In a previous article, I discussed the bravery of Peter and John in continuing to pray in the temple alongside the very people who crucified Jesus (Acts 3). I related this to many of our own struggles within a church community. This morning, however, I read the same chapter from a very different angle.
“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘look at us.‘ So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:2-10).
Last time, I talked about what it’s like to be unhappy within the walls of a community. Today, I want to reflect on being alone at the gate of one. This lame man was disabled from birth and Mosaic law forbade anyone with a disability or deformity from entering into the temple, into the presence of God. This means that this man had never seen the inside of the temple in his entire life. He had not personally made a sacrifice to God. Further, it was a common mentality at the time to believe that anyone with an illness was suffering a punishment from God for his/her sins. He was isolated and ostracized.
If we recall John 9:1-2, ” as he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’
Jesus gave the disciples a new mindset. Exactly what our Lord did for the blind man, Peter and John do for this lame one. But first, they “fix” their eyes on him and talk to him. I want you to picture just how powerful of a moment this is. Imagine if you were homeless and everyone walked past you as if you were invisible. One day, these two men notice you and make a point to talk to you. They ask you to make direct eye contact with them. They make you feel human. They make you feel like you have a life that’s worthy of sharing with others. This is Jesus working clearly in His disciples.
Peter and John heal the lame man and it is written that “he entered the temple with them.” He who was on the outside, had never seen the temple and was thought to be condemned, now entered the Holy place. He entered into the presence of God and he didn’t enter it alone, but with two new companions.
Isn’t this how we should be? Shouldn’t we notice every single person on the inside or the outside of our own small community? Shouldn’t we make every human being feel alive and worthwhile? If Jesus lives inside of us, we also have the power of bringing people into the presence of God. We may not bring people into a physical place of worship, but we can bring people into the presence of God through our behaviour, our words, our love.
At the end of this story, “all the people saw him.” Some of us are only able to see the people we like, the people inside of our comfort zones. Others, who have experienced the true healing and forgiving love of Christ our saviour, see everyone no matter their state.
I want to end on the first thing I noticed today when I read this passage. The lame man was “laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.” God declares every part of His creation beautiful and so must we.
“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door you will not find him in the chalice” – St. John Chrysostom