Simon the Leper

Exodus 28:1-43; Matthew 25:31-26:13; Ps 31:9-18; Pv 8:12-13

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

Matthew 26:6-7

Mic-drop….wait….Jesus is in the home of a leper?!?!? His disciples must have felt so nervous and confused. Or were they used to being in the company of the fringes of society by now? Have you ever been to the inner city and hung out with the homeless? I have.

Each summer, a church we attended in Houston, took about 125 kids on mission trip to downtown Houston. One blessed summer, when our youngest daughter, Dakota, was in 7th grade, I signed up to be one of the many chaperones on this mission trip. My group included Dakota and about 6 of the cutest 7th grader girls in all of history. We stayed in a bunk house in a church in downtown. One of the mission trip events was to go down to the “Pierce Elevated” area of downtown Houston and feed the people who lived outside. Under a freeway. Rain or shine. This was quite an eye opening experience to us who lived in the ‘burbs. I must humbly admit, the young moldable hearts and minds of the middle schoolers were much more loving, gentle and open than mine. I can only hope that the other adults who had “been around the block a time or two” felt has uncomfortable as I did. I felt deeply humbled by my own fear AND shame in my own judgmental attitude.

Lepers were the ultimate outcast. The homeless encampments of the inner city could be a today’s image of a refuge to those afflicted with leprosy. The Levitical regulations were strict and strictly adhered to. In Leviticus 13; it is written that anyone who has a defiling skin disease, must be brought to the priest, examined by the priest and if he determines leprosy the priest shall pronounce them “unclean“. Then that person is to be isolated “because they are unclean”. Anyone with such a defiling disease “must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face” and if that’s not humiliating enough….get this….they must CRY OUT “Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean and they must live alone and live outside the camp.

How horrifying! Here’s a person who, through no fault of his own, is ostracized from his friends, family, and community. She can’t get a job. He can’t provide for himself. He’s alone and isolated. And worse yet, by a church official. Many of the people that my junior high crew met under the bridge had/have mental and physical diseases that are of no fault of their own, which purge them to the fringes of society. Where they are destined to find nourishment from wherever they can get it.

But Jesus dines with Simon the Leper. The footnotes in my Bible state that Simon was likely well known for being healed by Jesus. Leprosy really is a contagious disease. Everyone who approaches a person with leprosy should protect themselves, and the leper really needs to be mindful about commuting their ailment.

Kinda like coronavirus. Right?

If you feel sick, stay home. If you’re nervous about getting coronavirus, especially if you have a compromised immune system, wear a mask. Wash your hands, don’t share eating utensils. Keep socially distant.

Addiction and mental illness too are diseases, that are genetic and not a necessarily just “choices” made by those to whom they afflict. Sometimes, they are brought on by family history, by events that happen to a person, or a chemical imbalance of the brain. These diseases too need to be monitored and watched out for….but they are in fact diseases and are affecting human beings. Men and women, and sadly sometimes children created by God.

So anyway, back to Jesus….we find Him here in the house of Simon the Leper. What a title right? He’s no longer “Simon ________(insert last name here)_______, CEO of the Simon Corporation” or “Simon, you know, Chucky’s dad” or “Simon from our Tuesday night Bible Study group”. He’s become known as Simon the Leper. Simon the outcast. Simon the homeless guy always on the corner of Main Street and Elm. We talk about Simon to our children like, “Honey, don’t play with little Chucky anymore, you know he has/had leprosy”. We talk about Simon at the water cooler like, “Oh gosh, have you heard? Well, I don’t mean to gossip, but I heard that Simon got leprosy!! But you didn’t hear it from me…..” We see Simon on the corner and don’t dare roll down our window or look in his direction.

But they’ll all know anyway, because Simon will be known when he has to come to town for toilet paper by his prescribed torn clothes & face mask, shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!”

I love this image of Jesus and his friends, all having dinner at Simon’s house. Hanging out having dinner. At a lepers table. Lots of hand sanitizer nearby. But Jesus reclined at the table just enjoying the company of his friends, watching their unique reactions. I bet Jesus enjoys watching us squirm a bit. If only we could find comfort and doing what he does…following his lead. Resting in his peace.

But mostly, I think about Simon how grateful he must have felt for the company of Jesus and company. Don’t you know that he knew REALLY KNEW what it meant to lose everything.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.

My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.

Because of all my enemies I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends – those who see me on the street flee from me.

I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.

For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me and plot to take my life.

But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.

Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead.

Let their lying lips be silenced, for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

How abundant are the good things.

Psalm 31: 9-19

Lord, may I not take for granted the love of Jesus. God, create me to be like the woman at the feet of Jesus anointing his feet. Lord, teach me to rest in the peace of knowing you are with me in all circumstances. God I repent for the times that I judge others for what they are wearing, or what others are saying, or even for what they are saying about themselves. Create me new today, soften my heart for your people, take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.

Friend, are you isolating yourself in this climate of unrest? If so, reach out to the savior for the Lord is merciful.

Look around, good things are abundant! What abundant good things are you grateful for today?

Do you feel like an outcast? If so, Jesus wants to dine with you today. Reach out for help. Find a good Bible based church, seek His face in a community of believers.

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