When We are the Lame Beggar

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

A passerby jostled them in his hurry, and the three men lurched to the side. Mosha tightened his grip around his companions' shoulders, holding his breath as they caught their footing. He was carried upright between them, their arms forming a chair as they ascended the wide, stepped road that led the crowds up the slope towards the temple mount. The sun had shifted west, stirring up the dusty breeze that provided little relief for those who went to pray.

“We're a bit late today,” Mosha said, trying to hide the censure in his tone.

“Sorry,” his brother Aaron sighed. “That customer just wouldn't make up her mind.”

black and white image of elderly man begging and the text 'When we are the lame beggar, a short story'
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Mosha grunted. He had watched the slow shopper pursing her lips, lifting one clay pot and then the other, trying to choose between two nearly identical vessels. Both had been crafted by Aaron's skilled hands shaping the clay as he kicked his feet rhythmically to turn the potter's wheel. Aaron and their cousins had hauled the pots outside of the city to be fired in the great, smoking furnaces, then carefully carried the cooled pieces back to the shop to be painted by Mosha. The paint added no real value to the clay cookware, but it was a job Mosha could do with only his hands, and that was important. He glanced down at his twisted legs. They were as curved as a taut bow, his feet as crooked as a gnarled stump.

The only income Mosha brought to the family came through begging at the temple gate while his brother went in to pray. Mosha was not embarrassed to beg. It was all he had ever known. The Lord had commanded His people to open their hands freely to the needy and had promised to bless the undertakings of those who gave generously to beggars. What better time to remind people of this blessed duty than when the peoples' hearts were softened by going up to the temple to pray?

Glancing ahead, he could see the people climbing the steps to funnel into the temple court. 'So many missed opportunities!' he fretted. His brothers would leave him near the gate called Beautiful before they went into the courts to pray. He had never ascended to that courtyard. The people frowned upon the lame or the maimed drawing near to the altar of the Lord, where only whole priests and perfect sacrifices could come before the Holy One.

Mosha tightened his grip as his companions took the last flight of stairs. The thirty steps alternated between a low step and a high one, slowing the progress of the rushing crowd to a respectful pace as they approached the holy temple. At the top of the stairs was a wide street that spanned the massive wall. There was room to stop and visit, or to listen to one of the rabbis that had seated themselves on the steps to teach. Double gates with more steps led the people through the wall and into the temple courtyards.

They had finally reached their goal. With a hard swallow, he noted once again that the other beggars were missing. Mosha remembered the first time he had come to the temple after Passover. Everyone he had been used to sit with was gone. Rumors said that they had all been healed by the prophet. Mosha had sat alone, confused. Was it true? If it was, he had missed his chance. That prophet was dead.

“Here you are,” Aaron grunted as he lowered his brother and helped him arrange his mat in the shade. “We'll see you afterward.”

“Yes, yes,” Mosha said, waving his brother and cousin away and eyeing the crowd for those he knew to be generous. He was a familiar sight to the locals; he had been begging here for most of his forty years.

As coins were tossed his way, his mind kept turning to those fellow beggars who had been mysteriously healed. What were they doing now that they were free of pain or handicap? He looked down at his deformed limbs. What would he do if he was free? He had no idea. This life was all he had known. The idea of being healed stirred his heart in uncomfortable ways. What would it be like to walk about like other men? To work alongside Aaron at the potter's wheel? To be useful, rather than a burden? His heart gave a flutter of longing, but he pushed it away. This was his fate.

The crowd kept passing by as Mosha continued his beggars cry, trying to be noticed by those who had better places to be.

“Look at us!” a voice called. Mosha glanced over and saw two men had paused to speak to him, eyes drifting over his useless legs. Rather than the pity Mosha expected, both men wore expressions of peace. There was no hurry to move into the temple like the others, no fog of interrupted business to cloud their vision of what was before them.

The older of the two spoke with a thick, Galilean accent, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have, I give to you.” Mosha expected to be handed a loaf of bread, but instead, the man continued, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”

Mosha started as the man thrust his hand confidently towards him, offering assistance. His mind spun. Jesus of Nazareth? Wasn't that what they had called the healing prophet, the one who had been hung on a cross? He stared at the Galilean but did not see any mockery in his eyes.

Tentatively, Mosha reached out and accepted the strong grip. As he did, he felt a tingle rush through his body. Lost in the man's eyes, he lifted a leg and placed a foot. The man gave a tug and Mosha found himself standing for the first time in his life. With a sharp intake of breath, he stared down at his legs and feet; they were as straight and strong as a stone pillar. He was healed! His heart threatened to burst with joy. Impulsively he leaped into the air, reaching for the sky. Tears filled his eyes as he spun around, feeling his limbs obey his every thought.

“Praise the Lord, I am healed!” he shouted, and people paused in the gateway to stare. A rabbi broke off his discourse to look, and his students gaped as the cripple danced. The praise kept bubbling out of Mosha like a stream as he leaped around, grabbing people's shoulders and declaring what had been done for him.

“Come with us,” the Galilean grinned, gesturing to the temple.

“Of course!” Mosha cried out. At that moment, he would have followed these men anywhere.

They went into the cool stairwell where the walls were ornately decorated with carvings of flowers and intricate designs, and they climbed the stone steps. They emerged together in the temple courts. Though the courtyards were crowded and noisy, he couldn't stop leaping around, rejoicing in the way his feet caught and supported him every time without fail. He glanced at the enormous, gleaming, white and gold temple that sparkled in the sun, but it couldn't hold his attention. His mind was captured by these mysterious men and the power that filled them. The power of Jesus of Nazareth.

The men laughed along with him as they led him into Solomon's Portico where a large group was waiting. As the Galile