In our Old Testament reading we see some characters from past chapters. Namely the Shunammite woman from chapter 4 and Elisha’s servant Gehazi from chapter 5.
As I read this familiar story I wondered whether Gehazi had found another job telling stories to the King following his disgrace in the Naaman incident. I also wondered whether a leprous Gehazi would be permitted in the presence of the King.
It turns out that “leprosy” relates to a number of skin diseases, not all of which excluded people from society. Another possibility is that the stories are not chronological as ancient historians don’t feel the same need for chronology as modern historians. You can read more about this at bibleq.
Whatever the backstory to this situation, we see God’s grace continuing to be extended to a non-Jew in the Shunammite. She, like Rahab, shows that God extends his grace to any who will be loyal to him. A wonderful foreshadowing of the outpouring of grace to the nations that comes with Jesus.
As I read our verse from John I was reminded of Jesus words to the Pharisees:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
Here we see the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders in practice. They would not enter the house of a gentile lest they be defiled (even though there was no such law from God) while they orchestrate the execution of an innocent man!
Our bible study group has been watching “The Reason for God” in which Timothy Keller converses with a group of non-Christians on a variety of topics. One of the topics was around hypocrisy in the church. It was surprising to see how understanding the group members were in this area. The basic consensus was that people are flawed and no one lives up to their standards. The harsh words were reserved for those who pretended they were perfect and felt free to stand in judgement over others.
It is telling that Jesus also spoke harshly against such hypocrisy. Hypocrisy was a feature found in Jesus’ enemies. Jesus was clear that his friends would stand out for a different reason:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I pray that as a church we will stand out in our love for our unswerving fidelity to our Lord Jesus.
In the words of Godspell:
O, dear Lord, three things I pray:
to see thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
follow thee more nearly