Eating With Lepers
I was reading a familiar story from Matthew 26 in my devotional reading this morning--the story of the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with expensive perfume.
As I was reading, I noticed something fascinating that had escaped me after all of the previous times I've read that story.
The passage begins, "And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper..."
For the first time in my life, I couldn't get past this first line. Jesus was eating dinner at the house of a guy who had leprosy. Someone who was considered an outcast.
People with leprosy in first-century Palestine were considered unclean, a threat to society and were to be avoided at all costs. Lepers who were poor and forced into homelessness were required to announce themselves by shouting "Unclean!" when they came into contact with others.
I did a bit of reading on church traditions surrounding Simon the Leper, and there's not a lot. Some scholars believe he may have been a Pharisee with some means, who may have become a follower of Jesus. There's no indication in the text that Jesus healed him, even though it's possible.
But Jesus did eat dinner with Simon in his home, which would have been a shocking thing for a first-century Jewish rabbi to do.
As I reflected on this passage and it's meaning, I got to thinking about all of the "lepers" in our own culture--the outcasts, the outsiders, those who are often excluded from mainstream society and are forced to live their lives on the margins.
My thoughts on this Second Friday of Lent are centered on what it truly means to follow Jesus when it comes to people on the margins. Jesus seemed to care little what the religious elite thought about him. He honored those who were outsiders by affording them dignity, offering his presence and even violating religious "rules" to provide healing and restoration.
May you find the resolve and the courage to reach out to the marginalized and the outcasts around us. May you keep a holy Lent by choosing to follow Jesus radically and wholly, despite the cost.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.