Biblical Words 
Kings 5:1-14; Psalm 30;
Prophets and apostles bring healing and a time of decision for villages along the way.
II Kings 5:1-14.
Elisha is mostly about miracle stories.
The closest parallels to Jesus’
healing miracles in the Bible are the Elisha stories (e.g., the stories in II
Kings 4). The miracles of Moses are
always woven into the narrative structure of the plagues in
The story is well told (with considerable humor at the expense of royal and noble egos).
Naaman, top general for the victorious forces
Hearing of his king’s
panic, Elisha sends word to pass the problem on to him. Accordingly, Naaman appears at Elisha’s
residence, only to receive a curt message, “Go wash in the
Such treatment is a
gross insult to Naaman, and we hear an excellent speech expressing indignation
at the affront to his noble dignity and the insult to the fine rivers of
Naaman didn’t get
this far without some good sense, so he goes and washes in the
The Psalm reading is
a thanksgiving for deliverance from death – or, as it might be construed, from the near-death of severe disease.
Should we play with the idea that Naaman, the recovered leper and
Secretary of Defense for
There is more to the
Naaman story than we heard in the above reading. The story goes on to tell how Naaman returned
to Elisha and made a glowing confession of the great God of Israel. “Now I know that there is no God in all the
earth except in
At that altar to
the Lord that he has set up in
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
Naaman might also have previously said, “I shall never be moved,” for when he was in his original power God had established him “as a strong mountain” (verse 7). Then, however, the divine face was turned away: “you hid your face and I was dismayed.” That is, the proud Naaman was brought low by the onset of his leprosy and finally, learning humility with Elisha’s help, came to accept the true source of healing, which would turn his mourning into dancing (verse 11).
Because he has not died or been banished to a leper colony, Naaman can say, “my soul may praise you and not be silent, O Lord my God…” (verse 12).
The Epistle reading includes the last words of Paul’s letter dictated to the Galatians, with a postscript written with his own hand.
The last words of the dictated part (verses 7-10) are an assurance that God will reward perseverance in doing good by giving a good harvest. Living “toward the flesh” will be rewarded with “corruption,” that is, only decayed flesh. Living “toward the Spirit” will be rewarded with “eternal life,” that is, a life as free from boundaries and burdens as is the wind (the spirit). Doing good will have its “opportunity,” its “right time” (kairos, verse 10), and those living by the Spirit will discern the times and realize the opportunities for “the good of all.”
Paul’s own postscript (verses 11-18) is a bit rough and ready. It is mainly a quick punch at his opponents in the Galatian churches who are promoting circumcision:
“It is those
who want to make a good showing in the flesh [pun certainly intended] that try to
compel you to be circumcised…” (verse 12,
Then he makes the final declaration repeating the hammer-blow of the whole letter: “For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!”
So Paul hopes to keep his non-Judean Christians free from literalistic conformities – which will only cause them to “bite and devour one another” ().
The story of Naaman had to do with God’s grace to a non-Israelite officer, and Paul’s concern for the Galatians was that they not be discriminated against for not conforming to Judean law. At first sight the Gospel reading does not seem to continue this emphasis on non-Judean people.
But Luke has significantly complicated the missions of the disciples that Jesus sends out.
Luke has the same account
of Jesus sending the Twelve on a mission in Galilee that Mark and
Matthew report (Luke’s version of the Twelve is in 9:1-6, paralleling
Luke, however, also has a second mission of disciples, the one reported in our reading. This second mission has Jesus send out, not twelve disciples, but seventy-two. (Prefer the NRSV marginal reading. Many texts, especially later ones, make the number just seventy.) The instructions given to the seventy-two partly repeat what was said to the Twelve earlier, but some other instructions to the larger group are more elaborate. (These additional instructions are mostly from the Q source, common to Luke and Matthew.)
Luke places this
second mission at the beginning of the “journey” to
Luke’s narrative, however, does not seem to follow up this line. We do not have a village-to-village circuit carried out by Jesus. (Such a village-to-village narrative might have organized the materials of Luke chapters 10-19 more effectively than we now have them.) Nevertheless, Luke intends us to understand that the villages sooner or later were to encounter these pairs of vagrant preachers, and to be told that “the kingdom of God has come near to you” (verse 9).
and the churches he wrote for, understood that these instructions from Jesus
were to guide missionary work long after Jesus’ death and resurrection. In that case, Jesus sent out two missions,
The journey of
Our reading concludes with the return of the apostles (verses 17-20) and Jesus’ rejoicing at the fall of Satan because of them. We seem to be leaping pretty far ahead, anticipating a success that is in fact only yet hinted at. But when the Gospel was written, Luke already knew about many years of work among the nations by such disciples as these, and he would begin to tell about them in his second volume, the Acts.