A man I know spent a week in a train station among the homeless street people, hoping to discover what life was like for them. The main thing he learned was what it was like to be nameless, faceless, and overlooked. They were forgotten people.
It was just such a man who lay by the temple gate. Not completely forgotten, for some kind souls carried him there daily. But mostly overlooked and forced to get by on the few coins others tossed his way.
“And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple,” (Acts 3:2).
Three times a day they pushed through those doors, for the Jews had 3 specific times of public prayer. During the morning and evening sacrifices, and again at noon. So surely they would have they seen him, lame from birth, lying there waiting for a handout.
But few seemed to really notice him. What was one more lame person among the countless suffering, ill, and poor? Just one more mouth to feed. One more needy hand grasping for help and hope.
But the disciples stopped and looked, perhaps remembering.
Thinking back to the lame man the Lord had healed by the Pool of Bethesda. For like that man, this one had also long lain there in his piteous condition, over 40 long years.
“Look up at us,” they told him. It seems he hadn’t noticed them. Perhaps after so many long years of being ignored and passed by he had ceased looking up. Why risk looking into eyes that looked through without seeing him, as though he didn’t even exist?
Why look up at all? Perhaps even God had forgotten him.
But wait, it seemed they were speaking to him — the forgotten man! So looking up, he discovered Peter and John looking straight at him. But their hands were empty. And he had been hoping to receive something. Anything to get through another day.
“But Peter said, I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3: 6)
And then Peter was helping him up, his feet and legs growing strong at once. And he went jumping and leaping into the temple with them, shouting and praising God. “Look at me,” he cried. “I’ve never even walked before. And now I can even jump and leap!”
They all saw him walking on his own two feet and glorifying God, and were totally surprised.
And none perhaps more than he, who hadn’t even asked for healing.
He could have asked for healing. Or sought the forgiveness and eternal life found in Christ. But he didn’t, and I wonder why. Why settle for a mere handout when he could have asked for so much more?
Scholars assure us that he had probably heard of the Lord healing others right there in that temple. And he likely knew that these men preached and worked miracles in Christ’s name. Yet he only asked for a bit of money.
Had the Lord not intervened, those blessings which were within reach, would have remained far beyond his grasp.
But thankfully, God doesn’t always wait until we ask.
He sought us before we ever thought of seeking him. And he gives even more than we ask for.
The lame beggar sought money, but got so much more. The Lord healed and liberated him, enabling him to earn his own living. And for the first time ever he could walk into the temple, set free to praise and worship God.
But what if he had never been physically healed? He would have still been able to receive the greater blessings of spiritual healing and truth.
Because the greatest beauty of God’s spiritual blessings is that they can be ours, regardless of our material or physical condition.
No hospital bed, wheel chair, or prison cell can keep us from reaching out and grasping them. Nor can empty hands or a depleted bank account keep us from possessing them. They transcend all physical and natural barriers.
The lame beggar lay near what was known as the Beautiful Gate. Indicating, not so much a specific entrance, but the beauty of its workmanship and material. The temple had gates on all sides, nine in total, each beautifully covered with silver and gold.
But the gate known as the Corinthian gate surpassed the others, larger, more beautiful, and more intricately designed. It was covered with a peculiar blend of metals called Corinthian brass. A metal first formed when the Romans (about 180 years prior) had burned the city of Corinth, with its multitude of statues. The metal of these statues melted together into a blend of gold, silver, and brass which came to be known as Corinthian brass, which the ancients valued more highly than other metals.
Many scholars believe this might have been the Beautiful Gate. And here we find an interesting metaphor.
The lame beggar sat there in the midst of great riches, where many wealthy passed by. But none of that could set him free. Only those like Peter and John could do so. Who, though materially poor, were immensely rich. And who realized that they had what a paralyzed and perishing world needed.
I pray today that we may be like Peter and John. That even if we should find ourselves in material poverty or physical illness, we would still realize what great treasure we have. And then go out and offer it to the poor and perishing all around us. To those so incapacitated by their spiritual poverty that they are unable to reach out to grasp it for themselves.
Like the apostles, we may have no silver or gold to share, but what we have is far greater!