“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!’” – Acts 3:3.4
When I read the story of Peter and John healing the beggar at the temple gate, what strikes me about the lame man is his behaviour.
It was an ordinary day for him. He had learnt to manage his expectations over the years. All he hoped for was that a few people would feel sorry for him and give him some money.
Sometimes circumstances reduce us to begging…
We throw ourselves at the mercy of others, hoping they can spare a little from their abundance. We feel so desperate that we would gladly receive their leftovers.
Begging at the temple seemed a wise choice. Where better to find compassionate people than a place where people go to pray?
The lame man was doing what he was used to doing every day. Begging was the norm. Nothing felt different about this day. Miracles don’t typically give notice. Isn’t it just like God to interrupt the ordinary without warning?
When the man saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked them for money. Peter looked at the man and commanded him, “Look at us!”
The exclamation mark at the end of that sentence means it was a command. It also suggests that the lame man was not looking at Peter and John. But how can that be? The Bible says, “When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money,” yet Peter commanded him to look at them.
I wondered about this for a moment…
Then I realized that it’s possible to see something without looking at it. You can see something appear in your peripheral view but choose not to look directly at it. Eye contact is intentional. It forms a connection; it’s personal.
Maybe it was the man’s practice to avoid eye contact. Maybe he was afraid to make an intentional connection with Peter and John because he didn’t want to get his hopes up. It’s easier to manage your disappointment if you never hope for more.
Maybe you, like the lame man, don’t want to make a connection with those who can help you because you are ashamed, and you fear that the potential help coming your way will judge you. They don’t know your story; all they see is the headline of what happened to you. And you don’t want to look them in the face because you don’t want to see the judgment in their eyes.
Or maybe you don’t want to remember how their face looked when they ignored you. It’s less painful that way because seeing them walk past you like you don’t exist will reinforce your belief that you simply don’t matter.
But Peter needed the lame man to look at them.
It raised his hopes. When he looked at Peter and John, he expected to receive what he was asking for – money.
Sometimes we ask for things that are temporary, that will just get us through the day. When you are in survival mode, you can’t think past the present. Your long-term goal is to survive today. It’s actually offensive when someone asks you what your plan is.
Have you ever been so low that when someone asked you how they could help you, you didn’t even know how to answer the question because your need was so great? So you settled for something simple and temporary.
This man didn’t ask for healing because he didn’t know it was available to him. To him, money was the solution to his struggle.
How many times do we ask God for things that will just get us by?
But Peter and John didn’t have what the lame man was asking for…
Initially, there was disappointment. Can you imagine how this man must have felt when Peter told him they had no money? If I were him, I would be thinking, ‘Why are you wasting my time with this? Why get my hopes up by telling me to look at you when you have no money? As I sit here engaged in conversation with you, other people who could help me are just walking by!’
What Peter said in one phrase was a letdown, but in his next breath, the lame man’s life was radically changed.
What was a disappointment in one moment was a set up for a miracle in the next. When you partner with God, the only temporary thing is the disappointment.
God wants to give us so much more than what we’re asking for. He wants to take us out of our predicament completely. He wants to do something that we don’t even have a reference point for because we’ve never seen it happen in our family or circle.
But we have an important role to play…
When Peter commanded the lame man to walk it took faith for him to reach out and connect with Peter’s extended hand. But as soon as he did, his ankles were strengthened.
We have to partner with God and that takes faith. We have to trust Him to handle the things we cannot control while making sure we are being obedient to what He has instructed us to do.