Something that was quite shocking on our recent trip to Europe was to see the horribly destitute condition of so many people who situated themselves as beggars upon the streets. Often they would position themselves upon their knees with faces down upon the pavement and arms and hands extended with a small cup containing a few coins. Totally pitiful!
But another feature was how these poor people would place themselves (or be placed by someone else) at strategic locations where thousands of people would daily pass by them. They were in the plaza of the Cathedral d’Notre Dame, outside the Vatican, on the streets leading to Versailles, and upon the famous walking bridges in Florence and Prague. At some junctures it was necessary to loop around them on the sidewalks.
Today we read about a fellow regularly positioned in such a strategic location – a man who was lame from birth. Fortunate to have some people who cared enough about him to help by carrying him, he was placed at the very busiest of gates into the Temple on a daily basis. Devote Jews would come to pray at the 9th hour – about 3:00 in the afternoon. Surely it was difficult to take one’s conscience along to prayer and worship, having to almost trip over this poor creature along the way.
There was simply no way that one could be a regular to the temple without knowing about this guy and what he looked like. He was a “fixture” in Jerusalem.
As an expression of their commitment to prayer, Peter and John were coming into the temple and about to pass over this fellow. Somehow, Peter was moved to look at this man and speak to him toward giving him more than he was seeking – not just money, but an actual healing of his condition to demonstrate the power of God.
Was God interested in seeing this many healed? Well, yes… but the bigger reason was that it presented an opportunity for yet another display of signs and wonders – those unique demonstrations of God’s power that authenticated the messengers and the message being preached. The text reports that the masses of the people were amazed by this.
There was NO DENYING that a miracle had occurred! This situation sets up all the material in chapters three and four that we will read this week – as it leads to a sermon, to opposition and persecution, to God’s deliverance, and to a renewed prayer for boldness. And that last theme will be our topic as we next gather this coming Sunday.
This must have been an amazing new experience for Peter and John – fishing pals from back in Galilee who were called away from their boats by Andrew to follow this Messiah character around Israel. But Christ had promised them they would have greater experiences than catching fish (I know that imagining something better than fishing is a challenge for some folks!). And such was truly being fulfilled, as they are now catching others for the Kingdom.
We can be bold for Christ in our day and age. I don’t think it will often be through signs and wonders. But we do have the possession of the Holy Spirit within us, and we have God’s complete written Word that comes to us with a promise that it does not return empty. We simply need the boldness to use the tools we already have.
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.