Monday, November 27, 2006

Simon's Thanksgiving Day

A Story based on Luke 17:11-19

Simon grew up in a normal, Samaritan home. Each Sabbath, his family would go up to Mount Gerizim to worship, and though it was different from the Jews who worshipped in Jerusalem, it was still theirs. As Simon got a little older, his mom would send him into the buy supplies for the family. Though his mom would say it every time he walked out the door, Simon didn't have to be reminded to be careful as he travelled.

It seems that no matter how inconspicuous he tried to be, the Jewish children would find him and harass him, especially that Bartholomew. He seemed to be the ring leader, and he would get all of his friends to throw pebbles at Simon and yell out racial slurs like "half-breed" or "mut". Simon never understood why they hated him so much. His parents had said it was because of a 500-year-old conflict between the Jews and Samaritans. What does that have to do with me? Simon thought. I didn't do anything wrong.

While he was in Jerusalem, Simon would see families going in and coming out of the temple. Herod had built this temple to be even more glorious than the one Solomon built centuries ago. Simon sometimes wondered about God. Could I actually know him? Is He really compassionate like the Scripture says? Does He really forgive sin? Could He ever be my God? He would peek into the temple occasionally but would never go in. Sure, Samaritans were allowed in the outer court, but who would want to endure that? Jewish eyes staring at you, silently belittling you, and wishing you weren't there. No thank you.

It was around the age of seventeen that Simon came in from the fields and his mother noticed that his skin looked especially dry. Over the next couple of weeks, lesions appeared, and white hairs grew out of the lesions. Concerned, his parents took him to the priest because the priest would know what to do about any skin disease. After seeing the priest, their worst nightmare came true as Simon was declared "unclean", having contracted leprosy.

Tears streamed down his mother's face as Simon was told he would have to leave immediately and go live with other lepers. He could not worship anymore, and he could not go home. He simply had to leave. Once Simon got to his new "home", saw a familiar face. "Bartholomew?" Simon realized he wasn't going to fit in all that well with these lepers. After all, these guys were Jews, and he was still a Samaritan. Because of their common illness, they attempted to get along, but they would still occasionally remind Simon of how wonderful the Jews are...and how horrible the Samaritans are.

Ten years went by in this new, isolated existence. "Healers" came and went, but nothing ever changed. Evenings would find Simon sitting with his nine living companions, staring up to the heavens, and still wondering about God. Simon wondered if he would die like this. He thought, It's bad enough that I'm hated for being a Samaritan, but now I'm an isolated Samaritan because of this disease. What a hopeless life.

One day, Simon heard a shout coming from a distance. "Jesus is coming!" Bartholomew answered back, "We've heard His name...who is He?" "He's a prophet sent from God, and He has been healing thousands of sick people...even lepers." What? He has healed lepers? Could this be Simon's chance at getting his old life back?

The traveling party came through, and there He was...front and center...Jesus of Nazareth. After discussing what they would do, the ten shouted together, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" Jesus looked at them and answered. Simon was overwhelmed. Go to the temple? he thought. Show the priests? There would be only one reason to go to the temple and show the priests...they would be healed!

The ten immediately headed off toward the temple. Simon had never been inside, and he wondered what it would be like. When they arrived, they went straight to the priests, pulled back their sleeves, and the priest looked at their skin. "You are all clean," he said. Clean? thought Simon. I'm clean? I was diseased, and Jesus has made me clean. This man is no prophet. He is the Christ! He cleansed me from my leprosy, and He can cleanse me from my sin.

"Bartholomew! Friends! Jesus is the Christ! Let us go back and worship Him!" Simon called out. Bartholomew looked at him and smirked, "We're not your friends, mut. You do what you want. We're going home." It was as if Simon didn't hear a word he said. When they turned away, Simon turned back and quickly made his way to Jesus. He got to the edge of the crowd, elbowed his way through the sea of people, threw himself at Jesus' feet, and began to sing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise Him above ye heavenly host! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!" Then he said, "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, my Lord."

With his face to the ground, Simon heard the brokenhearted voice of Jesus asking where the other nine were. They were cleansed, too. Why weren't they here? Then, Simon felt a hand on the back of his head. Jesus now addressed him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Simon felt a sense of relief come over his soul. It didn't matter that he was a didn't matter that he was a leper. His sins were now forgiven, and it was all because of Jesus, the Christ.

Simon was wrong about Jesus. Jesus didn't give him his old life back. Jesus gave him new life.

Now, the story is over, but there's just one more thing to add. In Matthew 26, there is a story of a woman who poured out an alabaster jar of expensive perfume on Jesus' head. Do you remember th location of this event? The house of Simon the Leper (v. 6). Now, I'm not saying that this is the same leper, but wouldn't it be just like the leper in Luke 17 to host a private dinner party for Jesus and His disciples? If it were the same leper, I could imagine that a warm smile came to his face when the perfume was poured, remembering the first day that his heart poured out in worshipping Jesus.

Has your heart been changed by Jesus? Pour out your life for Him.