written by Mike Messerli
He was almost 40 years old and had been invisible as long as he could remember. His name was Joseph and like his namesake he was in bondage, but this Joseph’s bondage would never end. Joseph was lame, unable to walk, and had been that way since birth. Early in life he realized that people looked away not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do. Soon they didn't look at him at all and he became invisible to those around him.
Every morning his family would carry him to the gates of the temple in Jerusalem so he could beg for money to buy food. There was nothing else he could do. His daily post at the temple gates reinforced his belief that he was invisible. People didn't look at him. They rarely heard as he begged for the few coins they threw his way each day. Almost everyone walked by. He felt helpless. He felt alone. He felt invisible.
Would life ever be different?
Would anyone care?
Was God mad at him?
What had he done to bring about this fate?
Then, one day he heard those passing by talking about a man named Jesus. He listened as they talked about this Jesus healing the blind, restoring withered arms, healing lame legs.
His heart raced.
The mind numbing boredom of his days was suddenly interrupted by a small spark of hope. A glimmer of faith began to rise. “Maybe this Jesus would heal me,” he thought, “maybe Jesus would see me as he walked by.” Hope began to burn in Joseph's heart.
It wasn't long until his hopes were realized. The streets were always alive with people coming into the temple to worship, coming to offer sacrifices. It was this constant traffic of worshipers that provided what little income Joseph was able to beg from those who walked by. He did look pathetic. His lame legs withered and useless. His dirty worn clothes, unkempt hair, and a sad face made him the perfect beggar, the perfect object of pity. If anyone deserved the kindness of those walking by it was Joseph, but his eyes were always looking for someone he hadn’t met yet. The hope in his heart changed his focus from the coins tossed his way to the one they called Jesus. “He has to pass this way soon,” he thought. He has to come this way to enter the temple.
Then it happened. On one particular day, unexpectedly, the noise in the streets grew louder, there was an excitement in the air and the crowds swelled. Then he heard someone say, "Make way, the Messiah Jesus is coming."
Joseph was excited.
Maybe Jesus would see him.
Maybe he would stop.
Maybe he would heal him as he had healed so many others.
Then he came. The crowds were buzzing with talk about all that Jesus had done, all the miracles he had performed. “Jesus might be the Messiah!” they said, “He might be the coming king of Israel.”
And Joseph thought, "He might stop and heal me."
But he didn't.
Jesus walked right past Joseph and went into the temple. He didn't even look down at Joseph! Joseph's heart fell. Was he really invisible? How could Jesus not even look at him?
For the next three years the stories continued. Joseph listened with great interest. He hadn't given up hope. Maybe it would be his turn soon. Maybe one day, as Jesus entered the temple, he would see Joseph. He prayed that God would heal him. He prayed that Jesus would see him. He asked for a miracle. He wanted to walk. He wanted to be normal. He wanted to be visible for the first time in his life. Maybe, one day Jesus would see him….
His hopes rose as his friend Matthew had an experience with Jesus. Matthew had been born blind.* Like Joseph his disability was a birth defect. In the Jewish culture there was a common belief that these physical deformities were caused by sin. He and Matthew often talked about this. Who sinned that they were this way? How did this happen? What did they do to deserve such problems? Why was God punishing them?
Joseph and Matthew often sat together by the gate to the temple begging for money from those who entered. Over the years they had become good friends. Joseph would talk to Matthew for hours about what he saw as they sat at the temple gate. He would describe who was coming into the temple, what they wore, what they looked like. Joseph’s time with Matthew was the only thing that made the boring days bearable. This rag-tag team of a blind man and a lame man worked together to help each other as they tried to beg for enough money to provide what they needed to live.
One day, as Matthew sat begging, Jesus came by. Jesus’ disciples asked, "Who sinned that this man was born blind?" (It's a question he and Matthew had discussed often.) Joseph listened intently as Jesus responded, "It wasn't because of sin it was for God's glory." Joseph was surprised. It was an entirely new idea to him…that this could all be for good. He had thought his lame legs and Matthew’s blind eyes were God's punishment for sin. He never even imagined that God could use such a horrible thing for his glory.
Joseph watched as Jesus bent down, made mud from the dirt and applied it to Matthew's eyes. Jesus told him, "Go wash in the pool of Siloam." And then, without a glance at Joseph, Jesus was gone. Matthew rose to his feet, felt for his cane, reached out a hand for the wall and left to find the pool of Siloam.
Joseph was once more alone, once more disappointed. He thought again about being invisible and wondered if it had really become true. Was he so wicked that God didn't even see him anymore? He had tried to speak when Jesus was near, but couldn't as he watched Matthew's story unfold. How he wished he had spoken up. Why didn’t he say something? How he longed for Jesus to see him. How he wished Jesus had healed him.
Had God forgotten him?
Was there no hope for him?
A voice in the distance brought him back to reality. Running down the street towards him was Matthew! He was smiling, waving his arms, excited. Matthew could see! He ran up to Joseph and gave him the biggest hug he had ever experienced.
Matthew was no longer blind! He could see for the first time in his life and Joseph was jealous. He knew inside that he should be excited for his friend, but all he could think about was himself. Why did Jesus pass him by? Why didn't he heal him too? Why didn’t he speak up when Jesus was so near?
It was a difficult time for Joseph. His friend, Matthew, no longer sat with him at the gate. He didn't need to beg any longer. Now Joseph was alone, invisible once more. His depression grew. These days were the darkest he had ever experienced. He felt even more invisible than he had ever felt before. He sat silently with no one to talk to, no one to see, and no one to care.
Often, over the days ahead, Jesus would pass by as he entered the temple. Jesus came to the temple every day to teach. Joseph longed for a glance from Jesus. He prayed that God would heal him, that Jesus would notice, but he didn’t.
Jesus healed many during those days. All around Joseph were those who had been ill, blind, lame, but were now well. All around him he saw the work of Jesus in the lives of others, but Jesus didn’t heal him. A bitterness came over Joseph. He was feeling an anger rise in his heart. His faith in God was fading. Was he invisible even to God? Didn’t God care about him at all?
Events changed quickly as Joseph sat at his post. The religious leaders who had been jealous of Jesus found a way to condemn him. They had him arrested, beaten and tried. In a whirlwind series of events the Messiah was condemned and crucified! Crucified!
Jesus was dead.
Something in Joseph died that day too. He saw the events around him, but was helpless to do anything, to say anything. His last hope of being healed was gone, nailed to a tree. The Messiah was dead. The one who had healed so many had not healed him.
Joseph still sat at the gates of the temple to beg, but he had lost all hope. There was nothing to live for. It didn’t matter anyway because he was invisible and who would even notice his withered legs and hollow eyes. Who would ever notice his tears? This had all been too much for Joseph. His humanity faded, his hopes were gone, his bitterness grew and his faith all but disappeared. He still held out a hand to beg, but he no longer cared if he lived or died. His last hope of healing and a new life was gone.
In the days that followed Jesus’ death Joseph sat at the gate begging as he had done before. There were stories. He heard some talk of Jesus rising from the dead, but Joseph no longer cared. Jesus hadn’t noticed him, so why should he care what happened to this dead Messiah?
It was several months later when Joseph’s life changed forever, unexpectedly. He had become a ghost of a man. That’s what happens when you’re invisible. He didn’t matter to anyone else and now he didn’t matter to himself either. All that was left was to beg for a living and hope to die as soon as possible. What else was there for him?
Then the day Joseph never expected happened. Here’s his story from the writings of Luke,
Acts 3:1-11 One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here." He looked up, expecting to get something from them.
Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.
The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple's Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.
The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon's Porch to see it for themselves.
He was walking!
He leapt for joy. He leapt just because he could!
For the first time in his life Joseph entered the temple of God. He had become visible! God saw him and touched him. He would never be the same again.
But he had questions. We all have questions when we don’t understand God’s ways. Joseph asked Peter if they could talk after they left the temple and Peter gladly agreed. Joseph was ecstatic about his new legs. He had no idea how wonderful it would be to walk, but he had to ask…..
“…Why didn’t Jesus heal me? Why didn’t he heal me like he had healed my friend Matthew? Why didn’t Jesus see me?”
He said, “Dear Joseph. Jesus talked about you often. He wanted to heal you and in fact it is Jesus who has healed you this very day, but he walked by you then so that this amazing result could happen now. You see, he had an amazing plan for you and for me. Over dinner, that first time we saw you, Jesus told me, ‘Peter, did you see that lame man sitting by Matthew today? I’m not going to heal him now, but when I’m raised from the dead I want you to heal him. Joseph’s healing will be fruit for your ministry, testimony of my work in your life and in his. It will be hard for him to wait, but oh what joy he will have when I do heal him.’ So you see, Joseph, God’s plan for our lives, yours and mine, is meant for God’s glory in God’s time. He saw you. You were never invisible to him. It just wasn’t time yet. But today…..today you see the results of his plans for you. You were never forgotten. Jesus prayed that you would endure until the time came for his work in your life. I’m so glad you have endured to see this wonderful day, aren’t you?”
And in your life today, in your walk with God, you need to know that you are never forgotten by God, you are never invisible to him. He sees you, he loves you, and he cares about you. He’s working in your life in a way you can’t even imagine. It will amaze you when you see what he does. You will never be the same. Trust him, wait for him…wait for his timing. You are never invisible to God.
You are not forgotten. God loves you.
*(Read John 9 and Acts 3 for the full stories of the lives of these two men.)