“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
He wasn’t asking for much. The beggar was used to being ignored, stepped over, marginalized. But if, somehow, he could get the attention of a few as they made their way into the temple, if they stopped for a moment and threw a coin his way, it was worth the ask.
Considered defective from the moment of his birth, the beggar had never ventured inside the temple. For an eternity of years, he had only watched from a distance. Friends brought him close to the action, laid him at the Beautiful Gate, but that was as far as he got. Over the years the man with the broken body had learnt to be content to ask for help from his lowly position, outside of it all.
When the beggar spotted Peter and John, he asked for a half-penny of what they had to offer. The apostles stopped, laid aside their plans for prayer, and took the time necessary to gaze at the one who had nothing to offer them. “Look at us,” Peter directed. The beggar was thrilled! Two men had actually noticed him, and “he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them” (Acts 3:5). Surely, if they stopped to look at him, to talk to him, they would provide him with a coin or two. This is exactly what the beggar wanted to happen. This was good. His plan was working today.
Peter spoke with the conviction that Jesus Christ had everything the beggar needed. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Peter declared, taking the beggar’s right hand and raising him off the ground. The Scriptures tell us “immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:7-8).
The crippled man becomes our teacher. We, too, approach God with downcast eyes, present our pressing needs, and ask timidly for a half-penny of his assistance. Slouched, paralyzed and overwhelmed by our lack, we beg for alms from God, just a half-penny in order to get by. But he desires for us to gaze intently at him, to take in the wonder of who he is and what he alone is capable of accomplishing. Ask me for more, he tells us. Do not settle for alms. I am the God who raises up beggars to leap and dance inside temple walls. I am the Lord Jesus Christ with the authority to restore all your paralyzed places, all your sores, all the broken places no one else sees.
Direct your gaze to me, Jesus tells us. Let me raise you up off the ground.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell
Photo Credit: Paul Westel