What would it be like to be in Jerusalem during the most pivotal week in human history—the week of Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection? Here is your frontrow seat to all the action as seen through the eyes of a Roman centurion.
In today’s reading, Marcus the Roman centurion, disguised in his civilian clothes, is enthralled as he watches Jesus heal a beggar boy in the temple courts (Matthew 21:14).
Having witnessed the temple cleansing, this crowd had a strong sense of expectation. What would he do now? That was the unspoken question on everyone’s mind.
In fact, for quite some time he did nothing. He simply stood there scanning the sea of faces. Then his eyes lit on a young lad, perhaps age twelve, standing to my far right. I had seen this beggar boy about the city many times. Their eyes engaged for a moment. The prophet gave a slight nod of his head—a signal for the boy to advance. He did so with haste. His right leg dangled loose like the limp rags he was wearing. The staccato scrape of his crutch on the stone floor echoed through the hushed courtyard. Eager determination marked his every move. In moments he stood before Jesus. His right leg was easily six inches shorter than the healthy left leg. The absence of any muscle in this stunted limb was painfully obvious, even at a distance.
Like a father, Jesus placed his hands on the boy’s shoulders, looked into his eyes, and in a firm voice commanded, “Stretch out your leg!”
The boy’s leg began to twitch and stir. Then it kicked forward. Once, twice, three times. With each kick the stone pavement grew closer. The toes stretched forward; the heel pressed down. On the fourth kick, contact was made. Two more kicks, and he had a solid footing. Now he began to jump up and down, up and down, on both feet. Muscle—muscle that hadn’t been there moments before—began to appear in his leg. The wooden crutch clattered lifelessly to the floor. He was free.
With one voice the crowd began to cheer and applaud. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The ecstatic smile on this lad’s face I will never forget. He glowed. He danced. He danced on the spot a few more times, as if to confirm the miracle was real. Then he buried his head in Jesus’s chest and clung to him in a thank- you hug that lasted a full minute. When he raised his head to look into the Galilean’s eyes, tears streamed down his face. Joy tears. Thank-you tears.
“I can walk!”
“You can walk,” Jesus confirmed.
In fact, for the rest of the morning, he did very little walking. He bounced, jumped, skipped, and ran, but seldom only walked.
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