One day at three o'clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout.
Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, "Look here." He looked up, expecting to get something from them. Peter said, "I don't have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!" He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked. The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. (Acts 3: 1-9)
How often are we like the crippled man - who is constantly reminded of his shortcomings, his inadequacies and failures. He was placed at the Beautiful gate every day to beg for any small blessing. On the threshold of the sanctuary, but never entering the Temple - he would have been considered unclean. He was born this way - unable to walk or run; and for over 40 years had only known this way of living, and could see no hope it would ever change. His head was down, staring at the dusty, dirty street; staring at the lameness in his legs - that's all he could see. He identified himself with the dirt. He was ashamed of himself and felt worthless and didn't want to look other people in the eye, even if they gave him a few coins, even if they were
the source of his blessing.
We often stare at our own shortcomings, our own failures, sins and weaknesses so much that we begin to think that there is no hope of rescue from them. We begin to buy into the identity that we are dirty, worthless, unworthy of God hearing and answering our prayers.
Jesus said He is the Gate (John 10:9-10) - and that no one enters into God except through him - in this passage Jesus is the Beautiful gate that leads to the sanctuary. How often do we sit on the threshold of God's house - on the threshold of His grace - and the door is wide open - with the unconditional love, forgiveness, healing, and blessing just a couple steps away. And yet we refuse to enter in because we think we aren't perfect enough, that we are too flawed, that our sins are too great....and all the other excuses we tell ourselves. We ignore the beautiful one, Jesus, who took our sin, who took our sicknesses, who took our poverty on the cross so that we might enter into the sanctuary, into the God's presence with righteousness, confidence, and joy.
But the passage doesn't end with the man looking into the dust. Peter comes along and says "Look up!" or "Look at me" in another translation. And the crippled man looked up "expecting to get something from them." We too need to look up, we need to look at Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith.
I had two realizations regarding this section: first, when Peter looked at the man he saw exactly where the man was at - in his sickness, in his weakness, and had compassion. Peter "truly saw" him, and loved him enough that he didn't want to leave him in that state - Just as Jesus sees us right where we are at, and he loves us. He loves us enough that he doesn't want to leave us there, but wants to raise us up, have us WALK in new life, new strength, new health, new victory. He wants to take our mourning and replace it with joy, he wants to take our poverty and replace it with prosperity, he wants to take our sins and replace it with his righteousness.
Secondly, while it was the man's faith in the name of Jesus that brought his healing, it was the apostles who took the time to stop, to have compassion on the man, and it was they who asked him to look up and helped him to his feet. This is my role as a believer - to see the hurting person, to recognize but by the grace of God that man could have been me, and to show compassion by sharing the love of Christ, and to lift up him up.
It starts with us looking up - realizing that we BELONG, that we are ACCEPTED, even before we change, and then we BELIEVE that Jesus can help us - save us, and we EXPECT to receive His blessing, then He lifts us up and EMPOWERS us to change.