Sarah – A Loyal Wife
I am Sarah. My husband, Jeremiah is a gentle man. He did not deserve what happened to him. One of the greatest distresses that he experienced was not his own personal struggle but rather his concern about what was happening to me and our three children.
We lived in a village in Samaria on the road that led to Jerusalem. We had been married for several years and were happy together. Our fathers had been wise when they chose us for one another and we were blessed, not only with our growing love for each other, but also with three wonderful children. Reuben, Josiah and Rachel were our pride and joy; two sons to go into the business and a daughter to be a blessing to us in our advancing years.
But that is still in the future. When Rachel was about six years old and the boys ten and twelve, Jeremiah noticed a problem with his feet. He cut his right foot on a sharp stone, but was only aware of it when he saw that it was bleeding. He did not think a great deal about it. But later he had a couple of nosebleeds and then I spotted some pale coloured sores on the back of his hand. When I commented on them he went as white as snow. He knew the symptoms as well as I did.
His mother had died of it some fifteen years before and he knew what lay ahead for him if this was indeed the case. That day he went to visit a priest who confirmed our fears. I had gone with him, knowing that if he was infected he would not be allowed to come home, but would have to live outside our village with others who also had the disease. When he came out of the room where he had met the priest, I knew; I did not have to see his torn clothes or the cloth across his face – just one look at his eyes was enough for me.
Shock made his voice quiver with emotion.
‘Shout it aloud!’
I heard the priest call to him. And to my horror Jeremiah repeated the words in a loud voice and turned from me, putting his hands up to ward off any chance of my getting close to him. He walked away, head down, shoulders slumped and I, blinded by my tears, stumbled home behind him, always keeping the distance he demanded.
He stopped outside the village at the cave just off the road where other lepers lived. It was a filthy place, reeking of disease; an unhappy place where survival was uncertain and heartbreak was sure. This is where Jeremiah, my strong and loving husband, was destined to spend the rest of his days. I struggled on alone. Would he ever enter our home again, put his arms around me, or play with our children? I clutched the children to me when I arrived home, sobbing my grief. How would we live? What should I do? Were our children already infected themselves?
Life was hard. My brother helped a bit but had his own family and his own fears to deal with. I worked where I could, washing pots here, sweeping rooms there. Even Reuben and Josiah helped by running errands or watching a stall now and again. But the people who lived around us were not wealthy and they too were afraid that we ourselves might be infectious. They believed that leprosy was caused by sin, but I knew Jeremiah. I had lived with him for many years. He had not sinned any more than I had – or they had – and it was hard to continue when I saw the condemnation in their eyes.
I went to see Jeremiah every day. We could not touch one another and had to keep our distance. My heart ached for the pain of the man I loved. I could see it in his eyes – the pain of not being able to be with his family, or support us, or even see his children, was as strong as the physical pain of his illness. I could see it in the way he paced up and down in anger and frustrated helplessness as we spoke to one another.
I kept the children away from him – and he agreed that this was best. He well remembered the horror of visiting his mother when he was small. But after a year or so it got too much for me. so Reuben and Josiah began to help me take food to the camp. How we dreaded hearing those bells ring as we approached, and the call of ‘unclean, unclean’. I would go home and weep – but I never let Jeremiah see how we struggled. He must have known, but he had enough to deal with without my whining about our situation.
It was an effort for me to go to Jeremiah’s cave one hot afternoon. It had been a difficult day, but I needed to take him food so I was dragging myself along the road. I had almost arrived when I saw a crowd ahead of me. Twenty or thirty people were walking along together. I wondered what they were doing and where they were going. I heard the bells from the lepers’ cave ringing ahead of me. Distressed that Jeremiah may be upset by this crowd of people walking so close to him and yet so far away (for there was nothing he loved more than a debate with his peers), I hurried to catch up with the people ahead.
Drawn by the noise of voices, Jeremiah and the others came out of the cave to see what was happening. As the crowd drew level with them one of the lepers shouted,
‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us.’
The man in front of the group stopped and looked at them for a moment. His behaviour made me angry. Had he never seen lepers before? Why was he staring at them? Then he spoke in a voice that was mild and yet firm:
‘Go, show yourself to the priests.’
As they turned away I could see that they began to straighten up. The cloths fell off their faces, and they began to walk without the hobbling gait to which I had become so accustomed. Then they laughed and broke into a run towards the city.
All but one of them: Jeremiah.
For a moment he stood with his arms spread wide above his head and he praised God with a voice louder and more full of life than I have ever heard it. Then he walked up to the man and fell to the ground in front of him.
‘Thank you, Lord.’
Jesus looked down at him,
‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praises to God except this foreigner?’
He stretched out a hand and helped Jeremiah up.
‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’
I had moved to the front of the crowd who were still standing at a respectable distance. The next thing I knew I was running, running towards Jeremiah and he was shouting my name and running to me. He swept me off the ground in such a tight hug that the crowd began to laugh and called out to him to let me go before he smothered me to death. As he did I looked over his shoulder to see the man they had called Jesus laughing with delight at our excitement. He was looking straight at me, his eyes boring into me, as if he knew all about me. He nodded his approval at our gratitude and joy and, giving me a smile that took my breath away for the love it conveyed, he turned and walked away.
Jeremiah and I ran back to the village, shouting our news. We packed up some food for the journey and went to visit the priests as Jesus had instructed. This time we took the children. They were too excited to stay at home and wanted to spend time with their father. There was such a lot to talk about and I know we attracted some attention on the road.
There was a long cleansing process that Jeremiah needed to go through. It is set down in the Law of Moses but every moment was so positive that none of us minded the wait. Jeremiah’s healing and restoration to us was a gift from God for which we are forever thankful.
What happened to the others who were with Jeremiah in the cave? We never saw them again. I did wonder if their healing was not permanent because they did not stop to thank Jesus for their cure. I will never know. All I know is that God has blessed us with one another and with another son – Barukh – who has brought joy and laughter into our home.
A chance encounter with one man changed our lives in more ways than just restoring our family. We were drawn to him again and again in gratitude as he walked the roads and paths of Israel. He did many more miracles over the next couple of years and we came to know him as the Son of Man. It was only later that we realized that he was, in fact, the Messiah for whom we had waited so long …