“Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper...”
If you were in need of something really, really bad, maybe money, maybe wisdom, maybe healing, and you invited somebody over for dinner who was completely aware of and capable of meeting your need, how would you treat them if the night came and went and that person left without so much as an encouraging mention of your situation?
I was reading this passage here when I noticed this phrase “Simon the leper” and the story goes on as if that’s a non-issue. This is the story of the gal who anoints Jesus with expensive oil for your reference, but it takes place right in front of a guy who has a pretty obvious need and as far as we can tell, Jesus doesn't even notice.
“Hey guys, never mind me. I’m just the guy buying you dinner...the guy with, you know, this horrible disease that Jesus heals in other people all the time...”
There are lots of things going through my mind on this passage and from several angles. Like the way we can all cozy up to people insincerely if they have something we need.
But what first came to me was actually something in the other direction, a kind of heart where we see Jesus’ simple presence as more important and more important than any of the things He could do for us, or any of the things we thing we can do for him. Just to hang with him because we want to. No agenda, no manipulation, no clever arrangement of my prayers to achieve maximum scripture density.
There are times, this week has been one of them, where I go to God more out of exhaustion than anything else. Where life has simply been hard and I retreat to that secret place for badly needed rest. Those can be the prayers of desperation too, the “all we can do now is pray” moments. I don't see anything wrong with that, but in those moments I am going to the throne because I need something, even if its only to be somewhere other than in my own head.
But I think about Simon here. There’s reason to believe that Jesus stayed with this guy more than once. Did he keep having Jesus over hoping that sooner or later he’d have his leprosy healed? Or was he perfectly content and mightily honored to have God under his roof and well able to look past his own need to the bigger picture? What did Simon get out of it if not health? Did he expect anything? Or was presence enough?
I know that I want his presence to be enough for me. I know that there are times when it really is. But I also know that it’s hard to stay there and I think that part of that is the orphan heart that expects that Jesus is just visiting and He’ll be gone soon, so if I need something I better get it now. It’s a fear that what might be good today wont be good tomorrow. That fear that somehow God is temporary but my need is forever reminds me of an old saying: Ignorance can be educated...but stupid is forever.
I hope that this ability to stay with Christ in his circumstance, his reality, can grow in me and that need to always ask him to come down into my circumstance can ebb.
* I’m aware of the discussion out there on whether or not Simon was still a leper at this story or even if ‘leper’ is an accurate translation of the original text. For the purpose of the post though – it seems irrelevant.