Updated: Apr 20, 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.”
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 Galilean explained to his friends what had happened, they grinned at each other and murmured excitedly.
“He's still here with us!” A woman exclaimed, tears running down her smiling face as she pressed both hands to her heart.
Before he could question her meaning, Mosha saw the crowd nearby was swelling as more and more came to witness the mighty sign, all amazed by the miracle. Mosha recognized many of their faces, people he had begged from for decades. Before this moment, their eyes had slid over him. Now they stared. His brother's face appeared in the crowd, his eyes widening when he saw the source of wonder.
“Aaron! Aaron!” Mosha cried out as a happy sob jerked his shoulders. “Look at me! Look at what the Lord Jesus has done!”
Read this story for yourself in Acts 3:1-10
I wrote this short story as part of a study I am doing with my parents and sisters. They each wrote a creative story or poem on this story too, and it was fascinating to read our different takes on this miracle. (I will be posting their stories next week so you can enjoy them too!)
My creative perspective on the story was that Mosha (as I named him) had learned to accept his infirmity. Lame from birth, he had never known what it felt like to run and play with other children. He saw other men walking about, getting married, and having children, but that was not for him. I imagined that at some point in his forty years, be began to feel that hoping for something better was only a pipe dream.
Notice that the man wasn't even asking for healing. There have been a few times in my life where I've looked at someone and thought (often in frustration, let's be real here!) "that person needs Jesus!" I can see their spiritual deformity in their words and actions, but they seem content to live that way. They're not asking for salvation, it's not even on their radar. Or, maybe they've decided that they missed their chance and that it's too late for them. It's hard to watch someone be so oblivious to what they truly need.
Before I'm too quick to judge others, I need to take a look at the other side. As a believing Christian, I can find myself getting stuck in a spiritual rut time and time again. Do you know the one I'm talking about? It's the one where I believe, but I end up feeling unfulfilled in my belief. I start living faith by rote and not with my heart. I search for God's peace amidst chaos and come up empty. All my joy in salvation is drowning in a sea of struggle. In a nutshell, I become a beggar in my faith.
I've been a believer since I was a child, and I have spent my fair share of time in that rut over the years. When I'm there, it's easy to keep my prayers on little things rather than facing the root of my struggle. After a period of spiritual poverty, I start to accept that things will always be like this—that others can have a glorious Spirit-led life, but not me.
I can't stay in that rut, spiritually beggared! I can't be content to sit with my hand out, begging for a pittance of spiritual nourishment. When the beggar was healed, he was healed fully! He, a man who had never walked in his life, was leaping and walking around, no physio required. I can't ask for tidbits. I need to want the whole Spirit-led lifestyle: peace for today, hope for tomorrow, and a passion to live as Christ lived every moment of my life.
I crave to live life fully, as Jesus did, and like the apostles and disciples who followed in his wake.
How do I get there?
I want to be honest here. I don't know that I've ever felt the spiritual confidence of Peter or Paul. I've had brilliant moments of clarity and confidence where I feel like I could do anything God asked of me, but they are not my everyday experiences.
When I do feel confident in what I believe and hope for, when I do feel spiritually rich, it usually comes after investing myself fully in one or more of these moments:
Worship, with the church or alone, with my emotional guard down
Prayer, where I slow down and enter into the moment and listen
Community, where I've had an authentic conversation with someone else of faith who inspires me
The Word, when I let myself experience scripture with my mind and heart together
How about you? Have you ever felt like you're asking for a pittance when God wants to give you so much more? How do you reclaim your full spiritual blessings? Please share with me in the comments!
If you enjoyed this short story and devotional combination, make sure you check out my book As the Stars: 45 Bible Fiction Short Stories!