lift up his hand, and he will touch the place, and he will heal the leprosy. Are Abana and Farfar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? If I wash in them, will not I also be clean? "

It seems that Naaman was a good master to his servants, because they said to him, "My father, if the prophet were to send you some great thing, would you not do it? How much more, saying to you, Wash yourself, and you will be clean?" He then descended, and dived seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh became like the flesh of a child, and he was clean.

In our gospel (Matthew (8: 1-13), a leper also came to Jesus, saying, "Lord, if you want, you can cleanse me." And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, "I want to, be clean." And instantly he was cleansed of his leprosy. "Then, according to the law of Moses, the man was to show himself to the priest to be certified healthy, but, after showing His power in this case, Jesus did not want to reveal His identity to the priests until the hour of His death had come. He said to the man, "Look, do not tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

In another parallel with the story of Naaman, Jesus met a centurion, an officer of the Roman army. He said to him, "Lord, my servant is prostrate at home, paralyzed, severely tormented." And Jesus said to him, "I will go and heal him." The centurion answered and said: ôLord, I am not worthy to enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will heal. Because I am also a man under authority, and I have soldiers under my charge; and I say to this one: Go, and go; and to another: Come, and come; and to my servant: Do this, and do it. "

And Jesus, hearing it, marveled, and said to those who followed him, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found so much faith even in Israel."

But, look, the centurion's faith did not heal his servant. Today, many people say, "I declare." I declare you will be healthy. I declare there will be peace in Venezuela. However, who has the power to declare such things? We do not have this power, only God. Those who say "I declare" think that if they have enough faith, God should do whatever they want. But, prayer does not work in this way. Power is in the object of prayer, not in the act of prayer.

Certainly the Bible says the prayers of the faithful are worth a lot (James 5:16). God has promised us to listen to our prayers and answer them. Our Lord told His disciples that they could ask for anything in His name. And that is the truth. We can ask for everything in the name of Jesus, by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. We can approach God with all our concerns, needs and anxieties.

But, as Dr. Martin Luther explains in the catechism, God knows all our needs before we ask. So, what is the value of prayer? Everything depends on the power and grace of God, not on our merits or strength.

In prayer and the study of His Word, we learn to conform our will to the will of God. We can not understand the will of God perfectly. God knows what is good or what is bad for us more deeply than we do. Parents should not give their children anything they want, because some things are not good for children. God also knows what is best for us. If we trust in the good will of God, we can live in tranquility among the problems and trials of this life.

The temptation for us is to think God has abandoned us when we do not receive the answer to our prayers we want. Like Naaman, we are proud. Naaman wanted to be healed of his leprosy, but he met ith many frustrations. The king of Israel did not respond in a kind manner, the prophet Elisha did not leave his house. And when Naaman heard what God commanded him, he said, Why should I do this? The rivers of Syria are equal to the Jordan River.

Also, we, when we want an immediate response to our prayers, encounter some difficulties and we have to suffer before receiving a blessing from God, many times we are angry. God does not appear to us in a visible or audible way, but in His Word he tells us that we should remain in prayer and the sacraments. We must wash ourselves in baptism and receive the body and blood of the Lord in the Lord's Supper until the coming of the Lord.

Our faith in the Word of God does not have to be great, but simple as the child's faith in baptism. We should not say, "I declare," but "Lord, if you want." Or, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, not my will, Father, but your will be done.

Jesus prayed to avoid suffering and death on the cross if possible. But the Father said no, and Jesus accepted the Father's will for our benefit. Jesus accepted as His destiny to suffer and die for the sins of all mankind. God has not asked of us such great things.

If we conform our will to the will of God, we can live in peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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