It didn't take long for David to find his feet, to match his steps to the cacophony of sounds around him. He walked in wide-eyed wonder, gawking at the colours and people around him as if he was in a trance. Women strolled by in bright, shiny robes. The merchants flagged their wares, and David had to resist the temptation to touch everything. His hand brushed against the stucco walls and he watched as a group of soldiers tramped by. He could not seem to stop smiling. The hot air swept dust into his face and he ducked his head to avoid it. When he opened his eyes, his step faltered as he thought about what God had done for him, and for a moment, he could not move.
What have I done to deserve such a gift?
"Hey! He looks like one of the beggars over by the pool." A woman's voice said.
"What are you talking about, Myrna?"
"I'm telling you, he's the blind beggar."
David had a hard time locating the people talking, as he was still adjusting to associating sight and sound. He finally saw them, off to his right. A small group had gathered, and they were pointing at him. David recognized some of the voices. He recognized the voice of a large, bearded man, who was wearing an expensive looking robe. The woman, Myrna, was older, and she was staring at him as if he was a murderer.
David walked a few strides towards them.
"I'm telling you, Myrna, that can't be the beggar. He was blind!"
"No, um, sorry to interrupt." David said. "I'm that man."
"How were your eyes opened? Do we look like idiots?"
David glanced nervously at the people starting to gather. He swallowed and forced himself to continue. God had given him this gift, and it was his responsibility to tell the story.
"It was the Rabbi they call Jesus. (David had learned the young Rabbi's name from Benjamin) He put some mud on my eyes and told me to go wash in the Pool. So I, um, I went and washed, and now I can see."
The bearded man did not seem impressed. He stroked his beard and nodded thoughtfully. After the burst of emotions from his friends, David did not understand why these people were not happy for him. Why were they so upset?
"And where is this young Rabbi now?" The bearded man asked him.
David looked around the milling street and realized that in his excitement, he'd briefly forgotten about the one who had opened his eyes.
"I don't know."
The bearded man looked at David one last time and strode away, along with the woman, arguing about something to do with the Sabbath. David watched them go, watched the crowd disperse, and took a deep breath. He looked up at the sky, and at the sun. He wished he could identify the colours, but it didn't matter. It all seemed so beautiful. He slowly started towards the Temple. He hadn't forgotten it was the Sabbath, but he wondered what it had to do with him. The people flowed around him, and David felt small and lost in the crowd.
The sun was high now, and it was hot and oppressive as he made his way to the Temple. His dingy robe clung to him like a second skin. He narrowly avoided being run down by a cart, and when he finally looked up a few paces later, his breath caught at the sight in front of him.
The dome rose majestically, shimmering under the afternoon sun, the gleaming white porticoes and columns rising so high they seemed to reach Yahweh Himself. People swarmed up and down the Temple steps. The bleating of the sheep and goats blended with the acrid scent of burnt meat and the sweet perfumes and sweated stench of the people. All of it rising towards God from the most sacred of places. David swallowed hard and started nervously up the steps. He wasn't sure what he was to do. He needed to find a priest, but he didn't have money for a sacrifice. He spotted a priest near the edge of the outer court and headed toward him. He would know what to do.
David sat in silence. He'd been waiting for an hour. His thoughts kept turning over the events of the day. The young Rabbi who had healed him. Leaving his friends. The shock of witnessing the world with his eyes for the first time. He'd told his story to the priest, who had listened in sympathetic silence, though David had no idea why the man was sympathetic. Didn't he know that he had witnessed a miracle?
"Is this him?" The voice was loud and imperious.
The second voice belonged to the bearded man David had met earlier. He did not recognize the first man, but judged from his robes and manner that he was somehow important. A few others followed in behind, and soon David was the center of the group, where he was quickly hustled into a private corner.
"Now then," the first man said, "Tell us how you were healed."
David shifted from side to side.
"Um, the Rabbi Jesus put mud on my eyes and told me to wash them off in the Pool. I did, and then I could see."
The bearded man coughed and put a meaty hand in the air.
"I told you that rabbi is not from God. He heals on the Sabbath!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Elam. How can a sinner heal?"
The group of clergy turned towards each other, and soon David was forgotten. He slid back further into the corner, thinking about the kindness with which the young Rabbi had spoken to him. He ran his hands over the carved stone wall, and kept his head down while the leaders argued.
What did I do wrong, God? Why are they so angry?
"What have you to say about him?" One of the leaders said suddenly, stepping close enough that David could smell the garlic on his breath.
"I-I think he is a prophet."
"Bah! I don't even believe this boy was ever blind! How do we know he's not just creating some great story for himself?"
The bearded man frowned.
"I thought you'd say that. I had his parents brought here. Bring them in"
David's eyes widened. His parents!
"David?" His mother's voice was shaky. She was smaller than he thought she would be, bent a little from age, with a wide face and long hair. A tremulous smile crossed her face. Standing beside her was a tall, lean man wearing a worn robe.
She nodded, and David rushed to hug his mother. Tears flowed down her face as she embraced her son.
"Mom! I can see, mom!"
"I know, son." She cupped his cheek and stared at him. His father stood stiffly to the side. He pulled himself from his mother's embrace and moved to his dad, who seemed to be battling his own emotions.
"Dad..." David's voice trailed.
His father gave him fierce, quick hug. David closed his eyes, remembering the sour smell of his father's reassuring embrace from his childhood. His father suddenly whispered into his ears.
"Be careful what you say, son. The priests are going after that Rabbi."
David was confused but didn't say anything. He moved to the side as his father addressed the clergy.
"We can tell you that he is our son, and that he was born blind. But how he can see now, we do not know. Ask him, he is of age."
David watched his mother tuck herself in behind his dad. Both of them stood rock still, and David realized that they were scared. But why? Why would they be scared?
The priests looked at the small family and waved them away, with a warning to David not to go far. They would speak to him again. David walked to the edge of the outer courts with his parents.
"What did you mean, dad, about the Rabbi Jesus?"
His father's lips were tight.
"The Temple doesn't like him. They say he is a blasphemer. The crowds follow him, and he is very... unconventional. He says things about Samaritans and women that, frankly, are pretty upsetting." His dad paused. "Protect yourself, son. Say what they want to hear and get out. Remember, you can live in community now. I think I can help you find work!"
At this, David's mother broke down and embraced her son.
"I'm so happy for you, my son. So happy."
David felt tears come to his eyes as he let his mother go and waved goodbye to them. He watched as they made their way slowly through the gates and out of sight. A few minutes later, a small boy ran up to him, and told him the elders would see him again. David nodded, looking back where his parents had just disappeared, and followed the boy back inside.