SIMON THE LEPER part 11

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

You are the salt of the earth,” the Nazarene said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

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 10

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennesaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting place, to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were addressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were addressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

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.

Following the footsteps of the Patriarchs

Module 1 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In this module, we will visit the Bible sites significant to the book of Genesis – mostly the sites where God impacted the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and other patriarchs.

Take note: the order of sites we visit will not always be in chronological order.

So, let us start where Abraham first hailed from.

“I am the LORD who brought you (Abraham) out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land (Canaan & more) to possess it.” Genesis 15:7

1 – UR, the land of the Chaldeans

Click LINK 1 – UR

What you are looking at is the satellite view of the ruins of Ur which can be found in modern day Tall al-Muqayyar, Iraq. Unfortunately, Google Maps did not have any 360 degree views here. However, you can click on any of the castle-tower-icons which will open a side panel on the left side of the window screen and you can view numerous photos of the site. During Abraham’s early time, Ur was an important city of ancient southern Mesopotamia. The image below is a rendition of what Ur may have looked like

In antiquity the Euphrates River ran much closer to the city; the change in the great river’s course had left the ruins in a desert that once was irrigated and fertile.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you into a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing… And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

Why did God have Abraham leave the country of his birth and yes, even from his father’s house?

Joshua gave us the reason when he said, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods”’ (Joshua 24:2). For Abraham to become a great blessing to all mankind, God had to separate him from the cultural influence of IDOLATRY.

To see museum artifacts from Ur, you are welcome to take this optional side trip: A walk through the Exhibition of Ur Artifacts @ British Museum at London

2 – Harran

Now Terah took his son Abram, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they departed together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran and settled there. Genesis 11:31

Abram, Sarai and his entire clan more than likely followed a well known trading route which followed the Great Euphrates River to the northwest. From Ur to Harran, it would have been about a 600 mile journey… and travelling by camels, it would have taken close to a year to get there.

Click LINK 2 – Ruins of Harran*

*LINK 2 was shot by a drone

The ruins of Harran is located in southeastern modern day Turkey. It was also known as Carrhae and was a major ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia. It was also a commercial, cultural, science and religious center. Harran, being a smaller version of Ur, probably reminded Terah and the rest of Abram’s kin that it was almost like their home. So, they settled there (Gen 11:31).

Harran also was site when…

Gen 24: About 70 years later, a very old Abraham sent his trusted servant to search out a wife for his son, Isaac, among the relatives in Harran. God led him to Rebekah, the daughter of Laban who was Abraham’s nephew.

Gen 28-30: Another 60 years later than that, Jacob, who was the Abraham’s grandson, was sent by Rebekah, his mother to Laban (his uncle) to escape a reprisal from his twin brother, Esau. Laban tricked Jacob into 20 years of service. It was also here that Jacob sired 11 out of the 12 sons the made up the future 12 tribes of Israel.


3 – Mt Ararat

Since we are in the neighborhood of Turkey, we might as well take a quick detour to about 400 miles northeast from the ruins of Harran to where Abraham’s Great, great… (plus 10 other Greats after that)… Grandfather safely made landfall with the only remnants of humanity and the remnants of the animal kingdom (that we see today) after spending 150 days in big a wooden ark during the great flood that covered all the earth. His name was NOAH.

Genesis 6-9: Noah’s Ark & the Flood

When the deluge stopped and the flood started to recede, the ark landed on a rocky outcrop jutting out of the water. That place was…

Click LINK 3 – MT ARARAT

You are standing on the southern slope of Mt Ararat. Imagine Noah peering out the window of the ark from this vantage point as he watched the flood waters drain away. Imagine him breaking open the side of the ark to release the animals to scatter unto the four winds. Imagine him building a stone altar on those very slopes and offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. Then, he was given a colorful surprise… a rainbow… a visual promise from God that never again will a great flood cover the earth.

Some archaeologists found another possible site of the ark’s final resting place some 20 miles south of the mountain. They based their claim on the boat-shape contour formed on the rock terrain. The discovery was made in what is known as the Durupinar site. Click here to view photos of DURUPINAR.


Let’s get back to Abraham.

Though his clan settled in Harran, God moved the heart of Abram to leave there and go south almost 400 miles into the land of…

4CANAAN

These are the sites we will see.

What does the Bible say about the inhabitants of Canaan?

Genesis 10 (background)

Now these are the records of the generations of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and sons were born to them after the flood. [vs1]

The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. [vs6]

Canaan fathered Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth, the Jebusite, the Amorite, the Girgashite, the Hivite, the Arkite, the Sinite, the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite; and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad. [15-18]

The territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon going toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; and going toward Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. [19]

Important note: God had destined the Canaanites to lose this land to the descendants of Shem… the descendants of Abraham.

So Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.” Genesis 9:25-26

5 – SHECHEM

Abram’s first stop was…

Click LINK 4 – SHECHEM

Link 4 is a 360 degree view of the valley where Shechem was located. What you see below, from the vantage point of Mt. Gerizim, is the modern town of Nablus.

What happened here?

Genesis 12:6-7

Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanites were in the land at that time. And the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.

Other biblical occurrences:

Genesis 33:18-20
Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram (Harran), and camped before the city. He bought the plot of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel (the mighty God of Israel).

Jacob also dug a well here that was the scene where a Samaritan woman will meet One who promised ‘Living Water’ for all.

Genesis 34 – The slaughter of the men of Shechem by the hands of Jacob’s sons.

Genesis 35:1-4
It was said that at this same oak of Moreh that Jacob buried his household’s “foreign gods” (idols) when God commanded him to proceed to Bethel for purification and dedication.

From here, let us take a detour and go East across the Jordan River to an important site.

6 – PENIEL

Click LINK 5 – Peniel

What you are looking at is the Zarqa River in the modern day country of Jordan. This river, during Jacob’s day, was once called the Jabbok River which flowed into the Jordan River just a couple of miles west from here. Somewhere in this vicinity, Jacob had a hand to hand encounter with God.

In Genesis 32, Jacob had just escaped from 20 years of unjust servitude to his uncle Laban at Paddan-aram (Harran). When reaching the hill country of Gilead (East of the Jordan River) at the Jabbok River, he sent his entire household across the river.

That night, he encountered a being and wrestled with Him. It was here that God reiterated the changing of Jacob’s name to Israel. Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”

7 – BETHEL

Let us go back in time again to Genesis 12, Abram traveled about 19 miles south from Shechem to…

Click LINK 6 – Bethel

You’re on a hill designated as an archaeological site. If you look north on another hill, you can see the modern day town of Biet-el.

Bethel, during the time when Abraham first set his tents near here (Gen 12:8) & where he also parted ways with Lot (Gen 13), was originally called ‘Luz‘.

How did Bethel get its name?

Bethel got it’s name later in Genesis 28.

Jacob (Abraham’s grandson) had departed from Beersheba and was on his way to Haran to avoid a violent altercation with his angry twin brother, Esau.  As he laid his head to sleep…

And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Then behold, the LORD was standing above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:12-15

Jacob then called this place, BETHEL, which means the “House of God”.

Let us go farther south to…

8 – HEBRON

The Oak of Mamre

Click LINK 7 – The Oak of Mamre

The Oak of Mamre is also called the Tree of Abraham or Shajr-e Ibrahaim in Arabic. This tree, where Abram pitched his tent, is located on the outskirts of Hebron. Today, the remnant of the tree used to stand on the grounds of the modern Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

The Oak of Mamre.
This old tree is supported by beams in order to prevent it from falling.

The old tree fell in 2019, but there are plans to preserve its trunk and sustain the growth of the young shoot. It is believed that it was over 5000 years old. It withered in 1996 from time and age however two new trees sprouted the following year from the dried-up oak that still had life in its roots underground.

Biblical Occurrences:

Genesis 13:18 – Abram moved his tent from the Negev after Lot (his nephew) had separated from him, and came and lived by the oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron; and there he built an altar to the LORD.

Genesis 15 – Abram was promised a Son… God gave him a vision.

Important note – Abram was declared righteous for his faith.

Genesis 16 – It was also in this same place that Abram’s wife, Sarai, mistakenly passed her slave Hagar to him from whom Ishmael was born .

Genesis 17 – Years later, he was visited by 3 angels… Here, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision was established.

Genesis 18:1… – When Abraham turned 99, the Lord came and visited him. He was told that Sarah will give birth to Isaac in her old age.

Genesis 18:22… – Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom & Gomorrah.

In another part of Hebron, let us go to another site.

The Cave of the Patriarchs

The Cave of the Patriarchs, known to the Jews as the Cave of Machpelah and to the Muslims as the Sanctuary of Abraham, is a series of burial caves holy to them as well as to Christians. Over the caves stand a large rectangular enclosure which is divided into both a synagogue and a mosque.

Click LINK 8 – Cave of the Patriarchs

You are virtually standing between the entrances into the caverns where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob were buried.

Biblical Occurrences:

Genesis 23 – Abraham’s wife Sarah died in Kiryat Arba near Hebron in the land of Canaan at the age of 127. Abraham came to mourn for her. After a while he stood up and spoke to the sons of Heth. He told them that he was a foreigner in their land and requested that they speak to Ephron the Hittite, the son of Zohar, who lived in Mamre and owns the cave of Machpelah which he was offering to buy for “the full price”. Ephron sold the entire field for four hundred shekels of silver and Abraham agreed to the price without any further bargaining. Abraham then buried his beloved wife Sarah there. [Wikipedia data]

Genesis 25 – Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham who passed at the age of 175 in the cave of Machpelah…

Genesis 49 – Jacob gave his account to his family that when Isaac died at the age of 180, he and Esau buried him in Machpelah. Rebekah (his mother) as well as his wife Leah were buried there too.

Genesis 50 – Joseph, who was then the prime minister of Egypt, had his physicians embalm his father Jacob, who died at the age of 147. They then removed him from Egypt to be buried in the cave of the field of Machpelah.

9 – SODOM, GOMORRAH & LOT

Click LINK 9 – Dead Sea

You are looking at a 360 degree aerial view of the southwestern side of the Dead Sea. Archaeologists had pinpointed that the notoriously sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, from the book of Genesis, were located in those areas. Both cities were completely destroyed by “sulfur and fire” because of their wickedness (Genesis 19:24).

Click to watch –
Sodom & Gomorrah Location,
New Archaeological Discoveries

2 Sites to see:

Click LINK 10 – Lot’s Wife

This rocky figure of a woman can be seen from Highway 65 on the Jordan side of the Dead Sea. Of course, it is not really Lot’s wife turned to salt. But it does make a fun background to tell the story of Genesis 19.

Genesis 19:15-26
When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he hesitated. So the men grasped his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, because the compassion of the LORD was upon him; and they brought him out and put him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, one said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the surrounding area; escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.”

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the surrounding area, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

But Lot’s wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Click LINK 11 – Lot’s Cave

Lot’s Cave, which is a stiff 10-minute climb up a steep flight of steps, is surrounded by the ruins of a small Byzantine church (5th to 8th centuries), a reservoir and some mosaics, which were excavated by the British Museum. The cave is 2km northeast of Safi and well signposted from the Dead Sea Highway. Look for the circular museum building on the hillside.

Lot, the nephew of Abraham, features repeatedly in the colourful annals of the Dead Sea’s southern shores. Lot’s Cave, just past the Lisan Peninsula, is where he and his daughters are said to have lived after fleeing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In an eyebrow-raising incident that’s remarkable even for the Bible, it’s written in Genesis 19:30-38 that Lot’s two daughters spiked their father’s drink, had intercourse with him and then nine months later gave birth to his sons of incest, Moab and Ben Ammi, the forefathers of the Moabite and Ammonite peoples.

[excerpt from Lonely Planet website]

10 – BEERSHEBA [Beersheva]

Beersheba is located on the north section of the Negev desert. It got its name from Genesis 21:31 when Abraham and Abimelech took an oath of witness that the former had dug the well and seven ewe lambs were offered in sacrifice. Speaking of wells…

Click LINK 12 – Abraham’s Well

Unfortunately, this Google Map street view of Abraham’s Well leaves much to be desired. However, if you pan a little to the left, you may want to order a slice or so. I hear that camel took the place of pepperoni. Kidding aside, turn back to Abraham’s Well. Go ahead and click on the green circle with the camera icon to view photos of what’s inside.

What happened here?

Genesis 21:1-7 – Birth of Isaac as promised by God.

Genesis 21:9-19 By God’s encouragement, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away into the Negev wilderness. When close to dying of thirst, an angel provided for them and Hagar was reassured that Ishmael will become a great nation.

11 – MT MORIAH

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham got up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place of which God had told him. (Genesis 22:1-3)

Mt Moriah is about 45 miles from Beersheba.

Click LINK 13 – MT MORIAH TODAY

This is the Dome of the Rock and it is an Islamic shrine located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was built over the original site of Mt. Moriah.

What happened here during Abraham’s time?

And Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to his father Abraham and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”


We end module 1 with a final visit to…

12 – EGYPT

After all, the book of Genesis do end here in the land of the pharaohs and pyramids. I refer to Jacob, when he uprooted his entire family including all of their households and herds, then trekked almost 240 miles to Egypt.

Jacob’s route into Egypt

Genesis 46 – Jacob (aka Israel) moved to Egypt when he found out that his favorite son, Joseph, who he believed was killed by an animal (Gen 37:31-35), was not only alive but was also the second highest ruler of the kingdom of Lower Egypt.

So, Jacob, with the blessings of Pharaoh, settled in this area of Goshen.

Click LINK 16 – GOSHEN

As you can see, Goshen is quite fertile even today. It was perfect to raise herds of sheep and other livestock. For 400 years, the patriarch’s clan of 75 people grew into a nation of 12 tribes of about 2 million people.

Before we leave our tour, I felt it right that we play the tourist as we visit the…

Click LINK 17 – PYRAMIDS OF GIZA

As you look around the great pyramids of Giza, allow me to end this tour with the final blessings of Jacob concerning the futures of his sons. [You can read the entire text here in Genesis 49.] For our purposes, we will focus on one particular blessing that have so much significance in regards to the promise given to Abraham about his future offspring.

Genesis 49:8-12

“Judah, your brothers will praise you. You will grasp your enemies by the neck. All your relatives will bow before you.

Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey. Like a lion he crouches and lies down; like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.

He ties his foal to a grapevine, the colt of his donkey to a choice vine.

He washes his clothes in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.

His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk.

What made this blessing so important? It points to our…

MESSIAH


Epilogue:

The Old Testament of the Bible always point to the ultimate saving grace of the Gospel. As your tour guide to the virtual sites of the Bible, I invite you to watch this 6 minute video.


This ends our tour of Module 1. Thank you for joining me in Following the Footsteps of the Patriarchs.

Click here to go to MODULE 2 – A Walk through the Wilderness

SIMON THE LEPER part 9

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

“Father… Father?”

Simon thought he was dreaming. He woke up looking up at the tattered tent cover that he used ten years ago to put a roof over his shelter. He slowly sat up and felt the aches in his back. But his hands and his feet lost all feelings some years ago. He tried to get up but the lack of feeling in his feet still affects his balance. He reached over to a rough wooden cane he made and slowly painfully stood up.

A voice again called from outside his shelter. “Father? It is me, Lazarus.”

He has not seen his son ten years. He had given explicit commands to Tahan to never bring Lazarus with him when he brings the supplies. But Simon was so lonely, he did not hesitate. He threw aside the curtain that was his door and stepped outside. At first, his son was smiling but in an instant his eyes widened in horror.

“Father! Yo… your face! You have no nose!”

Simon quickly covered his face. “I am sorry, son. I was so happy to see you, that I forgot… It is the disease.” He left it there as the only needed explanation.

“I am sorry, father, that you have suffered so.”

“Oh my son, I had hoped that I would be healed but I now know I will die maybe soon. There is no more hope.”

“But father, there is hope!” Lazarus excitedly said. “We have been hearing of a rabbi in the north country who can heal the sick.”

“A rabbi who can heal? Why have I not heard this?”

“Uncle Tahan did not believe in the news. I argued with him for weeks. So, I came on my own. I was fortunate to find this canyon.”

“A cure,” Simon mused. “It is almost too much to believe.”

“Yes, it is father. But you cannot afford to not try.”

“Mmmm…” Simon thought about it for quite some time. Then he nodded. “Son, you are wise for your age. Very well. We might as well leave now, the day is still quite new. Unfortunately, my mule is way too old to carry me to the… Where exactly are we going, son?”

“In Galilee… somewhere near Capernaum is what I heard. And don’t worry about animals. I brought three donkeys and left them up on the plateau.”

Simon and Lazarus took the rest of the day working their way out of the rugged Judean Wilderness. By the time the sun setted, they had already forded the Jordan River just a mile from Jericho and camped in the Perean valley.

It took them two days to travel the eastern ridges following a well travelled caravan route. The road they were on was rocky, rough and skirted the edge of a high ridge. Simon was almost dizzy as he looked down a cliff when his donkey was walking pretty close to the edge. There was unusually heavy traffic going the same direction as they were. Last time he had seen so many people on this road heading north, they were pilgrims returning home after an annual Jewish festival. Though Simon was cut off from Jerusalem’s society for ten years, he still knew that the festivals had long past. So, he wondered why all these people were travelling north. He also observed a fair number of cripples and even lepers going the same way.

They camped, as usual, away from the other camps. Lazarus came back after talking to a number of people.

“Father, they say they are all on their to find the miracle worker who has been going from village to village in the Galilee area.”

“Did anyone say who he is?”

“Someone called him the Nazarene and that it was him that caused some incident at the Temple last Passover.”

“What happened at the Temple?”

“I wasn’t there when it happened. We, that is Uncle Tahan, the girls and myself, arrived at the Temple court and found it in turmoil. Do you remember how the court of nations had animal merchants and money changers setting up booths.” Simon nodded. “Well, father, it has become far worse. It had doubled in size and these money changers have been cheating the pilgrims. Some say that the priests were behind it. When we got there, tables were turned over with those changers and others scrambling after spilled coins. Animals were running loose from their pens. Pigeons and doves were flying all over. It was a real mess. And they said that the Nazarene was responsible. Another said that after the festival, the same man went north through Samaritan country and raised the populace.”

“Raise the Samaritans?” exclaimed Simon, a little perplexed. “How did he do that?”

“People think that maybe he might be the Messiah!”

“The Messiah?” This was a little bit too much for Simon to absorb and make sense. But then, he looked around at the numerous camp fires throughout the ridge they were on. There must be more than four hundred people here, a great number of which brought their sick and the infirmed with them. Can this miracle worker be the Messiah? The Messiah according to prophecy is one who would be sent by the Lord. So, wouldn’t the Messiah have powers to heal? Simon was not sure, however, like everyone else here, he hopes it is true.

To be continued…

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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 8

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

Simon was standing on a high plateau many miles from the closest village. Looking east, he could see the salten sea. The north, west and south, as far as his eyes can see is a reddish brown mountainous wasteland devoid of any greenery. Of course, Simon knew the secret of the wilderness. From the high ridges it may look like a desert but greenery can be found in a number of deep crevices and canyons. And below him was such a one. A hidden gem, known only to few. It was a deep canyon carved out by an ancient water flow. A well hidden track was the only way down to the canyon floor.

He walked along the edge of the canyon until he found the marker he was looking for. That marker was an old petrified stump which he finally found and almost missed because it was overgrown with several thorny bushes. After he cleared away some of the bushes, he first peered over the stump to find that the path was still there and had not eroded away. The path was natural against the canyon wall and went down a gentle slope for about a third of a mile before it hit the sandy bottom. Because the path was narrow, he had to unload the packs off the donkeys and lead them down one by one. But before he did that though, he took out the ropes and lowered the packs down to the canyon floor. Then he started to guide the animals down. When that was done, he led them to where he lowered the packs. After securing the packs back on the animals, He continued on and followed the narrow canyon on an easterly route for a mile or so. The rocky walls rose some twenty feet up and there was no sign of vegetation except for dry brush. The canyon was mostly narrow, about the width of three men standing abreast of each other, until it opened up.

He paused and took a long look around. Simon was pleased to find that the oasis in the bottom of the canyon was still as green as he remembered it. Originally, it was an oasis in a box canyon about an acre in size. Fruit bearing trees mostly grew on the sunniest side of the canyon. The grass was greener and taller from what he remembered. This is good because the stream is still flowing from the rocks out unto the basin floor just inches under the topsoil.

He led the animals to the far end of the canyon where he found the old hunting camp that his father’s father’s father built even before the Romans came. Simon gave a sigh of relief to find the camp still had the rock walls for both his shelter and animal pens. Leaving the animals in the pen, he went farther up the canyon and found the stream that flowed out from a crack in the rock wall into a pool. Then it flowed and disappeared back into the rocks. He knew that the water came from frost and snowfall on the high ridges of the wilderness during the short winter months. His father once told him that when it melts, the water would flow into what he believes were cavernous reservoirs in the mountains.

Simon’s mind was working as he looked at the shallow pool. He had an idea of tilling the soil in the grassy area into plots of vegetable and grain. Those plots will need a regular stream for irrigation. He’ll have to damn up the pool a little higher and then guide the overflow to the plots. He smiled to himself about keeping busy. Deep down, he hopes it will help him forget that he is a leper.

Three months later, Simon was awoken by a distant shout. He got up from his sleeping palette feeling a little bit sore. He walked towards the edge of the trees to see who was there. The sun had not risen fully yet. The canyon was still pretty much deep in shadows. Then he saw movement at the canyon’s entrance. It was a single man leading a train of animals. He still couldn’t tell who it was, until…

“Simon!” He recognized the voice. It was Tahan.

Simon walked out into the opening calling out, “You are one month late.” He jumped over a flowing irrigation canal then came to a stop about fifteen feet from his brother.

“Can’t be helped. There was so much people at the festival this year, we were kept busy filling out new orders. By the way, that upper room you renovated brought in a lot of revenue. Joral knew you’d want to see the books, so he packed a copy in one of the packs.”

The sky brightened a little bit more and Tahan was looking around. He was especially inspecting the tilled plots “You have been busy. I almost didn’t recognize this place. How did you plow these plots?”

Simon laughed, “It was not easy? Those donkeys were not cooperative, but after a week… Mmmmm.”

“Well, I will leave you one of the mules and I also brought two more goats. Have you had any problems?”

“Just some jackals who tried to get my goats last week. Fortunately, I got their pack leader and built up the walls of the pen…”

“I meant… how are you doing?”

“Ah, yes. The whiteness is spreading gradually on my arms, legs and chest. And I also seem to lose some feeling on my fingertips. I mean, I can feel pressure but sharp points, not so much. But I can still work this farm.”

“So, what is your plan, Simon?”

“I work… I pray… I wait…”

“Wait? Are you hoping that the Lord will heal you like the way Miriam, the sister of Moses was healed of Leprosy? Do you recall why she had leprosy?”

“Yes. Miriam angered the Lord by criticizing Moses for marrying a Cushite.”

“Yes! And she knew her sin.”

“Brother, what is your point?” Simon asked.

“In the Torah, she is the only one healed of leprosy. No where else is written or heard that anyone was ever healed of this dreadful disease. Her healing was specific and it was after seven days, so that the lesson would be learned. Do you know why you were stricken?”

“I still don’t know why.”

“I think Nadab is wrong. I think what happened to you is the result of what happened in the garden of Eden. I’m sorry to say this, brother, but what happened was just bad luck.”

“That may be true. But I have to believe. For the meantime, I stay busy.”

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.