SIMON THE LEPER part 7

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

He breathed a sigh of relief as he went through the main gate unto the Jericho road. He paused to look right. That dusty road zigzagged down the Judean Highlands to the city of Jericho and the Jordan River Valley. He would have trekked south along the west bank of the sunken salten sea for two days until he reached an area in the vast wilderness his father showed him decades before. Then he looked left where the road led to the big city. He decided to go left.

About two hours later, he was on the crest of the Mount of Olives with a spectacular panoramic view of Jerusalem. But most importantly, he had a clear vantage point of the Temple. The sun was still very high in the sky and it’s glare was reflecting off the gilded moldings on the crown of the tall majestic edifice which housed the most sacred place in the entire world, the Holy of Holies. Grayish smoke rose from within the temple complex. Simon could picture his usual place in the only area where Israelite males were allowed to congregate in the Temple complex, the Court of Israel. From his former place, he had a clear view of the large burning altar which sat to the right of the Temple’s golden double doors about thirty feet away. The altar rose about four feet off the ground. Twenty priests could stand around the platform around the large fire pit. During the annual festivals, a continuous thick black smoke would fill the skies for a whole week from the tens of thousands of animal sacrifices offered. On the Passover, the most important of the festivals, the priests of the altar would pass a bowl of the collected blood to the High Priest. He would then carry it through those double doors to seek forgiveness for the entire nation.

Tears came to his eyes. As a practice, he used to give his offerings for his family once every week before the Sabbath. As he watched his offering being put on the fire, he would get down and bow low to the ground and worship. Because of leprosy, he had not worshipped in weeks. Because of his uncleansed condition, the thought of not being again part of the most holy of festivals had wrenched his heart. Simon went down on his knees and gave a curdling cry of despair. After an hour of crying, he got up and headed south.

About three hours from the city, he came upon the path that he remembered led to the leper colony. He decided to swing by for a quick look see. When he was younger, he used to accompany his father a few times to bring food supplies to this colony. He would say that the rich should always show compassion to the needy. Simon had continued the tradition with his own son.

The leper colony was actually located in a wide ravine that had extended caves where the residences take refuge from the elements. Simon followed the track that went up a rocky knoll. When he reached the top, he saw the ravine below him. Smoke from several campfires rose from the ravine opening. As Simon came close to the edge of the ravine, he saw on the other side, men unloading food supplies off a cart. They are Levites from a nearby village vowed to serve the priesthood and the people. They loaded the food on a wide basket that was strung on wooden crane built on a rock ledge. When the first load was full, they then swung the crane over the edge and lowered it down about twenty feet to an eager group of shabbily dressed lepers that could still walk.

From what Simon could assess, the number of lepers have doubled since he was here last. Rickety makeshift tents lined the far wall. He could see a number of them going in and out of the cave entrance. Where once a stream fed a pool that was in the middle of the ravine, now a stinking greenish stagnant pool is left and the stream dried up. There were bodies lying around the pool, some moving, some not. Simon turned away feeling a sense of pity and helplessness. He continued north, traveling on rarely used paths mostly avoiding the villages on his route. Four arduous days later, he reached his destination in the Judean wilderness.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

A MOTHER’S CHRISTMAS TALE

An excerpt from The Centurian’s Gospel by JQuisumbing

“I was among the date trees with the other girls harvesting the fruit then everything around me started to slow down. I thought I was sick and very very dizzy,” said Mariam. “I closed my eyes for just a moment and when I opened them, there was no one to be seen. I was all alone. I looked all around and I ran but I knew not where.

“There was a voice calling my name. Then… before me was a man all in the brightest of white. He was so beautiful that I was so afraid. He said, ‘Hail Mariam, thou art highly favored among women. Do not fear for the Lord is with thee. Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

“I was so confused for I have never known a man before. But he said, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’

[Luke 1:28-35 KJV]

Cornelius was totally stunned to hear her story. The skeptical part of him could not believe of a virgin conception.

“In some ways, I probably looked like the way you both look right now. The angel then told me of a recent miracle with my cousin, Elizabeth, who was barren but became pregnant in her old age with her husband, Zecharia.” She then looked at Cornelius and said, “I believe you already know their son. They named him John.”

Cornelius and Jacob looked at each other but no words were exchanged. Mariam then told them that her husband to be, Joseph, wanted to divorce her quietly but the same angel spoke to him in a dream and they got married. They thought the baby was to be born at Nazareth but then came the Emperor’s edict for the heads of family to return to where they were born.

“So, we left for Bethlehem where I gave birth.”

“We know of the coming of the magi from the East and the dreadful event after. Was there there anything unusual that happened on the day you gave birth?” asked Jacob.

“When we arrived in Bethlehem, the village was crowded with people because of the census. We stayed with the family of Joseph but the inn, that is, the upper room for guests was already occupied by other relatives; one of whom was also ready to give birth. The midwives were already up there. At that time, I thought I still had about a week to go, so Joseph and I were quite content to sleep on the ground with other family members. We settled ourselves on the ground where the animals were usually kept during the winter months. That night, I went into labor. All the men were ushered out of the house while the women of the household helped me.

“When my son was born, Joseph wrapped him in swaddling cloth and then he laid him in a stone manger filled with a bed of fresh hay while I rested. I still recall how magical it was when Joseph let open the large wooden doors to let the cool air in. A ray of light from the moon seem to fall upon my baby’s face. But that is not the only special event that happened that night. Something else happened in the nearby hills. For this part of the story, I bring you an eyewitness.”

She nodded to one of her daughters. She went out the door leading an old man leaning on a hooked staff. Miriam gestured to him and said, “This is Eloa. He was there when I gave birth. At that time, he was a shepherd who was out on the hillsides of Bethlehem watching over a flock of sheep. I will let him tell you himself.”

“Gre… gre… greetings, your honors,” Eloa said nervously. “I is a simple shepherd. I not talk to others too good, but this story I like to tell very very well.

“I remember… I always remember that night like it yesterday. Me, my father and ten others… we sitting around fire. Night very dark, when suddenly on hill above us, man appear like very bright sun. We all knew man was no man but messenger of the wind… sent by Yahweh. He spoke to us in very clear words.”

Cornelius then heard him suddenly speak with clear diction and it seemed Eloa’s voice was not his own.

Fear not… for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

“Then night sky burst bright with more light and there was many holy messengers flying by singing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’


[ Luke 2:10-14 NASB ]

“Then… no light… no singing… all quiet. Even sheep quiet… no run away. We shepherds laugh and cry because we so happy. We left sheep… not worry about them… they safe we know somehow. We met other shepherds going to Bethlehem. They saw too. More and more joined us. When enter Bethlehem, we asked where babies born this night. We search and search… found five but not right one. Finally, we came to house where baby born in upstair room but baby was girl. Then walked around house and big doors open and single light from lamp over manger. When we saw baby in manger, we knew sign. First, we quiet… then laughed out loud. Soon dancing and singing psalms. When villagers came… asked why… we told them all.”

Mariam smiled and nodded. Eloa bowed and then quietly left. “Eloa stayed with us ever since. The village did celebrate that night. Joseph and his family were concerned but as is the nature of people, they easily forget. After forty five days, we traveled to Jerusalem to present our baby at the Temple as in tradition. It was there, we were met by a man named Simeon who said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.’ Then he told me that ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’

[ Luke 2:29-32 NASB ]

“After the census was finished, people went home. Joseph’s family urged us to stay. So, we stayed. Jesus was over a year old, when we were visited by several disciples of Daniel known as the Magi. They presented us with the gift of gold, francinsense and myre. That night, Joseph woke from a disturbing dream. He told us that an angel urged us to leave right away for our child was in danger. So, we left for Egypt. It was there we later heard what Herod had done. So, we stayed two more years until again an angel told Joseph it was safe to return. When we learned that the eldest son of Herod was to rule Judea, we chose to return to Nazareth.”

SIMON THE LEPER part 6

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

Three weeks went by and Simon continued life by conducting the matters of business from his upper room. He was quite content to live out his exile up there until one startling day, he heard the happy voice of his youngest child. Quickly turning around, he saw her running to him hands spread wide to hug him.

He shouts angrily, “Mary, stop!” …as he backed away from her.

Mary suddenly stopped at her tracks. She was shocked for she had never heard her father use such an angry voice on her. Then, the tears came.

Simon, so wanted to console her but he had to keep her safe. So, he angrily shouted out for Lazarus. Then Lazarus came running up and quickly assessed the situation. He grabbed up a crying Mary and slowly backed up to the stairs. That night, he made a crucial decision.

In the morning, he called for Tahan and his son.

“I am going away. I cannot stay and risk the chance that Mary may sneak up here again.”

“Are you thinking about going to the leper colony afterall?” asked Tahan.

“No. I was thinking about where our father took us hunting. Where I took you, Lazarus, two years ago. Tahan, you have to run the business and as for you, my son, learn from your uncle. Also when I go, you must have the servant carefully cleanse the upper room. Now, I am going to need some supplies.”

Three days later, two donkeys loaded with supplies and two goats tied to them were waiting outside the gate. When he came down from the roof, the halls and courtyard were empty of servants.

Then he faintly heard, “Bye Abba.” He looked up to see both Mary and Martha peeking out of the window. It wrenched his heart. When he went through the gate, Tahan and Lazarus were waiting for him.

“My son, if I do not return, you will be the man of this house. When Mary reach of age, it will be up to you to choose her husband. As to Martha, Tahan, do not pick someone too old.”

They both chuckled lightly. “Do not fret, Simon. I will be there every three months with supplies.”

“I hope you still remember how to get to the canyon. Well, I better be off.”

Simon untied the lead donkey and had to tug a little hard to get it going. As he led the animals away, he dared not look back. The few neighbors he saw hastily shut their doors and shutters as he passed their homes. He could not help but feel hurt for many of them were his friends. When he reached the village square, it was crowded with people. He covered his face. Then he pulled on the animals and headed for the main gate. There was one other thing he had to do whenever going through a crowd which he dreaded. It was a requirement from the priesthood.

In a loud voice, he called out, “Unclean! Make way. Unclean!” He had to repeat himself until he cleared the crowd.

Practically everyone in the square turned towards him in surprise and quickly made way. They were surprised because they did not expect to find a leper in their village… in their very midst. Then the gossips began.

As Simon made a straight bee-line for the gate, mumbling voices trailed him. “You see… it is Simon!” “Simon the leper…” “Simon! But I thought he lived such a blessed life.” “What sin did he do?” “Someone as rich as him has to have done something’ wrong.” “I heard he cheated his partners.” “His poor children…” And it went on and on. Simon quickened his pace.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 5

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

“You… have… leprosy…” These words kept echoing in Simon’s head throughout the long night. As the sun broke the horizon, Simon refused to get out of the cot, but he was wide awake.

Before the priests left him, which was two days ago, Nadab asked him, “What have you done, Simon, to incur God’s ire so? A man of your standing… falling lower below the level of a… common sinner. What have you done?”

“I… I don’t know!”

To this day, his mind was still in turmoil wondering how he got leprosy but more so on the why. He always thought he was in God’ good graces. His business was doing very well. His children are healthy. He did all that was required of him according to the law. Even when he lost his wife, he still brought the proper sacrifices. So, why did God allow this harshest of punishment on him? Unless, he was truly unworthy. For why else did he get leprosy? His mind went around and around with these thoughts like a vicious circle.

At end of the fourth day, hunger won out against depression. His brother, Tahan, was the one who brought the food.

“Simon,” Tahan said as he placed the basket of food on the floor then retreated back to the top of the stairs. “What is the plan, brother? You have not come out for days. This is not like you.”

“Well, brother, there is this thing in me called Leprosy,” he said sarcastically. He picked up the basket and went to sit in the shade. “Did you talk to Nadab?”

“Yes. He gave us instructions.”

“Did he mention about me going to the leper colony?”

“He still think you should go there. But from what I hear from our relatives, you don’t deserve to live the rest of your life in luxury and in safety.”

“How about you, Tahan? Do you agree?”

“You should know me better than that, brother. I am not our cousin.”

“Yes, I know that. Forgive me. There is such bitterness in me. And I am not talking against our dear cousin.”

“Simon, it is not yours or even my place to lay blame on our Lord. Do you remember our late father’s lesson from Job?”

Simon blinked with realization, for he was just thinking about Job. He and Job did share similar spiritual dilemma. Job was a rich man that lived his life to please the Lord. Somehow, the devil convinced Him to withdraw His protection from Job as a test. First, Job lost his business. Then, his children died in a freakish accident. Finally, Job himself was struck with terrible boils from head to foot. In despair, he sought the reason first among his friends who were not very helpful. Then, he cried out his frustration in a very long prose to Heaven. He probably didn’t expect Heaven to respond but, then in God-like manner, from the midst of a dramatic whirlwind, God answered him. In the long run, Job was humbled and repentant. At the end, God restored his health, increased his wealth and even his family increased by giving him more children.

Simon propped up his head, showing a little sign of hope. “Tahan, do you think I am being tested?”

“Being tested?” Tahan asked with a slight frown.

“Yes… like the way Job was tested.” Simon, not waiting for him to answer, exclaimed some more. “It makes sense, Tahan! By the life of me, I just don’t understand how the Lord could just punish me like this. For am I not like Job?”

Tahan nodded quietly but not showing any signs of conviction. But Simon was elated by the concept. When Tahan left him, he could hear Simon busily moving around on the roof humming to himself.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 4

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

It didn’t take them long to get back down to the ground level. They left the wagon with Jorel and walked back toward the large plaza. At the base of the southern wall was a large gate guarded by some Roman soldiers. Inside was a tall chamber with two sets of steep staircases left and right off the entrance. Simon and his son went up an indeterminate number of high steps to a landing before taking another set. Simon counted six landings, he thought, before emerging again into the sunlight. As their eyes adjusted to the light, they faced the wondrous Temple complex where Simon would bring a young bull to offer as sacrifice for his family. Just inside the complex was the court of Israel, where only Jewish males were allowed to pray. Simon always felt awed whenever he saw the bright golden doors of the Holy of holies.

But the Temple was not their destination. They both solemnly bowed their heads to the Temple, then turned around. Built on the southern end of the Temple Mount was a long three story building with a red tiled roof. In there were the offices of the priests where they minister directly to the public. The lower levels are usually left to the minor priest who deal with the masses. The upper levels cater more to the upper class. It was to a second level office that they went to.

“Simon!” said a priest getting up from behind a large desk filled with scrolls. He was of his same age but wider in girth.

“Nadab,” Simon said as he ritually bowed to him. “You would think that a high priest like yourself would not be so stout. What if the Lord calls us back to the wilderness? Will you survive?”

“Probably not,” he laughed. “So, what brings you to my office?”

“Lazarus, my son, why don’t you wait for me outside?” Lazarus bowed to the priest and quietly stepped out.

“What ails you cousin? I don’t think you’ve ever visited me here at this office. At that matter, I don’t ever remember you being so ill that you would end up here.”

“I must show you something,” he said as he began to disrobe.

When he peeled off his tunic, he lifted his left arm up and said, “After my bath, I felt some dryness right under here.” He pointed to an area about a hand’s length below his armpit.

“Come to the light, Simon.”

Simon moved to the window. Nadab took a step closer and peered a little closer but he kept his hands behind his back.

“Mmm… I see some whiteness but it seems to be only skin deep. I wouldn’t worry too much, however, the priesthood does have procedures handed down to us by Moses to follow. We have to separate you from any contact for about a week. You must isolate yourself in your upper room away from your family. After seven days, I and two others will come and make another examination.”

The ride back to Bethany was a little somber. Simon had told Lazarus what had transpired.

“Father, Nadab had said not to worry.”

“Still, my son, we must take all precautions especially with Mary. It is up to you to keep her away. She will not understand.”

When they got back to their house, instructions were given to move some of his personal things to the upper room on the roof while he waited on the wagon. Transfer to the roof went well except for a close call when Mary gleefully ran to Simon with arms wide open. But Lazarus caught her at mid stride before she could reach him. For seven days, Simon stayed in isolation. Food and water was usually left at the top of the stairs three times a day. Then Nadab came with two other priests.

All three priests stood two arms length from Simon as they circled around to examine him closely. They had told him to strip naked and had his arms raised. They slowly circled him at least three times. Then, they told him to dress and stepped away from him to confer quietly among themselves. Simon was not liking that they were whispering together for such a long time. Then, Nadab approached him.

“I’m afraid, my friend, you have leprosy.”

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.