How Can Water Do Such Great Things?

2 Kings 5:6-14 –

900 years. Not for about 900 years after the events of this chapter, would John the Baptist come into the wilderness of Judea proclaiming the Kingdom of God and baptizing people “for the remission of sins.” What Elisha does to Naaman is not Baptism but there are some striking similarities.

Naaman was dirty, so to speak – he was sick. Leprosy was a terrible wasting sickness that claimed the lives of many people. There was no cure. Naaman’s prognosis was bleak. We too are dirty, covered by a terrible wasting sickness – sin, those selfish, foolish things that you and I do every day. Those are not just mistakes. They are sins. Since which lead, inevitably, to death. There is no cure in this world. There is nothing that you can do. It will certainly result in eternal death.

But God has a cure. Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan. Naaman was offended. It seemed like a foolish request. Why didn’t he just speak the word and heal Naaman? Couldn’t God have done that? Obviously he could have. He didn’t. And it wasn’t the water itself that healed Naaman’s leprosy, it was the promise of God in the water.

The same is true of Baptism. Paul calls baptism a “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” Peter says “Baptism now saves you…it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Romans tells us that we were “buried with Christ through baptism into death.” And Jesus says in Matthew 28 that the church should make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them. God’s promise is clear. In the waters of baptism, the remission of sins in Christ’s blood is given. Do we find this offensive? Like Naaman, do we suppose that God is above such earthly means? Do we doubt because it looks so…normal. It’s just water. How can water do such great things? Remember Martin Luther’s explanation here: “The water doesn’t actually do anything by itself. The power is in God’s Word, which is in and with the water, and in faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. Without the Word of God it is just plain water, and there is no baptism. But with the Word of God it really is a baptism; that is, a gracious water of life and washing of rebirth through the Holy Spirit.”

After 900 years, after 2900 years, God doesn’t really do things any differently. His powerful word is given to us in humble ways just as it was to Naaman. Yet it accomplishes wonderful things. We are given life, forgiveness and healing in Jesus’ name. Baptism doesn’t cure leprosy, it does something much greater, it cures sin by bringing us Jesus’ own righteousness and forgiveness. It is a great word that has been spoken to us.

In Christ
Pastor Ude