Today we get to read the first specific account of healing through the apostles. We join Peter and John on their way to the temple. They are still in Jerusalem and today they are using the Beautiful Gate to enter. This gate is on the Eastern side of the temple and is the only one facing that way. It is very likely that Jesus Himself passed through this gate after entering through the Eastern gate of the city on a donkey.
Luke tells us earlier that the disciples and the new believers were in the temple daily. Luke doesn’t specify what they were doing besides “day by day, attending the temple together” (Acts 3:49). The recipient of today’s miracle was also there every day. Luke tells us “a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate” (verse 2). So whether or not these people’s paths crossed earlier, the man didn’t receive from them any great gift until this encounter.
I have so many questions about this encounter. I’m just going to throw them out there for you to think about too. My questions are in no way meant to doubt God’s work in this man’s life. I know I’m not the first person to ask some of these questions but I believe God doesn’t mind my curious nature. After all, He made me this way.
My first question is, why didn’t Jesus heal this man? He must have passed Him during His week in Jerusalem. Were the streets too crowded for the man to get Jesus’ attention? We know for a fact that Jesus didn’t heal every person He walked by. But everyone who approached Him for healing received what they needed.
There is only one story that I can think of, off the top of my head, where Jesus approached the sick person instead of the other way around. He approached the man lying by the pool of Bethesda. He asked him if he wanted to be well. The man lamented the fact that he had no one to help him into the pool when healing was available. Jesus healed him without him even asking. We are also told that there were five porches surrounding this pool and “in these lay a great multitude of sick people” (John 5:3). We aren’t told that Jesus healed anyone else there that day.
I’m pretty sure the disciples crossed paths with today’s recipient of the miracle, prior to this encounter. But today was different. The man caught Peter and John’s attention. He called out to them. He wasn’t looking for healing. He was simply doing what he always did; ask for money. Was this the first time he asked Peter and John for money? Had they heard or seen him begging before? Today “Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John” (verse 4). They SAW him. They saw his real need. And they knew they had the answer to that need.
This man was used to being ignored when he called out. He did this probably a thousand times a day and he knew how important it was to respond when someone actually responded to his plea. His life depended on it. So “He fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them” (verse 5). AND HE DID!! But not what he expected.
I’m wondering if there were any pauses in Peter’s delivery of these next lines. Did he quickly deliver the whole answer or did he inject a little bit of suspense in his speech? “I have no silver and gold [pause] but what I do have I give to you. [longer pause (waiting for his full attention and expectation)] In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” I don’t think there was ANY hesitation at the end. Peter didn’t give the man a chance to think about his healing. He had him acting on it immediately! “He took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (verses 6-9).
Talk about an AMAZING gift! This man received so many things that day! The first was strength to his feet and ankles. The second was the physical know how to walk and leap. And the third was a new future. No longer would he be consigned to begging by the gate. But the MOST important thing he received that day was Jesus Himself. I have no doubt that Peter and John explained the gospel to him as he went about the temple with them. He certainly knew where to direct his praise to; to God. NOT to Peter and John.
I believe it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting that moved Peter to offer this man real help. Peter must have passed a thousand beggars in his daily wandering. But the Spirit moved him to act in this man’s life. Did Peter feel guilty when he passed a beggar by without acting, like I often do? How strongly did the Spirit need to push to get him to step out? Was he more likely to step out because all this was fresh? Would his willingness to jump in decrease over time? I know he listened and followed the Holy Spirit for the rest of his life and even died as a consequence for doing so, but would this encounter have been different if it had happened later on in Peter’s walk?
What about my walk? Was I faster to act and share the love of Jesus when that love was newer to me? I have already shared with you about my reluctance to act on behalf of those begging on the streets because of past experiences. I KNOW that has changed over time in my life. But the BIG question is, is it harder for the Spirit to move me now? Does He have to really convict me before I step out?
I try and help out in practical ways when I see a need. With the exception of the beggar and hitch hiker I help most anyone I see that is struggling. But that help rarely involves sharing the gospel with them. THAT help is eternal yet I fear sharing it more times than I want to admit. I need some of Peter’s courage. No, I need some of Peter’s conviction! He didn’t care what people said. He knew the truth and would do whatever it took to share it. The truth was/is Jesus loves you and wants to make a difference in your life.
Father God, forgive me for being quiet so many times. I don’t think You have planned for me to run into the streets and grab everyone I see, but I also know You don’t want me to remain silent. Peter didn’t grab every sick or lame person he crossed paths with either. He reached out when You prompted him to. Help me respond like Peter did. Help me “clean my spiritual ears out” so I can hear even You whispering to me. I don’t want to need a shove to act on Your urging. I want to be so willing that it only takes a simple ‘nod of the head’ or ‘look in Your eyes’ to get me moving. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation and a willingness to share that joy with others.