As our church family studies through the Book of Acts together, we come this weekend to the first recorded healing after Pentecost (Acts 3). The man who had been crippled all his life (40+ years) is commanded in Jesus’ name to “walk!” The result is more than walking. He leaps for joy and praises God!
Peter’s interactions with the crippled beggar have really been penetrating my heart as I have meditated on them. Peter really only spoke two sentences to the man, but they are both profound and deeply significant for the church today.
“Look at us” (Acts 3:4).
That’s the first statement. Peter and John first fixed their gaze on the man, then asked the beggar to look them in the eye. OK? Big deal, right?
Yes, a very big deal. Panhandlers who look people in the eye too long are often yelled at and mistreated. It makes us uncomfortable. It’s creepy. And we typically avoid eye contact with beggars, don’t we? It’s easier that way. We don’t have to think much about their plight. We can excuse our lack of compassion with platitudes about them being a drunk or wasting money on drugs.
Well, maybe some beggars do those things. But we will never know unless we care enough to get involved with them on a human level. To look someone in the eye reminds us we are staring at the Imago Dei – the image of God. Peter and John wanted that interaction. They asked for it. They treated the beggar as a Divine image bearer. One can only imagine how many times they had watched Jesus do the same as He lived and moved among the outcasts.
“I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you” (Acts 3:6).
That’s the second statement. It’s followed by the command to “rise and walk.”
A historian reported that the venerable theologian Thomas Aquinas once visited Pope Innocent II at his palace in Rome. Aquinas was stunned by the opulence. The Pope was counting out a rather large mound of gold coins and turned to Aquinas and glibly quipped, “You see, Thomas, the Church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.'” To this Thomas solemnly replied, “True, holy father, neither can she now say, ‘Rise and walk.'”
Wow. How true is this still today? Far too many western churches have sold their souls for lavish buildings and multi-million dollar production stages. Too often the most passion and energy the church ever sees today is when they launch into a “Capital Campaign.”
I’m not sure Peter and John would recognize many churches as being an actual church today. We have to repent. We must return to our first love. We must renew our focus and priority as given to us by Lord Jesus Himself:
And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you shall be My witnesses . . . even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).