This one has been on my heart for about a week now.
My Coffee Break group is studying Acts and the Early Church. Recently our study covered Acts 3 – where Peter and John heal the crippled beggar.
Here’s the story (Acts 3:1-10):
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful [the favorite entrance to the temple court], where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 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.
This gets the Sanhedrin all worked up, they end up throwing Peter and John in jail for a night, questioning them thoroughly the next day, and threatening them to not speak of what they had done ever again. In Acts 4:22 it says, “For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.”
Remember, he was crippled from birth. For how many decades had this man been placed at the temple gate to beg? I’m guessing a majority of his life has been spent sitting at the temple gate to beg for money. Every single day – begging.
We don’t officially know what it is like to beg for money. By worldly standards, we live a pretty indulgent lifestyle. I’m guessing no one who reads this blog has ever really gone hungry. We may have needed a hand up every once in a while, but we have never had to resort to begging for money or food. Certainly not every day of our life.
Imagine the unbelievable moment where he rose on what must have been skinny boney little legs. Can you imagine how dizzy he got? Can you imagine the way he must have stared down at his feet? Can you imagine how he crouched down for the first time and then pushed up propelling his body into the air? That first leap – the way he must have sobbed at that moment. Close your eyes for a moment and put yourself there.
As we studied this passage, one of my Coffee Break leaders asked a question that pretty much consumed my thoughts for the next couple of weeks. “This was a popular place – so how many times do you think Jesus walked past him?”
God passes him by. Imagine this man sitting on the ground watching Jesus walk past him.
When I close my eyes, I picture Jesus walking through the temple gate. Maybe He pauses. He’s several feet away and as his sandals kick up puffs of dust, he pauses for a moment. He doesn’t turn his head, just looks at the ground in front of Him. He doesn’t look at the man. He knows he’s there. He knows that crippled 40 year old has been sitting there every day of much of his life. He knows He could heal him – with one word He could heal him. He knows. And then a smile, the smallest of smiles, dances across His face – Jesus face. He knows. He knows that soon the disciples clamoring around him are going to stop, look at the man they pass by every day, and heal him in His name. He knows.
But He passes him by. God passes him by.
I remember feeling like God had passed me by. In 2004, I felt like God had passed me by. In 2005, I felt like God had passed me by. Here He was, actively handing out gifts of precious children to what seemed to be every person in my life. But not me. He was passing me by. The author of life was choosing to walk by me. Why?
It was painful. But my pain lasted 2 years. The cripple suffered for 40.
Until one day. One single day. Peter and John walk into the temple, stop, turn, look at him and heal him. It was their first miracle. It was the inaugural miracle of the early church. And that is why Jesus walked past him. Because He knew that one day it would be even better.
We spend a lot of time asking why. We spend a lot of time trying to reason with God. And we spend a lot of time waiting. We look back at our lives and we see all the times where it seems like God has passed us by…is passing us by. And we ache. Because we feel like he has turned his back.
I can’t answer the whys in your life because quite frankly I can’t answer them in mine. But passages like this give me a lot of hope and a lot of peace. He knows. He knows that one day all my waiting will be over and it will be an incredibly joyous moment. He has seen me in my misery – but just as He sees the misery He must also surely glimpse the joy that comes with the healing. He sees me leaping and dancing and singing and praising.
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 work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:1-3)
I’m not waiting for the end of suffering; I’m waiting for the work of God to be displayed in my life. And that brings joy, peace, hope, and a glimpse of the day when we too will leap for the first time.