Healer

Joash leaned heavily on his staff as he paused at the crest of the hill. Below him stretched Jerusalem. The domed roofs and delicate spirals of the Temple glowed in the spring sunshine. But Joash could not even bring himself to smile. Something cold and dead inside him prevented it.

In contrast, his son, David, and his wife, Deborah, seemed caught up in the joyful enthusiasm of journey's end. For David this first Passover journey marked his entry into manhood, and as he caught his first glimpse of the Holy City, he practically danced with excitement. But when he noticed his father's expression, he stopped. "What's wrong, Abba? You seem so sad."

"Nothing, David. I'm just tired, that's all."

"Is it because of my hand?"

Joash's knuckles turned white as they tightened about his staff. That again! Why did David have to be so perceptive? He turned partially away from his son as he brushed away a stray rear. "No, David," he lied, "your hand is not the reason for my sadness. It's these Romans who hound us every step of the way." He gestured with his staff toward a few Roman soldiers who stood watch aver the passing groups of people. Joash put enough venom in his voice to convince David, but Deborah's searching glance told him she knew better.

Six months ago David's left hand had been as strong and healthy as the right one, but the accident in the mill had changed all that. By the time Joash had managed to roll back the huge grinding stone, David's hand was only mangled flesh and bone. Even now Joash could not bear to look at David's hand with its bandages off.

The physicians had declared the case hopeless, branding David a cripple. The self-righteous priests had dared to accuse Joash of a crime fitting such a punishment. Well, if God punished a 12-year old boy for his father's sins then he would not serve such a God.

Only Deborah's pleading had gotten him out of the mill for the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. She used the excuse that it was to be David's first Passover as a "son of the law." "Every Jewish boy should see Jerusalem at least once in his life," she had cajoled. Joash had agreed reluctantly, but he never forgot the look of sorrow on her face when the priests had pronounced the accident a judgment of God.

"Come, let's go to our friend's home." Deborah smiled at David.

"Isn't it beautiful!" David exclaimed.

"Yes, dear, Jerusalem is beautiful," she answered.

"From a distance," Joash almost added as he followed his wife and son down the little hill and through the gate.

Next day, after standing for hours in long lines at the Temple, pushed and shoved by a crowd of rude, often smelly strangers, Joash felt like using his oak staff on the next person who crossed him.

Most money could not be used within the Temple confines because of the "graven images" on the coins, so he'd had to change his money into acceptable shekels but at a scandalous rate of exchange. Also, since he'd been unable to bring animals for sacrifices, Joash had been forced to stand in another long line to buy an animal approved by the priests for sacrifice.

Finally he stepped up to the table to purchase it. His patience had worn thin, and he addressed the greasy-looking proprietor sharply. "One lamb. What's the cost?"

The man eyed the miller's clothing, noticing its quality before speaking. "Good day, sir Surely a man as obviously blessed by God as you would want a better sacrifice than that. Perhaps I could interest you in a bullock?"

"God can keep His blessing to Himself," Joash snapped. "I want a lamb. What's the cost?"

"According to the law of Moses, seven male lambs, one ram, and two young bulls are the proper sacrifice for Passover week, good sir." The merchant smiled, rubbing his hands together.

Joash glared across the table at the simpering man. He could barely hold his anger in check His left hand gripped his staff as he leaned forward over the table. His right hand clenched into a fist. "One lamb! What's the cost?"

The merchant paused a moment, then decided he would get nowhere with this customer. "Very well, one Iamb, twenty-five shekels."

Joash went rigid with fury, his face livid. "Robber!" he snarled through clenched teeth. "Only a few minutes ago you sold a lamb for half that price!"

"I try to make concessions for the poor who cannot pay the true value of such an animal," the merchant replied calmly.

Joash's right hand shot out, gripped the merchant's cloak, and dragged him half across the table. He brandished his oak staff menacingly. "Liar! You overcharged me because you couldn't get the money any other way!"

The merchant sputtered and squirmed in Joash's grip, unable to break away. His face flushed from the exertion. Another, more authoritative voice broke in. "Having trouble, merchant?"

Joash looked up to find one of the Temple guards standing behind the merchant. Angry as he was, Joash did not need that kind of trouble. The merchant growled under his breath. "Let go of me, scum, or I'll have you thrown out of here!"

After straightening his cloak and regaining his composure, the merchant snapped icily. "The price of lambs has gone up. One lamb will cost you thirty shekels. Take it or leave it."

Turning to leave, Joash caught sight of Deborah and David watching from across the courtyard. The look of pleading in Deborah's eyes and the bewilderment on David's face tore him up inside. He fished the shekels out of his money pouch and cast them on the table.

"One lamb."

"One lamb, what?" sneered the merchant.

Gritting his teeth, Joash asked again. "One lamb, please." He heard the merchant and Temple guard snicker at his embarrassment.

The merchant made a great show of counting the shekels, then handed Joash the lamb. Taking the lamb in the crook of his right arm, Joash spoke loudly enough that most of those nearby could hear him. "There is no justice in Israel when thieves sell sacrifices and Temple guards have Roman hearts."

But the merchant wasn't looking at or listening to him. Neither was the guard. Both men stood looking at something behind Joash. They remained completely oblivious to his last statement.

Joash turned away from the table and stalked toward his family. Only then did he realize that something out of the ordinary was happening. People had stopped haggling over prices, leading livestock away, and talking to friends. They had all turned to look in the same direction as the merchant and guard toward the Temple entrance. An unearthly quiet settled on the courtyard. Even the noise of the cattle and birds became subdued.

Joash turned to look at the entry arch, and what he saw surprised him, for standing in the entry was just a Man in travel-stained clothes. His sun-bleached hair and bronzed features spoke of days beneath the sun and of a quiet, inner strength. But Joash could see no reason for everyone's sudden interest in the Man, unless somehow He was important.

"Who is He?" he asked of no one in particular.

Deborah and David had come over to him when he stopped to look, and it was she who answered him, much to his surprise. "His name is Jesus. He's a teacher from Nazareth."

The name sounded familiar to Joash. "Isn't He the one people say might be the Messiah?"

"Yes, the miracle worker," Deborah said softly, putting her arm around David, "a healer."

Joash at last understood why Deborah had wanted to make the journey to Jerusalem. She had hoped to meet the Healer and have David's hand restored. Anger, frustration, and hopeless despair swept aver Joash at the thought. He would have said something, but he feared to interrupt the stillness that blanketed the assembly.

Still Jesus stood unmoving at the entrance. Several rough-looking men stood near Him, watching the crowd's reaction intently. Unhurriedly, Jesus' eyes swept across the scene, and Joash read the unbelief, the indignation in His face at the sight that greeted Him.

Joash saw men under Jesus' gaze blanch and look away, unable to meet His eyes. As Jesus' eyes met his, Joash shuddered, as though his clothing had been tipped away, exposing his soul to a chilling wind.

For the first time since entering the outer court, Jesus spoke. "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"

His strong voice rang out like a blacksmith's hammer on an anvil. As Jesus descended the steps onto the marble floors of the court He swept up a discarded length of frayed rope and brandished it like a whip.

Joash blinked, and for a fraction of a second he was certain he'd seen the glint of a pure metal blade in the sunlight--a flaming sword in Jesus' hand, not the cords. But he must have been mistaken.

Someone trying to reach an exit bumped into Joash as Jesus strode across the Temple courtyard. The people fell back from Him in fear, even though He never once attempted to strike anyone with the rope. Another person rushed past Joash, and another. Both headed for the exit.

Jesus gripped the edge of a moneychanger's table, then firmly tipped it aver. Piles of coins spilled onto the floor. They struck the marble with a clear, resonant sound, like hundreds of little bells. Without even slowing down, Jesus turned over another table, dashing its contents to the floor. He freed the livestock and the birds. Not one person dared try to stop Him.

The trickle of people trying to get away had increased to a mad torrent. Even priests, stricken with fear, fled toward the exits. Everyone was jamming, shoving, forcing his way through the crowd.

Someone knocked Joash to his hands and knees and he lost sight of his family in the melee. The lamb escaped, and when he reached for his staff someone stepped on his hand. Joash barely managed to press himself against a wall to avoid being trampled.

In a few minutes the courtyard had emptied itself. Jesus and His friends stood among the overturned tables, scattered coins, empty cages, and deserted pens. Only those who'd been unable to run--the sick, the crippled, the feeble, some women and children, and a few others like Joash--remained.

He saw Jesus kneel down beside an old man's bed and talk to him quietly Then the old man stood up with youthful vigor and picked up his bed. He saw a cripple throw away his crutches and walk with purposeful strides. Others came to Jesus. One came mute and stepped back praising God. A blind man shouted out the names of the colors he saw around him.

A woman and a young boy whose left hand was swathed in bandages approached Jesus. Joash recognized Deborah and David almost immediately. He rushed across the courtyard to Deborah's side just in time to hear her request. "Please, Sir, would you make my David whole?"

Jesus knelt beside the boy and unwrapped the bandages. Taking David's hand calmly in His own, Jesus examined it carefully. A look of pained sadness flitted across His face, then vanished. He spoke to David so quietly that Joash could not hear the words, and He enclosed David's hand between His two work-roughened hands. David nodded and spoke just as quietly back to Jesus.

When Jesus stood to His feet, He turned David to face Deborah and Joash. David held out his hands, both of them alike--strong and well and whole. Deborah dropped slowly to her knees. She whispered blessings, and tears streamed down her face.

Joash just stood there, dumbfounded. He felt the cold, dead thing within him stir; A warmth he'd never known began to seep into his body. But he held back, cautious.

"How can this be?" he thought. "My son was crippled, and now he is whole!"

Jesus spoke to David again in a quiet whisper. David turned to his father and looked deep into his eyes while Jesus rested His hand on David's shoulder. "Abba, Jesus wants to know if you would like to be healed too."



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Him - Healer
Copyright 1990, written by Kenneth Fields