I was the bait in their trap. I knew it. They knew it. But he knew it too, and he walked right into it with eyes wide open.
I could feel their eyes on me throughout his teaching. I wanted to hear his words, wanted to let them wash over me as they had done to others I knew, but those eyes boring into me from the sides and from behind made it nearly impossible.
I nearly got up and left, but just as my mind had resolved to do so, something he said ended the power of their eyes.
“Come and stand here.”
I knew he spoke to me before I even looked up and found his eyes on me. My heart leaped and I scrambled to my feet, keeping my shriveled right hand close to my chest out of habit. Them gleam in his eyes the brightness of his smile encouraged me, but they both disappeared when his face turned to them. I looked out with him at their tasselled robes and pious, mocking faces.
“I ask you,” he said, “on the Sabbath is it lawful to do good or to do harm, to save life or destroy it?”
I saw rage heat their faces, saw them fighting for any response that would protect their standing in the Synagogue while denouncing the man. I can only imagine what he saw.
No words came from their lips. But seeing that they could not answer, his lips spoke once more to me.
“Stretch our your hand.”
And I did. The hand I kept close, kept hidden so others would not see my deformity and shame, I stretched out for all to see. And as I did spasms and snaps throbbed and flowered along my arm. What was weak and withered became whole and strong. The fig tree must feel like this as fruit sprouts from leafy branches, but what takes the tree weeks to achieve took only a moment for me.
I looked from my now perfect hand to the man who had made it so. The light and brightness of his face nearly blinded me, and though I often saw him after that the sight of him always dazzled me. But it didn’t dazzle them. Hatred had joined rage to twist their faces into a mockery of human form. And that was hatred was as much for me, I saw, as it was for him. But still he shone beside me and in his light even their hatred and rage could not disquiet me.
Their mutters contained murder–murder of his light. I knew it. They knew it. But he knew it too; and one day, several years later, he would walk right into it with arms and eyes wide open.