Simon arrived at the gate of the military headquarters and showed his letter from the military commander at the garrison in Cyrene to the guard at the entrance. The letter was addressed to Mark Augustine of Pontius Pilate Guard. Soon a strong soldier appeared and greeted him, inviting him inside but Simon instead asked Mark to come with outside where his children and caravan were waiting.
“I’ve come a long way to be here. The garrison commander in Cyrene told me of your interest in Jesus. Can you tell me where I can find him? I much have to speak to him about. I want…”
“Shh-” said the Soldier and they moved to a deserted corner of the street. Then he began to speak softly. “The letter tells me who you are and of your interest in Jesus. I feel I can trust.
Now listen. The matter is very serious! Multitudes of people are following this man. Why even Joanna, the wife of Chuza, King Herod’s own steward, is a follower of his. Only a few days ago Jesus came into Jerusalem. It was a sight to behold. There were tens of thousands of people along the streets. They tore limbs from the trees and scattered them along the way. Others spread their clothes along the way, they waved palm branches and shouted ‘Hosanna, Blessed is the King of Israel, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, Blessed be the Kingdom of our Father David, Hosanna in the Highest!’ Jesus was riding upon a donkey. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s like the whole country is ready to follow him but-there is strong opposition by the religious leaders. They fear him. Why just the other day Jesus entered the Temple overthrew the money tables, scattered the animals to be offered in sacrifice and cried out, ‘My house shall be called a house prayer, you have made it den of thieves.’ Why he even said of them, ‘Woe unto you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites. You devour widows’ houses and make long prayers. Ye shall receive greater damnation, you have omitted the weightier matters of the law; judgment, and faith. You blind guides, you are like white tombs that appear beautiful outward, but within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanliness, you outwardly appear righteous men but within you are full of hypocrisy and inquity. You are snakes, a generation of vipers. How can you escape the damnation of hell?’ Now do you see why they hate him? He is something else. They have been plotting to kill him and I fear they will succeed.”
“But why should you worry if they kill him?” said Simon. “Because I’ve heard him, others of our troops also have been sent to spy on him and he has said nothing against Caesar. I have never been able to get him off my mind. It is torment trying to forget him, for once you’ve seen him you know this is something special.”
“But where is he? I want to see him,” replied Simon.
“That we don’t know. He hasn’t been seen too often in the past few days. People everywhere are looking for him for one reason or another but few can find him. But this I know. Often he stays in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. He has good friends there. One is called Simon the Leper. The other are two sisters, Mary and Martha, and they have a brother named Lazarus-and get this: Lazarus died, was buried for four days, then Jesus brought him to life about a week ago!”
“What?” cried Simon.
“Yes, it’s what everyone says. I don’t know but maybe when you get there you can find out more. Just ask for Simon the Leper’s house.
“I shall, I shall,” replied Simon. “I’ll see you again for dinner when I return to Jerusalem.”
He ran over to the small caravan and directed the driver to take them to Bethany. The streets were crowded as they pushed their way along. Simon had never seen such a jam of humanity.
It seemed as if the whole world were here. He was filled with eager excitement. They made their way out the gate and along the winding road leading to Bethany. He had business affairs to attend to but decided not to even acknowledge that he was in Jerusalem until he had seen Jesus. Arriving in the hill city of Bethany he inquired as to the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
He was immediately directed to a large house with spacious grounds and beautiful flowers. As he approached the house the two boys came running after him. It was almost dark as he knocked on the door. Soon the door opened and a sparkling radiant lady who appeared to be in late twenties, stepped out and said, “I welcome you in the name of the Lord. Can I help you?”
“Yes, I am Simon of Cyrene and I’ve come from far away and have traveled for a long long time. Can you tell me where I can find Jesus?”
“Well… why do you want to see him?” she said and took a step toward the door.
“Oh, do not fear. I have met his disciples in the desert. Even before that I’ve heard of him. I even met a man whose brother knew him in Egypt as a child. Oh, please, please, I must see him!”
She stood gazing at him. She seemed to analyze every feature of his face, yet it was in kindness. Then she looked at the ground and softly said, “I’m sorry, very sorry, please forgive me, but we have all feared so much for him-come in, come in. I’m Mary.” Then she looked down at the two children standing quietly by. “These are my two sons,” Simon said. “Alexander and Rufus. Their father died and left them to me.”
“Oh, Joy,” she said and tenderly leaned over and kissed the two young sons. They dropped their heads but she grabbed them each by a hand and led them into the house. Inside they met Martha, the sister of Mary and just a bit older by a couple of years. They invited all the people with Simon into the house. The horses were taken to a nearby stable. They all had a good bath, then they sat down for a supper. It was a lovely meal, as they lounged on the cushions and ate together. It was almost like a banquet, and the amazing thing was everyone was treated the same. The attendants of Simon usually ate separately and the nurse for the children never ate with them, yet here all ate together as equals and the spirit was beyond Simon to describe. But one thing kept going through his mind-where was Jesus?-not another word had been said about him.
After supper the women began to show the people to their places to sleep. Mary and Martha insisted on keeping the children with them for the night and said they could stay there as long as they were in Jerusalem. Simon agreed and told all his people that tomorrow they could go to the place in Jerusalem where he had a house and business friends and wait for him there. As everything seemed to settle down, Mary came in and sat down on a long couch. She leaned forward with big tears rolling down her cheeks and said, “They are plotting to kill Jesus, my Lord. They are out even now trying to find him! Oh, he is beautiful! He has been in this home so often. He has sat there, right where you are sitting and talked to me for hours. He is so peaceful, so powerful, so loving-if you ever see his eyes, you’ll know he is the Lamb of God. He knows he is about to die! They have tried to kill him before but did not. He said, ‘My time is not fulfilled’-but I believe it is now, and he knows it. I can see it in him. Death is at hand!” Tears flowed from her eyes as her long, lovely hair reaching down to her waist, brushed in her face.
“But,” she continued, “he refuses an army. He is King, but his kingdom is not of this world. He has a different kind of army, one not of knives and swords, but of love, forgiveness and spiritual power. He shall die soon, he knows it, and he is ready. I know it.”
“But if he is killed,” said Simon in sober words, “what will happen? I had a dear friend named Beida. He was greedy, wicked and did not even believe in God. He met some men many years ago and they spoke of the Messiah, yet in the desert a long while back he died. I was with him and he said some Baba tribesmen explained about Jesus to him and he believed. It’s true, that old wicked man had peace and believed he would see Jesus, he did not even fear-I saw him!”
“Oh, well this is something you must understand. I don’t believe even his disciples understand it. Neither do I completely understand it myself but maybe better than anyone else except Lazarus, my brother.”
“You mean the man that died?” Simon said and rose from the couch and began to walk about the room. “I’ve heard about it, but could not believe it.”
“Yes, it’s true. You see Jesus is very close to our family. We sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick but he did not come. After he died and was buried four days Jesus came and when told of the death of Lazarus whom he had spent so much time with, he wept! I saw him with my own eyes. Oh, he is so full of love. Martha had met him outside the city and he had sent for me. I fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
He said, ‘Where have you laid him? So we took him to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid in the entrance way. When we arrived Jesus ordered the stone removed but Martha protested and said that the body was already stinking by now, but Jesus ordered it any way, then he looked up to heaven and prayed to the Father. There was a big crowd around that had gathered with us at the home and had followed me to Jesus. Many were believers and others were not. Everyone was astonished but with tears flowing down his cheeks Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ His body began to move and stood straight up. His body was wrapped in grave clothes as is our custom and he was bound hand and foot. Jesus ordered him unwrapped and Lazarus was alive. He was simply aglow in the radiance of God’s power. We all began to leap about, praising God, singing and worshipping Jesus. Many of the people repented and believed in Jesus. Oh, it was so glorious, so wonderful-it’s absolutely true.
Now you see why I can’t conceive of Jesus dying. Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever believeth in me shall never die.’ You see it all seems impossible to me for Jesus to die when he has the power over death! I don’t understand it all but I know that Jesus is the Messiah and that he shall never die, nor shall we… I have faith in his words! Simon, I love Jesus. He is my Lord. I saved and saved and bought the most expensive alabaster box of precious ointment I could find. Then five days Jesus was here in Bethany at Simon the Leper’s home. Martha prepared the dinner; the disciples were all present along with many more. Jesus still sitting at the meal.
I was thinking of his death to come because he had spoken of it. He had helped me so much. I am nothing without him, and as I saw him, I could withhold my expression of love no longer. I went into the room and got the ointment I had bought and rushed into the room. I was crying with tears of sadness at his coming death and joy at the life he had given me. I poured the ointment over his head and then on his feet and began to wipe his feet with my hair. I have never felt such love as he looked at me. I worshipped my God, and the whole house was full of this splendid fragrance. The disciples began to shout me away, and condemned me for the waste of so much money, saying it should have been given to the poor-but Jesus didn’t condemn me. He knew my love, as I had sat at his feet so often. He said, ‘Leave her alone, she has anointed my body for my burial and in all the world, where the gospel is preached, she shall be remembered for this.’ Oh, I bathed his feet, so hard and tough that had carried him along the roads to preach the gospel of peace, his hair so soft and his hands so strong, yet tender. Simon, yes he shall die; but he shall not die. I think I may be the only one of his followers who truly knows this-oh, I love him!”
They sat in silence. Not a word was spoken as minutes passed. The candle was Slowly burning as Simon looked upon the face awash with tears, yet she possessed a peace, a love, a rest and a faith,-it seemed as if she must be somewhat of a reflection of Jesus-and he felt the deep longing to know Jesus as she. Yet the shadow of death was over head, and he wondered if his deep longing would ever be filled. He wanted to cry out to her to help but no words came to his lips. After a long while she slipped to her knees and began to pray, words so tender, spoken to the Father, words of thanks, praise and love, words of prayer for God to give her strength to be his witness. Then she began to pray for Simon. It seemed as if she knew every need of his heart as though she had known all the pain and lostfulness of his soul. Then she said, “I ask this in Jesus’ name.” She looked at Simon and he looked away. He felt so filthy, so unworthy and ashamed. “Simon-Simon.” Her words were soft, yet sharp like a knife, “Are you his disciple?” Moments passed as he tried to answer. He realized tears were slipping down his cheeks but he could not stop them.
“Mary”… he answered in broken words. “When can I see him?”
“Any time you believe, you shall know him!” Jesus said, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your soul, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.'”
Simon began to tell of his search, beginning in his small village and continuing up until the present moment. Mary told of her life, of her first meeting with Jesus and of the closeness to him through the past several years. She told of his sermons, the people he had helped and of those who hated him. It all seemed only a moment but hours had passed and it was now dawn as their conversation continued without pause. Simon was asking questions and she was telling him of the words of Jesus. Martha awoke and prepared breakfast. Soon the house was astir with the sound of life and the boys. It was a new day, yet a continuation of yesterday- what a day it was to be!