Every day for twenty years — except on the Sabbath, of course — Joseph’s friends had carried him to the best spot for begging in all Jerusalem, the chief entrance to the Temple. High above him towered the massive ornamented brass doors of the Beautiful Gate which led from the Court of the Gentiles to the Court of the Women. It was a beautiful location, too, for people who came to the Temple were often in a generous mood. Everyone knew Joseph. Everyone saw him at his accustomed place. Joseph was a fixture in Jerusalem.
“Alms, alms, alms for a poor cripple,” went his endless chant. Here a coin, there a coin. And by dusk he had usually gathered enough to live on.
Joseph had been crippled from infancy, never able to run and play with the boys on the streets of Jerusalem. Always carried, his lot was to sit and watch life go by at ground-level, cursed to watch the shuffling feet of people who could walk on their own power, listening to sandals scuffing over stones of the Temple courtyard.
Two pairs of sandals halted in front of him. He extended his hand but did not look up. He detested the self-righteous smugness that so often filled his benefactors’ eyes, so mostly he kept his head down. “Alms for a poor man?” The sandals remained, but no coin dropped into his palm.
“Look at us!” Joseph glanced up. Common men, and from their accent probably from Galilee, he judged. Fishermen, perhaps.
“Look at us,” the man repeated. Joseph craned his neck back until his eyes locked with the twinkling jet-black eyes of the speaker.
“We don’t have any silver or gold,” the man began. Joseph could almost finish the sentence for him. He knew all the excuses by heart, but couldn’t anticipate what came next. “I don’t have any silver or gold, but I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up! Walk!”
The name of Jesus! He remembered Jesus who had always given him a cheery, “Hi, Joseph,” and often a coin. When the wind had been right, Joseph could sometimes hear the Master teaching among the colonnades of Solomon’s porch a few hundred feet away.
In the name of Jesus! The speaker was reaching down now, grasping Joseph’s forearm firmly with his enormous hand, lifting him — all his dead weight of 105 pounds — lifting him almost effortlessly to his feet. Doesn’t he know I can’t support my weight? Joseph thought.
But Joseph could indeed stand! He lifted a leg and put it down again. He hopped on one foot. He could jump! He could leap! He could run! And so he ran — Joseph the cripple jumped and laughed and ran and danced there in the Temple courtyard under the gleaming Corinthian brass of the Beautiful Gate at the entrance to God’s house.
A crowd gathered; he didn’t care. Power filled his limbs, and he danced — danced for inexpressible joy, for the sheer pleasure of feeling his legs under him.
“Hey, aren’t you the beggar?” someone shouted. “All this time I thought you were crippled.”
“He was just healed,” another answered. “Peter and John — Jesus’ disciples. They just healed him.”
For two full days Joseph danced and ran and skipped from one end of the city to the other, and as he danced he pondered. What if Peter had only told him he was healed, but hadn’t reached out a hand to help him up? Joseph knew he wouldn’t have had the faith to try on his own.
The name of Jesus, the ex-beggar decided, and Peter’s helping hand — together they sparked the miracle. He looked at his own hands for a moment, first one, then the other. I wonder, he thought. I wonder if my hands could be part of a miracle to hold someone up long enough to realize Jesus has made him whole? I wonder….