Last night I dreamed of eagles.
They soared on the breath of heaven with powerful wings, wild and unconquerable and free. I rejoiced, for I flew with them, beating my own sturdy pinions, my eyes clear and focused on wonders far beyond the horizons glimpsed by earthbound men.
Too soon, morning dawned with desert heat and dry winds; my dream dissolved as mist in the fierce burning of reality.
This day—like all days—I will crouch in my appointed place, brooding and listening as men argue and carts groan with heavy loads and animals bellow in complaint and children laugh and shriek and mothers scold; sounds of life passing as I hunch in obscurity by the roadside near Jericho.
I stretch out my hands, pleading for kindness, crying for pity, praying that someone might stop a moment and offer a morsel.
I am a blind beggar, crying piteously for daily bread.
I am unrighteousness and uncleanness.
If this were not true, I would not have lost my sight. The Pharisees and scribes—holy ones, interpreters of the Law—they teach us, and our customs sternly remind us:
The righteous receive health and prosperity. ADONAI, holy is He, pours blessing upon them.
The unrighteous are condemned with illness and poverty. They suffer ADONAI’s just punishment.
I dare not desire mercy. I cannot hope to see goodness in the land of the living. I am emptiness and despair. I wait for nothing, in darkness and grime.
You have laid me in the lowest pit,
in darkness, in the depths.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and You have afflicted me with all Your waves.
The sound of the living passing me is a slender thread, binding me to remembrance of joy. But happy memories dim and fade like the tormenting disappearance of light from my eyes as I recall with dread the agony of illness that robbed me of my sight. These thoughts are constant companions, faithful reminders of my wretchedness as I huddle, alone with my complaints in the iron grip of misery by the side of the road leading to Jericho.
You have put away my acquaintances far from me;
You have made me an abomination to them;
I am shut up, and I cannot get out;
my eye wastes away because of affliction.
My arms and legs are rigid with pain; as I change position to find comfort, my joints grind—a crunching sound. I wish for death to end my torment.
But today, in the midst of my grief, even as I listen and cry into the void, I sense a change from the usual bustle of commerce and travel. Instead of bickering and bluster, people’s voices ring with excitement and hope as they pass me, the wretched one, imprisoned in my sightless fortress by the road outside Jericho.
I can hear people call out to each other that Yeshua from Natzeret is on his way.
I have heard talk of this man, many times. I have heard he is not like the fathers in Israel. I have heard Yeshua’s praises spoken and sung with joy as I lay in darkness, despair acrid in my heart, tongue coated with leaden hopelessness, hunger a white fire in my belly.
I do not know if I believe what I have overheard. People say that no one has ever spoken like this man, that his teaching has authority; it penetrates the heart and fills the inner being with light and hope. His words produce life and devotion to ADONAI. Like the words spoken to Yirmeyahu, they are a fire and a hammer: they sear with purity and blessing; they strike with healing and hope.
I have heard them say he performs wonders, drives away sickness, delivers the oppressed from darkness and demons. The common people love him and flock to him the way sparrows gather. He multiplies bread to feed their bodies and proclaims the truth of Scripture as manna to nourish their spirits. His presence is water for the thirsty, rivers in the desert.
Yet despite this glory, there are also angry vipers who hiss dark and sinister stories. I have heard teachers of the law spit their contempt. They report how he consorts with thieves and touches whores. He sings songs of friendship with drunkards and pronounces mercy on the filthy and sinful. He perverts the Law and ignores our customs. He is a deceiver who casts out demons by the prince of demons.
And the ultimate horror: some say he dares to claim equality with the Eternal One.
So the leaders loathe him, they fear him, and they despise the stupidity of the rabble who follow him. They rage with frustration and gnash their teeth, purple-faced as they challenge him in the marketplace, attempting to expose him in grievous error as he interprets holy Scripture.
They are sure he is tearing apart the fabric of our religion. He claims he has come not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.
More and more, the common people ignore the bitterness of their leaders, as they whisper that Yeshua may in truth be the Coming One, the Messiah, the hope of Israel.
My soul cries out for hope like the rattle of a single coin in my battered cup. But I dwell wrapped in gloom, hunched beneath my blanket heavy with offal from passing cattle, ragged with scuffing from the sandals of passersby who travel the road that enters Jericho.
Shall Your wonders be known in the dark?
And Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
Now, there is increasing noise from the multitude on the road. I hear the sound of many shoes slapping the ground, running; I smell the musky sweat of many bodies pushing, jostling for position. I taste dirt and feel my blanket weighed with grit kicked by the crowd. I suck in hot midday air and dust; I am ignored and unwanted—an annoying inconvenience with my helplessness and sightlessness.
Then, shouts. “I see him! There! Yes, there!”
Yeshua is near. He may be hope, and I must call to him. But I am afraid and my throat constricts from the sudden clutch of dread.
A deep breath, and I summon courage and raise my voice.
There is no response, save from a few men near me who snap angrily, “You, beggar! Silence!”
Afraid to call for him, more afraid to stop calling, I cry louder. “Yeshua. Are you there? Please hear me!”
Voices yap at me like irritated dogs. “Why do you bother the Teacher? Stop your noise!”
Where is he? Desperate, I fill my chest and scream.
“Yeshua! Yeshua hear me!”
Now anger steams from the crowd around me, and I receive a stinging slap, a rough censure. “Shut up! Your screeching hurts our ears. No more!”
He must be close. I will not be silent. Even if he has already passed, I still shriek my request, unashamed, caring for nothing but my desperation to be heard.
“Yeshua! Yeshua, Son of David! Have pity on me! Yeshua, Yeshua! Son of David, have pity on me!”
I scream; I wail; I howl. I call his name again and again. I crawl to the edge of the thoroughfare. I am pummeled and scraped by the crush and passing of people and animals. Now more travelers around me rage and yell for me to be silent, but I will cry out until my strength is gone and my breath ceases and my courage vanishes.
Suddenly, calloused, powerful hands scrape the back of my neck as I am grabbed and jerked to my feet. A man’s voice harshly barks.
I am about to question what he intends, until I feel a gentle touch on my arm. Another man, addressing me with kindness.
“Take courage. Yeshua is calling for you!”
Hope churns within, like sudden water swirling over rocks in a stream, energizing my weary limbs. I clutch the edge of my putrid outer cloak and yank it from my shoulders, fling it behind me, casting off restraint and fear but my feet tangle in one of the corners and I stagger and spin and almost fall. Dirt sprays beneath me and I wince in pain as my toes stab the packed earth. I catch my balance, and then stumble toward the voices of the crowd. I do not wish to fall, so I flail my arms in an attempt to catch hold of those pressing near.
“Please, stay next to me. Help me to him!”
I am jostled, pushed, prodded by a dozen hands and they spin and almost lift me toward the one who asked for me. I become aware of a growing silence among the crowd as my helpers stop walking and release me. Swaying, shaking, unsteady, I wait.
I feel a presence. Yeshua is before me, so close that I feel his breath on my face. I hear him speak, his voice a smile and an invitation.
“What would you like me to do for you?”
As if I am standing outside my body, I hear myself answer in a rasping stranger’s voice. My throat is parched and full of sand; the tendons are rigid, taut as bowstrings from emotion; I ache from screaming. I run my shriveled tongue over cracked lips and taste salt; residue from dried tears.
“Rabbi.” I am a croaking frog. “Please, let me be able to see again!’
I hear snorts of derision from the people around me. What is this blessing I am asking? Only a miracle would restore my sight, and this punishment, my condition, was given to me from ADONAI. His ways are perfect. His judgments beyond refutation. He acts, and who can reverse it?
Surely if Yeshua is a righteous man, he knows this and will berate me for my arrogance.
Instead, as if aware of their thoughts, he chuckles—a sound warm and rich and deep.
My heart thumps, stops; breath will not enter my chest; my gut is a cavern of ice. I cannot move; I cannot think. There is no sound from the watching crowd. The sun is stilled in the sky. All creation has paused, listening, watching.
And Yeshua’s voice splits the air, the strike of a lightning bolt. My body jerks from its power.
“Receive your sight!”
Suddenly, my eyes are aflame and they burst and cascade liquid fire, splashing my cheeks, drenching my beard, washing the scabs and the scars and the lice. Uncontrollable, my eyelids slam as iron gates protecting against a fearful onslaught and I stab clawed fingers into useless sockets, expecting to feel blood and pus and emptiness.
But, a moment, a heartbeat, and I realize there is no pain. I wipe only tears from my face. I let a long, whistling sigh from pursed lips. I feel stirring behind my closed lids.
Slowly, I open them. For years, darkness. Now, this:
Blinding sunlight. Flames of color. Particles of dust in the air dance and sparkle and laugh.
And before me is delight and wonder. I behold Yeshua. His face is radiant. He laughs at my astonishment and takes hold of my shoulders to steady me.
His eyes shine; they are a deep ocean of mercy. I am riveted by his gaze, motionless, enthralled as he continues to speak. His words bathe me like anointing oil fragrant with mercy and restoration.
“Your trust has healed you.”
My legs tremble and my knees buckle but I force myself to remain upright to stare at him, the delight and wonder before me. I can see. My view shimmers and swims through tears of joy, but I can see.
I am alive again. His words are renewed strength. I raise my arms and bellow with thanksgiving. Shouts of astonishment from the crowd add to the tumult and I drop to my knees before the Life-Restorer.
I now know the truth about him:
The Spirit of ADONAI is upon me;
therefore he has anointed me
to announce Good News to the poor;
he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned
and renewed sight for the blind,
to release those who have been crushed,
to proclaim a year of the favor of ADONAI.
I lift myself upright. I whoop. I dance. I spin and sing and praise, child of innocence and new life.
Yeshua throws back his head and laughs and he, too, exults in the dance with arms upraised and his joy is further healing and now he turns to continue into town and the crowd shouts and stamps with excitement and anticipation and they move with him and I follow too. People slap my back and congratulate me and say “What now? What now? You are free! What will you do? Where will you go?”
I will go where he goes; stay where he stays; for his people are my people and his God my God. I am no longer imprisoned, no longer alone in darkness and despair by the side of the road leading to Jericho.
Tonight I shall dream again of eagles, and I will travel the sky with them; and tomorrow I will awaken the dawn, my eyes clear and focused on wonders beyond the horizons of earthbound men, my spirit soaring on the breath of heaven with powerful wings, wild and unconquerable and free.