Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Gate Called "Beautiful"

Today I was reading the passage in Acts 3 where Peter healed the lame man at the temple. I have always loved this story because of Peter's words, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I do give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk," which of course, the man did. What a wonderful passage! I decided to give it a little closer look this morning.

According to Acts 3, this man had been "crippled from birth" and was "being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts." (verse 2). That's where he was when Peter and John passed by. Acts 4:22 says that the man was "over forty years old." So, according to the text, he had been carried daily, since birth, for over forty years to the gate of the temple. I found a temple diagram here which shows where the "Beautiful gate" would have been located. It was in a prominent spot, where people bringing their offerings would be sure to walk by, making it an opportune place to ask for alms. Being the choice location that it was, I wondered, how many times had Jesus Himself walked by that man? The man was older than Jesus. He could've been laying there, an 8 to 10-year-old boy, when Mary and Joseph passed by with baby Jesus on their way to see Simeon. Years before Jesus uttered His first earthly words, this boy's parents had taught their son the words one uses to beg. Those could've even been his first words. Perhaps he lay there as a young man in his 20's when Jesus-the-12-year-old came into the temple. While Jesus spoke with such authority to the priests inside the temple, the man continued to speak the language of beggars outside. Most certainly Jesus passed him as he came in and out of the temple during his public ministry, when He was healing so many. There the man lay, day after day, year after year when the source of his healing was so close at hand. Why didn't Jesus heal him while He was on earth? Was He unaware of the man's presence or did He just not care? Did the man not make himself known to Him?

Perhaps Jesus knew that the man's healing would pack a greater punch after He was gone. Acts 3:9 says that the people were "filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." Verse 11 says that they "came running" to Peter and John as they continued through the temple. Peter, in his newfound, spirit-filled boldness, used this opportunity to point to the true Source of this man's healing. "Why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham... has glorified His servant Jesus. ... It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." (v. 12,13,16) Peter made no bones about it. He pointed straight to the risen Christ. This man's healing gave credibility to what they were preaching. Christ's earthly miracles had pointed to His deity. This healing pointed to Christ's deity and His resurrection. He had been crucified for claiming to be the Son of God. The story of His resurrection was being doubted. It was not a popular message, and Peter and John were even jailed until the next day for proclaiming it. "But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand." (Acts 4:4) So many had fallen away when Jesus didn't come through for them the way they thought He would. Now there were 5,000-plus who believed! And their souls are in heaven today because of it.

When the apostles were finally were brought before the priests and the temple guard, "they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say." (4: 13-14) The miracles Jesus performed while He was on earth backed up His claim of Who He was. This healing not only further supported that claim, but lent credibility to the apostles themselves. There was nothing more to say, no argument could be made. This was crucial. Additionally, if Jesus had healed the man Himself, Peter would've missed out on the blessed opportunity to be the vessel. The timing was perfect.

Timing. Even the name of the gate points to the timing. Most translations render it "the gate called Beautiful." I found today in Strong's Greek Lexicon that the word translated "beautiful," horaios, comes from a word which means, "belonging to the right hour or season (timely)." It was time.

What I learn from the man's family (who presumably carried him there) is the persistence to daily put myself, put those I love, in the position to be healed and blessed. To go before the throne of grace myself and carry others as well. Ask. Beseech. Expect. Don't give up, even when those around me seem to be getting what I'm asking for. Maybe it's not my time yet. But when it comes, it will most certainly have been worth the wait. Beth Moore teaches that God's "no's" and "not yets" are for "bigger yesses" down the road. Greater glory! Exceeding gladness!

What I learn from Peter and John is that even if I am unschooled and ordinary, others will take note if I've been with Jesus. I need to spend time in His presence, be empowered by His Spirit. Furthermore, Jesus didn't do it all Himself while He was on earth. He left work to be done through me. I need to get to it! It's time.

What I learn from the man is how like him I am. Utterly dependent. I can bring nothing of myself, my posture is that of the lame. Some of what cripples me has been with me for around 40 years- since birth. What carries me is the grace of God, right to the gate which leads to healing and wholeness. That is what I call beautiful.

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