He had never worked a regular job. He was unable to walk, crippled since birth. His income was dependent on the mercy of the crowds. A few cared enough to carry him to the temple where, on a good day, he collected enough to keep going. Not every day was a good day. Doggedly, in the blistering sun and in the pelting rain, he sat on the steps, hoping against hope. No one knows how long he begged. No one knows the shame and embarrassment he suffered. Unable to support a family, unable to hold a job, unable to help someone else, he survived long enough to try again tomorrow. Those who carried him back and forth daily must have pitied him, because they tried to set him up the best they could, but it was still begging. What a sad and depressing life!
How he must have longed to walk like those who bustled past him, heads down, moving briskly, avoiding eye contact. He had been rejected so often by people who bragged about their relationship with God he couldn’t bear to look at them anyway. That would only broaden the gulf between them and stab his heart again as they shifted their gaze from his face to the bowl, then away. He would hold out his bowl, head down, waiting for the clatter of coins. Then he had to quickly drain the bowl so it would look like he hadn’t received anything yet. And if he left the gift in the bowl someone would steal it. On the steps of the temple, a few feet from the presence of God!
One day, a day like hundreds of other blurry disappointing painful days, he had an encounter with eternity. Heaven manifested on earth right in front of him, and he almost missed it. Have you been through blurry disappointing painful days? Have you been looking down, unable to see a future, hopeless about your situation? Be encouraged! Help is closer than you think! Here is another account of this man’s life-changing encounter with two strangers.
Acts 3:1 (NKJV) Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
Peter and John were leaders in a community of passionate believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were going to the temple in Jerusalem. They were not going as a religious duty, or to gain favour with the Jewish leaders. They moved with purpose, intending to conduct the business of the Kingdom of God. They had been with Jesus Christ. They were witnesses of people being raised from the dead, had seen multitudes healed at once, and watched a man walk on the water. They knew something about a realm few dare to visit. On this particular day, at about three o’clock on an otherwise normal day, their passion and purpose were about to collide with someone’s pain and shame.
Acts 3:2 (NKJV) 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;
We don’t know his name. We don’t know his parents. We don’t know how old he was. But we know he was engulfed in shame, rejection, pain, and hopelessness. They set him down on the steps of a magnificent entrance into the temple, decorated with silver and gold. But he wasn’t allowed through those gates because he didn’t qualify. His physical limitations imposed emotional and spiritual barriers, along with financial barriers. He was a few feet from where everyone said God lived. Sadly, the presence of God did not seep far enough outside the hidden sanctuary to have any effect on him at all. What do you think he thought of God? What do you think he thought of those who claimed to know and serve God but would not help him? He appealed for alms to as many as he could but he never received enough of anything to change his life.
Acts 3:3 (NKJV) who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.
As the two rough fishermen approached him, I wonder what he was thinking. Would they be any different than the hundreds and thousands who had ignored his plight already? Sometimes the event designed to transform your situation comes dressed in work clothes. But he saw them. How many times had these two faithful servants walked past these same steps going to pray at the same hour every day? Had they passed by on the other side, and didn’t see him all those other days? The word used for seeing Peter and John is not just the physical capacity to see. He noticed something. He sensed something was different about these two men. Yet, they had passed the same spot many times and we have no record of any prior interaction. And when he noticed them, he asked for help. He asked for monetary support, as was his custom. It was all he knew to ask for. Little did he realize that in the next few seconds the Living God would explode his chains and liberate him from all his limitations.
Acts 3:4 (NKJV) — 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”
The KJV reads “look on us”. Not the words a beggar would expect to hear from a potential benefactor. Peter fixed his eyes on the beggar. He deliberately locked eyes with him. It forced the beggar to look up into the future standing in front of him. Peter’s intense gaze drilled into his heart, probing and lifting at the same time. The beggar knew something was different about these men. The way they walked, how they carried themselves, was not like the crowd thronging by, late for an appointment with tradition and missing the manifestation of the God they claimed to serve. Peter’s eyes transferred something into this beggar, this lame duck of a man, that had not been there the day before.
Acts 3:5 (NKJV) So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.
He didn’t normally give his attention to anyone except the few who dropped a token of mercy into his bowl. And then it wasn’t a manly thank-you-and-hold-your-gaze look but a furtive peeking to make sure they moved on before he collected their droppings. But the almost ferocious intensity of Peter’s eyes grabbed his and would not let him look away. The beggar had never seen eyes quite like these. The eyes are the window to the soul, and the beggar knew he was seeing a soul unlike any other he had ever seen. And those eyes radiated love and acceptance and forgiveness and mercy, pumping directly from the heart of the Father into the beggar’s being. Instantly the beggar realized this man had something to offer he didn’t ask for, but he didn’t yet know what it may be. He just knew he wanted it, whatever it was. He shifted in a heartbeat from expecting to receive a few coins to expecting something far bigger, something he had no way of understanding.
Acts 3:6 (NKJV) 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.”
Some say the reference to not having any silver and gold was a comment about all the silver and gold a few steps away on the massive entrance into the temple not ever helping this man. Perhaps Peter was telling the beggar he was about to offer something that could not be purchased with silver and gold. I think this beggar already believed he was not going to receive any silver or gold from this fisherman. But he surely believed he was about to receive something!
What Peter commanded this man to do was impossible. If you think about it you realize everything God commands us to do is impossible until we believe Him. But when you believe God the impossible becomes the expected, and the received.
Acts 3:7 (NKJV) And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
The delivering power of God did not transfer until after Peter focused on the beggar, then extended his hand as he declared the will of God. How many miracles go unexploded, unpopped and wasted, because we do not look at the needy around us? Not just look at to notice, but purposely making eye contact and transmitting from your spirit love light and life into their heart. How many lives are still bound in poverty and shame because we do not reach out our hand? How many chains still bind the people of God because no one boldly declares the will of God?
Peter commanded the needy beggar to “look at me”. Peter was saying “I carry your miracle”. He was not afraid about confronting the lameness. Believers today need to walk in the same bold confidence, not afraid to grip a hurting heart with a piercing beam of love and release the power of God. We all need to learn who we are and expect God to back us up when we walk in love and follow His heart into the hurting world around us. We all should be willing and wanting to be so strong in the Lord we can do as Peter did. Focus our attention and our heart on an impossible situation and declare firmly “look on us”!