The Writers Voice
His ankle bones received strength and he standing up went leaping and praising God. 40 years waiting for who knows what, his only eye to eye contact with those around him was when they stood over him pity in their eyes, pity was no substitute for health, it may have brought him food but it never brought him peace. Pity was a keen follower of this man, it attended him daily and in some ways was symbiotic in that it gained its master a well done and gave its victim food and drink.
The day started like any other day for a life that had a mind of a genius but the body of a fool, breakfast came from a well to do passer-by who threw the heel of a loaf of bread which he could not carry into church. Dry bread, hard crusts, a ration he had become used to throughout his so called life, a life which began in a dreary one bed roomed where fleas were his companions and the dogs his constant mealtime friends. Long tongues drooled eyes fixed on his every pained movement as the dogs sat waiting for another crumb to fall from weak hands and even weaker lips. There was a time when those who fed him also clothed him, but now new clothes were a luxury he had long forgotten, prepared food a distant sense buried in the dust of bitter memories. Carried but not cared for, set down by scurrying distant friends, abandoned to fate in a place where hope grew weaker each passing day, an empty place where faith was locked temptingly away behind closed synagogue doors.
Faith? now that was a joke shared with others of similar fate, cripples in body looked on as those crippled spiritually passed by with averted eyes, passed by to pay homage to a perceived uncaring God who never glanced in his direction.
Early morning mist still hung over the valley below shrouding the world in fine tears as though even nature itself longed for reality and a saviour. Saviour? Now there was another joke, weeks before he had pleaded with his friends to bring him to a so called saviour only to be laughed at, he had heard that a miracle worker had come to the temple on the one day he was unwell. Damn body, he cursed under his breath in order to avoid yet another scorning look, why could ‘he’ not have been here on the steps that day a day when many were healed?
He drew his breath once again as he looked at the empty pitches of past co-laborers in this beggars harvest field, one old blind man, a dear friend of 35 years had gone, many a feast of stale bread and maggot ridden meat they had shared together. ‘He received his sight’ someone had exclaimed rubbing salt into his open wounds of self pity, old Bart, he too was gone, both he and his son a cripple whom he had faithfully carried to this place for over 20 years, gone.
He was not alone however as the prime pitches were already filled by those eager to exploit the good fortune of others, good sites next the door of the temple were quickly filled knowing that the penitent would always want to seen to give ! alms. So now where the saviour, where now the miracle worker? It was reported abroad that he had been crucified, some saviour, he couldn’t even save himself, some messiah, sure he could not even defeat his enemies. Some had called him King must have been in ridicule after all who ever heard of a king being crucified?
What hope now, legs? He thought looking down to view
emaciated sticks that had little flesh on them, crooked and scarred feet and
ankle bones that had no strength, oh well another day to make it through,
perhaps today would be different who knows?
Tin cups rattled, smiles forced, thanks passed over hearts that scorned the givers lack of generosity, another day, another penny, another night to look forward too with a wish to be somewhere else.
Why did fate make my legs like stone? Was it my father’s sin or some close relative that unwittingly caused such a life to be lived in me? Daily thoughts of why me God? exploded with silence as stony as his heart.
The poor pool, the round table of beggars, the fraternity of those called less fortunate, even with all their philosophy and wisdom none could ever gave an answer to their plight. If all their round step discussions had been written down the world could not have held the non conclusive results. He smiled to himself, this was often his answer to boredom a ! way of coping with private pain, someone said that a merry heart does good like a medicine and since neither he nor his companions could afford Medicare he opted for this cheap form of healthcare.
Anger often visited his stone step watchtower just to ensure that fate and misery had added support in ensuring that their host never considered the possibility of changing circumstances. These three friends had groomed their victim to believe that the die was cast, the lot was drawn and that he had gotten the short straw so they squeezed him daily. Every glimmer of hope was attacked; every smile received was dismissed as pity took it and devoured it before it became food for his brokenness, every time someone dropped a large coin in his rusting cup misery drained any sense of worth.
What’s the point? His tormentors would whisper, curse God and die rather than live another day in such misery and hopelessness, every thought of a better tomorrow driven from an already circumcised heart.
Running feet washed for worship, false words and false smiles
took centre stage as they rushed by with sin ladened hearts eager for confession
and cleansing at the temple,
Once again a smile drew a shadow over sorrow and spoke softly ‘at least if I am a sinner I am one outside the temple’ hypocrites, he thought better to be honest and open than have fine clothes that stink of sin and hypocrisy.
Nothing new under the sun, he mused with his muser, that hidden monitor that broke all things philosophical down into small words and short sentences, ‘I may be a cripple who can’t walk but at least I am not crippled in my spirit’ If they would let me through the door of Gods house I would show them how to love God he thought, ‘little chance of that happening’ rebuked old misery and so he sat down on the inside once again.
‘That’s! it, I have had enough, I can’t go on living like this, if this is life forget it, death would at least mean that my legs would not dictate how I should live, ‘enough is enough’ he found himself cry out. Passers by stopped in shock at the outburst before turning their heads and doing what they did best, passed by; he was used to being treated as an outcast, like a Samaritan, a leper or just one born out of time and place.
Just then four feet and twenty grubby toes stood in front of his tired and rejected body and anger, fate and misery began to shuffle aside as though faced with someone bigger than them. Their victim, chained still, bound by years of nagging and abuse looked up to see two strangers eyes fixed on him. Old Misery squawked loudly and yet with hesitance ‘forget it they are as crippled as you are’
Cup lifted swiftly the few coins jingled inviting today’s source of supply, the more the sound of coins the more Misery yelled ‘go for it, do some moaning that always gets them giving’ anger chipped in ‘a few minutes from now you will be cursing them for empty promises’ Misery meanwhile closed his heart just in case something good would take the first step over the threshold of his hopelessness.
Words flew from a strangers lips into to the dark gloom of yesterdays dead hope and shoved it aside, ‘look on us’ the big man spoke, look on us, silver and gold is one thing we do not have but such as we have we give you. Sniggering old Misery began to run a commentary from his box, ‘what have we here comedians? Is this national fool’s day or something? No silver no gold? What are they going to do? run a cabaret or a party and invite all old pity’s friends? Perhaps they are going to run a collection for cripples maybe they will designate today as national food for cripples day?
Anger threw his highly agitated voice into the ring, what sort of creatures are these? Have they come to torment you? Fight back get angry, we are on your side, as always your only friends.
Eyes lifted drawing hope from the deep well of consciousness; the big man sounded so genuine his voice not filled with pity rather with compassion, a new ingredient that this soul had never tasted before! .
He looked to see any sign of weakening in the eyes, sometimes people could be so cruel, no these eyes looked serious surely they would be big givers perhaps even enough for tomorrow as the tin loudly clashed with the stone steps once again. Alms, a gift was all he ever expected, it would see him through another day, it would make life livable for the moment. His three constant companions grew more silent as the strangers gaze drove them deeper into the pit they crawled from daily; peace stepped over the threshold the return of a long forgotten and old friend who once faced evacuation at the hands of his three aggressive enemies. Hope stood to its feet and knocked on the door glimmering once again arm in arm with love both long forgotten friends, abandoned and exiled to live for others and not this cripple.
Voices raised once again to add to an unfinished symphony that hope had long prepared and rehearsed for such a day as this, ‘we have no money to fill your cup, no silver! , no gold but we have something in abundance and it is yours just for the taking’ A free gift? his heart missed a beat indeed several staggered before dropping into a well rehearsed rhythm; ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk’ boomed a voice of authority, an authority that no temple guard or priest ever used in his hearing at least. ‘What? Is this a joke? Old misery pushed forward trying to regain his composure and lofty position, ‘that’s the best I have heard for a long, long time this will kill you for sure’ Anger boiled, old Misery drooled with delight and pity just laughed in agreement being doubled over with mocking laughter.
‘Rise up’ the voice had said, who to believe? Choices to make, fear growing. heart pounding, until a firm hand grasped his, Urgent message from addled brain to stirred heart ‘get up’ Urgent message to legs ‘lets go, today is our day for freedom’ the elevator of hope reached into hardened heart and shook out unbelief and fea! r before stopping off to pick up faith to believe for the impossible.
Ankle bones groaned complaining to their by now deaf owner, lead filled legs emptied out excess baggage and straightening up strained against fear so hard it broke the brass bands that had held them for years that were to many to count. He had been carried by friends for years and even now something carried him from the hallways of despair and misery into freedom.
Oh, how good the sound of that long forgotten word freedom, often longed for never attained but today was his day and so he literally leapt to his feet. Heart filled with joy, eyes flooded with tears, voice crying out ‘thank you God for remembering me’ feet responding to a new experience, toes clasped the dust and the edges of the stone steps. Memories of youthful days when he had promised to serve God, days when he dreamed the impossible dream of being chosen of God to be a servant in God’s house. A new dawn, a new beginning, a second chance, ! all stood before him now, grace had stepped to his side and infirmity stood down from his lofty hiding place in his life.
He looked around at the faces of those who stopped passing by because of the commotion, smiles captured scowls and held them in captivity at least for today, and well known faces belonging to those whole yet crippled masses stared at the miracle before them. Long distant fingers pointed at the scene of the dancing cripple, voices raised sounding thanks giving to the almighty God, and someone enquired who did this thing? ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth it was his name the two strangers used to raise me from my place in the gutter’ ‘it was Jesus who made me whole’
His heart was literally bursting at the sound of the name, Jesus, oh how good was that name on his lips, there really is something about this name he thought, it’s like being loved in spite of all I have said and done against God all my life. How can he love me so much and in such a manner? Legs leapt, feet danced a jig and toes? Well they just went along for the dance, inside, a heart that had been broken was being healed, the surgeon, the great physician was finishing his healing, the carpenter was completing his masterpiece, the sculptor his finest work.
Black areas where sin lay hidden were being cleansed with every praise offering to this unknown Jesus, Anger, Misery and fate finally packed their bags and scurried off seeking a new dwelling, someone, anyone as long as they weren’t belonging to this Jesus guy. Peter, the main man, the one who spoke so abruptly and yet so softly to him had walked on toward the temple, he and his companion John acted as though this was a common thing as though they had seen things like this before. A permanent smile was on Peter lips, one that displayed faith the kind that dispelled unbelief and plants a firm foot on its neck.
‘Here come the priests’ someone exclaimed they too will give glory to God for such a miracle, sour faces scowled, fists clenched, and feet tapping an angry tune on the steps. If this is happiness they can keep it, if this is a praise offering God must be easy pleased. The one time cripple grabbed at Peters cloak as spectators became runners in a race to see the miracle and the miracle workers, Solomon’s porch had never seen or heard such commotion. Crippled bedfellows, members of the inner circle looked on in amazement, the blind enquired of the seeing ones, and the deaf wished they could have heard what they could see.
Wonder and amazement were etched on every face the one time alms seeker had gotten more than he ever bargained for, a few coins were nothing compared to wriggling toes, strong ankles and leaping legs.
‘What are you all looking at, why are you all staring at us as though we did this miracle and made this man walk? Peter said, as though to stop ! the crowd making him a king for the day. ‘Why are you amazed and why do you marvel, we have no power, we have no holiness to make this man to walk’
His voice filled the huge porch and thundered into every ear, ‘it was the God of Abraham, the God of our fathers who glorified his Son Jesus’ ‘ It’s the man Jesus whom you delivered to Pilate even when he wanted to let him go’ Every eye locked onto the figure, an unruly and uneducated fisherman some called him, His hands raised and finger pointed at the crowd all around him stopping briefly in the direction of the priests as he spoke yet again. ‘You denied the Holy One and the just and desired a murderer instead, You killed the Prince of Life but God has raised Him from the dead and we have seen him with our own eyes’ Dead? The dead raised? So it’s true then, the rumours of an empty tomb were not fables, this man Jesus is alive, voices murmured, breath whispered low, heads lowered as the accusation touched every heart. Feet shuffled, stirring clouds of choking dust into the air, hearts pricked, consciences damaged and un repairable, people crippled by memories of sin which sounded louder than ever.
No one dared to speak; this moment belonged to truth, not to religion not to the doctrines and laws of man but to the truth and to Peter and John Gods men of the hour. It was as though heaven itself had closed the mouths of the angry and the rebellious; religion died a death its mouth shut up as it faced truth and lifted its hands in surrender at least for a moment.
Peter fastening his eyes on the one time cup shaker told the crowd, ‘this man a man well known of you all is walking and strong through faith in the name of Jesus, he has perfect soundness of health not because of us but because of Christ whom you killed’ More shuffling, more heads lowered, more silent tears of regret, more shuffled dust rising, yet no denial from any witness for a notable miracle had been done in the open, undeniable. Hearts sank lower than lowered heads as they were pricked by Peters words, no argument, no spoken words just a heaviness called regret filled the air; what to do, were do we go for cleansing? What now? a voice croaked through dry fear filled lips. The voice of Peter rose again ‘repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out’ is he preaching repentance to the priests? A wise man turned to say ‘sure they are in need of forgiveness just as much as we are’
5000, praying, kneeling, weeping, surrendered and ashamed, 5000 seeking souls looking beyond mans laws to the God of all creation for forgiveness for sin that had become part of their lives.
5000 people crippled by sin, hurts, abuses, laws and traditions that make the commandments look tame, 5000 people in chains that tore at the very soul, that took peace and made it a no go area except for those who were self righteous and foolish. In just one day this man Jesus whom the so called religious men butchered and finally killed by crucifixion, just one day to set more ordinary people free than a lifetime of tradition and man made laws. This is a man worth following, one who loved the poor, the crippled and the blind, one whose love didn’t stop at the end of some religious service but went all the way to save the lost and the dying.
Clinging, gripping hands, weeping eyes, eyes and heart set to follow on once frail legs those who knew this Jesus who had set him free indeed. Here was a notable miracle, undeniable truth, unshakable proof staring you in the face, proof that this man Jesus was indeed God and that he was alive.
Oh some would argue, some would spend hours trying to reason against the miracle he received but he didn’t, no his ankle bones agreed with his leaping legs that this Jesus was indeed the messiah whom all Israel had waited for.
Repentance flowed like a river drowning out the pleadings of religious men for sanity, Sanity? Didn’t they know have they never felt the freedom that forgiveness brings; have they never known what it feels like to be clean?
White knuckles, clenched fists, angry voices, bearded faces and long robes rushed forward and laid hands on the two miracle workers and forced them and others towards the prison. Night gone, darkness dispersed, dawn arrived, prison doors clanged like thunder in the stillness as we slept, voiced raised uncaring about the sleep of imprisoned men, ‘rush, run quickly now they await you’
The trial of the innocent is set behind closed doors before the lofty and the mighty, robed and splendid in apparel they stood awaiting answers from ignorant and unlearned men. Truth stood to its feet and spoke with unabashed authority,
‘ Be it known to all of you and all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified even by him does this man stand before you whole’ Round one; they are punched low, round two; ‘neither is there salvation in any other name for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved’ a body blow that took the wind from the hearers, Round three; was stopped abruptly as the beaten foe was consigned to the far corner to lick his wounds and to consider his options, ‘we cannot do anything, we cannot deny what we saw with our own eyes all we can do is to stop them preaching in this mans name’
One 40 year old man divided the opinions of learned men and made them t! o stumble at the sound of a carpenters name, all in all a good day to be walking and living for the first time in a lifetime, a great day to serve the healer of Calvary and a good day to be free...
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