It was afternoon rush hour on the road into Jerusalem—merchants directed donkey carts, travelers searched for lodging, children scurried home for supper, and worshipers headed toward the temple.
Reuben wasn’t going anywhere. His crooked legs were useless. He never raced his brothers through the city streets. He never hiked to the Jordan River. He never went anywhere –unless someone carried him there.
Every day, since he had been old enough to defend his spot on the steps of the Eastern Gate, his brothers or his friends had carried him there to beg for a few coins. It was a living. It was his way to pay for some matzo or leg of lamb.
Reuben knew that those going to the temple would be the most sympathetic towards him. Perhaps, in hope of giving to the poor, they might earn the pleasure of God. Didn’t the laws of Moses require them to do so?
“If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need...”*
Reuben shifted his weight to find a more comfortable position. The stone steps got harder as his bones got older. “Alms! Alms!” He rattled his tin cup.
A man clinked a coin into it.
“Shalom to you, Sir.” Reuben peered into the cup at his meager earnings. Maybe it was the drizzly weather that hurried the travelers past him. Maybe it was the recent raise of the Roman taxes. Whatever the reason, it meant Reuben would not be bringing home much money today.
He set his cup between his wizened feet, leaned back against the wall, and closed his eyes. What was the use of living? Why was he born a cripple, to sit here day after day and beg? His back hurt; his throat hurt; his bones hurt. Footsteps and voices passed back and forth beside him, but something was different. He could feel someone looking at him –not the typical casual glance, but a steady stare. He could feel it.
He opened his eyes. Two men stood before him. He shaded his eyes to see their faces. Hoping for a generous gift, Reuben held up his cup to them. “Alms?”
One man shook his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any gold or silver to give you.
Reuben dropped his arm with a sigh. Why would they stop and look at me? Do they just want to gawk at the pitiful beggar?
The man said, “I have no money, but such as I have I will give to you.” He reached out a hand and clasped Reuben’s. “In the power of Jesus’ name, rise up and walk.” The stranger clutched tighter and pulled him upward.
The muscles in Reuben’s legs twitched and tingled. Strength flowed through his veins to his ankles and feet. He was standing! He was as tall as other men. He laughed.
He lifted one foot and placed it down again. He could walk! He could go up and down the steps by himself. Tears of joy glistened on his face.
He bent both knees and jumped! He hugged the stranger and kissed him on the cheeks. He laughed and cried and shouted, “The Lord is merciful! Jehovah is gracious! Praise to the Almighty God!”
* (Deut. 15:7,8 KJV)
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