Good advice and special insight can come from unexpected sources, not always from the professionals and experts. One must be always prepared to listen attentively to the words of those we may consider least qualified or least important.
In the Old Testament 2 Kings Ch, 5 we read of Namaan, an army commander, “a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded.” (v 2 ). But he suffered from leprosy. Namaan had for a servant, a girl from Israel, whom he had captured in one of his victories. She advised Namaan’s wife to let her master seek healing from a prophet in Samaria. The King set Namaan with an introductory letter to Israel. The prophet Elisha sent a message that Namaan must wash himself seven times in the Jordan. This message infuriated Namaan, for why should Jordan be superior to the rivers of Damascus? Again, it was Namaan’s servants who persuaded him to take Elisha’s advice seriously. The commander gave in and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. (v 14 )
Why did many teachers of the law and the professional priests find it difficult to understand, accept or appreciate Jesus? Because they considered themselves authorities who had ready answers and interpretations. Their minds were not open to a new stirring of God’s Spirit. They even thought that people attracted to Jesus were ignorant and were being deceived. For example, in John Ch 9 Jesus healed a man born blind. The Pharisees investigated the healing, questioned the man and his parents. The man was rejoicing in his healing and said he thought Jesus was a prophet. But the Pharisees could not agree that someone who broke Sabbath regulations could ever be one sent by God. Also, in John Ch 4 a Samaritan woman, after a conversation with Jesus at a well, hurried back home to invite others, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ ?” (v 29) That was an unusual observation coming from a woman in those days as well as from someone of a religion and culture despised by the Jews. In the account of Jesus’ trial Matthew tells of the decision of the chief priests and elders to put Jesus to death. But while Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat his wife sent him a message, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” ( Matt. 27: 19 )
In his account of the crucifixion Luke writes of the rulers sneering at Jesus and of the soldiers mocking him. But one of the criminals who was being crucified with Jesus rebukes a fellow-criminal for insulting Jesus saying to him, “this man has done nothing wrong.” Jesus promises that man paradise. Sometimes in an institution like the church we can focus so much on authority and administration, regulations and traditions, that we do not realise God is still speaking and still revealing. We need to hear the voice, the witness or the wisdom of those we call “the common people.” History has shown that leaders have often found such voices too radical, too provocative and disturbing and have chosen, not to listen, but to silence and persecute. Gandhi was revered as an extraordinary spiritual leader and champion of the oppressed and outcast. While many heard him gladly and gratefully, it was a famous political contemporary of his who had a disdain for Gandhi’s religion and culture. This powerful leader once referred to Gandhi as a “half-naked fakir.”