Summary: The lame beggar was over 40 years of age (Acts 4:22) and spent every day in the same place the whole of his life. He is a representation of any person living out their lives without an “other” context.
I was browsing the internet a few days ago – news stories about the “same old, same old”. “Same old” suggests “nothing has changed” and speaks to those things that frustrate us or annoy us. We can easily slip between boredom and depression because nothing ever seems to change or improve. It could be the “same old” cold weather, health challenges or national/global problems; same old me with broken resolutions, routines and outcomes; same old…
The wonderful news for 2018 is, we don’t have to adopt a framework that suggests we expect the same old, same old”! Today’s text incredible news that life is altered when Jesus becomes a part of our stories!
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
This day is pretty much like any other day. We’re told that Peter and John were going to the temple for the prayer service at 3 in the afternoon (verse 1). It was only eight weeks ago that they witnessed Jesus’s ascension into heaven – before that, Mary saw him at the tomb. This same Peter ran into the tomb with John standing outside, peering in, witnesses to the empty grave clothes. They were heading to prayer after witnessing Jesus breaking bread and in a moment when they recognized him, he vanished! They were heading to prayer after accounts of 120 and 500 people saw Jesus among them; heading to prayer. Peter was fresh out of his regrets having denied knowing Jesus and fresher still, having been reinstated by Jesus when they walked the beach together, before Jesus returned to Heaven. Somehow I imagine the prayer experience before their encounters with the risen Jesus couldn’t match the prayer experiences of these later days!
On this day Peter and John encountered the lame beggar (verse 2) who they likely saw every day they went to the temple. The lame beggar was over 40 years of age (Acts 4:22) and spent every day in the same place the whole of his life. He is a representation of any person living out their lives without an “other” context. Life looks and feels different when there isn’t knowledge of another dimension. These live as they do every day – trying to put food in their belly and make the most of the pain and struggle they face. Questions of whose fault it is make no difference because it doesn’t change the reality of one’s condition and lot in life. The sin nature doesn’t only rack the mind and soul but it bleeds into the daily realities of our lives and bodies too. Nothing about brokenness is original design by the Creator. I think it interesting that this day he has an audience with Peter and John. He would have seen them or they, him, numerous times. But today, they have a conversation. Maybe it has something to do with divine synchronization as John Stott coined the phrase. Maybe it is a divine appointment that wasn’t supposed to happen before today. And so, he does what he always does – he begs: “do you have some spare change? Anything will help. God bless you!” (verse 3)
In response, Peter speaks to the man while looking straight at him to which the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. (verse 4-5) In some ways, Peter is the same as he was before his encounter with Jesus; always the first one to open his mouth! His earlier experiences of doing that never failed to get him in trouble. Peter knew too well what it meant to “put your foot in your mouth”. For instance, in response to Jesus’s question in Matthew 16, “Who do you say that I am” Peter speaks without a second thought, “You are the Christ of God” to which Jesus declares that because Peter spoke what was revealed to him by God, the Church would be built on Peter, the rock. (Matthew 16:16ff) Almost in the same breath, when Jesus tried to speak of the suffering and death to come, Peter spoke again, wishing it not to be so and Jesus rebuked him with the stinging words of, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23) That must have been like a blow to head. He went from being identified as the rock on which the Church would be built, to being addressed as Satan! What just happened there? Another time he curses and swears that he doesn’t know Jesus – oh, the sting of betrayal. The pain is too deep for another to understand, either from the perspective of the betrayer or the betrayed. But, weeks later, Peter’s heart is sanctified, holy, full of Spirit power so his speaking up is different! His strong, outgoing personality, in God’s hands, will achieve amazing things! The lame beggar must be wondering what these men will give him. Maybe today he’ll hit the jackpot and get enough change to not need to beg all day today. He had no idea! Looking straight at the man is not simply an act of casual eye contact. Peter is on a mission.