I feel kind of helpless as I’m being carried up this long row of stairs. The two men hold me up as they ascend step after step.
“I really would help you if I could,” I say half-jokingly.
“You seem to have put on weight since yesterday,” one of the men laughs.
“Well, we’re almost there,” I encourage.
There are only two types of people in the world: The beggar and the giver. Now, I’m proud to say I’m a professional beggar. I’m not ashamed of it. Some beggars I run into are ashamed of their profession. They feel bad asking people for money without performing some sort of work. I guess I’m different in that respect: One, I have absolutely no problem asking people for money and two, I wouldn’t say the money isn’t hard earned – begging is a lot of work.
The reality is most people are beggars they just don’t know it. They argue their case and try to point out how they’ve never asked for anything from anybody but the truth can be seen in their faces. Deep down they are longing for something, begging for something more.
“Just set me down in my usual spot, thanks,” I say to the men carrying me as we reach our destination. “Ah! Easy now!”
The men set me down gently in front of the Temple gate we have affectionately dubbed the Beautiful Gate. I’ve sat in front of this same gate for many years now mainly because it’s almost always busy. In my profession you have to be where the people are and that’s why the key point in my marketing strategy is location, location, location. I also picked this gate because I feel like the name is a very accurate description of my complexion.
“Here’s your pay.” I hand out the coins to the two men who carried me to my spot. “Now don’t forget to come back tonight to pick me up!”
“We won’t,” they say, chuckling to themselves. “We haven’t forgotten you for years now!”
I smile at them. “Yes, I know but eight years ago you did forget me.”
“That was only once!” they argue. “And that was during a nasty storm that came through . . . “
“I know,” I interrupt. “Now hurry up and leave. Here comes a lady who looks like an easy target.”
As my two friends slowly ease away I see my first customer approaching. She is a middle aged lady, probably married, and who looks well off.
“Isn’t God good?” I say when she’s in earshot.
“What’s that?” she asks, coming closer.
“I said, isn’t God good?” It has always been my philosophy to start off with a religious comment that has nothing to do with the fact I want money.
She pauses for a moment. “Are you a beggar?”
She isn’t buying my small talk. “I don’t like to call myself a beggar,” I answer in sincerity.
“Really? Why not?”
“Well, I think the public perception of the word ‘beggar’ isn’t always positive. The problem is, I haven’t settled on an alternative title for myself but I’ve been kicking around a few ideas.”
I can tell the lady is amused by my reply. “So what are your ideas?”
“Well,” I begin, acting a little embarrassed to share my ideas. “I’m not exactly sold on it, but I like the phrase Empty Vessel. It sounds religious, sort of humble, and yet implies the fact that I want you to give me something.”
The lady laughs at my explanation. I have her right where I want her. My begging technique is to strike a conversation with the customer, keep it funny, and keep it honest. I’ve been far more successful using this method than trying to pull on the heart strings and put on a fake show.
“Empty Vessel, huh? I kind of like it. So, how long have you been crippled?” the lady asks.
“All my life! But I don’t let that detour me from my calling!”
“Oh I’m sorry. Well, that’s the spirit to have! What do you consider to be your calling?”
“To be an Empty Vessel,” I say, smiling slowly.
She shakes her head and laughs. “Alright, here you go,” she says, tossing me some coins. “And to answer your first question, yes, God is good.”
“He sure is,” I whisper to myself as she walks away and I put the coins into my collection box.
“Look here,” a man’s voice suddenly says, coming out of nowhere.
I look up to see two men staring at me with marked attention. I can’t believe how easy it is going today! One right after another! I start to say something but the man beats me to it.
“I don’t have any silver or gold . . .” the man begins.
That’s a bummer, I think to myself. Not much I want from him if he doesn’t have any money.
“But what I do have,” the man continues, “I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”
I can hardly believe my ears. Walk? Is he crazy?! I can’t walk! I’ve heard of Jesus before but . . .
“Whoa!!” I cry as the man grabs me by the hand and pulls me up to my feet. “I’m not quite ready for this!” I try to object.
Before I completely know what has happened, I am on my feet standing without any pain. I think my feet register the miracle quicker than my brain as I suddenly start running and jumping and going wild.
Finally my mouth gets wind of what has happened. “I’m healed! I’m healed! I’m healed! Praise God! I’m healed!” I shout at the top of my lungs.
The two men are laughing and praising God right along with me! Whoever this Jesus of Nazareth is I want more!
In my ecstatic joy, I see one of my co-beggars watching me with his mouth wide open. Suddenly it dawns on me: I’m not a beggar anymore! All these years I’ve been begging for money, money, and more money but what I really needed was a touch from God delivered by these two men.
I look around as I continue jumping for joy and I see all the other people – not just beggars but common people and religious scholars – they are all in search of something. They think activities, work, people, money, and pleasure is what they crave. They think doing religious routines will satisfy their souls. But I finally know that what they really desire, what they are really begging for is an encounter with God. Mine came just now, simply because two men took the time, not to give me money and just keep going, but to stop and extend to me the invitation to experience the glory of God.