I love how a simple story can turn into something powerful when the Holy Spirit takes some simple words and begins to speak into my own story. As I was reading the story in Acts 3 about a crippled beggar I began to mull over what being the beggar in the story would have felt like.
There have been times in my life when I was the beggar…living out my story and not expecting anything to change.
I have been the begger hoping for a handout not expecting an encounter with grace and the favour of heaven.
I am the begger when I find myself relying on others to meet my wants when Jesus is wanting me to encounter him.
I am the beggar when what others see and what Jesus sees are not the same thing.
How often do we have an encounter with Jesus and go right back to living out our begger existencebecause it is all we have ever known.
What is my life like after an encounter with Jesus?
When you slow down and read this story in Acts and feel it and sense it…you can sense the rhythm of the mundane and everyday life colliding with the grace and power of God….
I am the begger who has carved out what works for me to survive but God has a new type of normal available and I don’t even have to ask for it…
I am the begger in the story…
They tell me I was born that way….no one really talked about it and when I asked my mum she would just burst into tears so I stopped asking. Something must have happened either while my mum was pregnant or when I was born because I never learnt to walk. I had been been a cripple all my life. Think about that…I never learnt to walk, I never learnt to crawl or run or jump or hop. I never used my legs ever….Growing up in my family, my disability would have defined how I was treated and how I was raised. My family felt the shame of my disability and although they tried hard to make my life normal, our culture did not help people like me. I grew up watching other boys playing in the street but I was never invited to join them. I never got to play hide and seek, never got to run up to the roof top, never jumped in puddles, never leaped off a donkey, never got to climb trees, never learnt to swim in the river. I spent most of my time around home and only got to go upstairs if someone carried me. When everyone wine to school, I knew that there was little point in learning. I was schooled but with no purpose. I learnt from an early age I would have to rely on others . I relied on family membe to carry me every where. I grew up in a culture that valued health and wellbeing as a blessing and sickness and disease as a curse. I was a curse from the beginning. All my life I felt that my value and worth was based in being a cripple. My parents tried hard to treat me well but I knew I would never be able to learn my fathers trade and take over his business and I knew I would never be able to learn and study so that I could get a real job. I knew in that, although people treat d me kindly and said cripples were welcome, I would never be able to enter the temple like a normal person. I grew up being taunted and teased by my neighbours and my mum would often keep me home because she felt she could not face the reality that I was not like the other kids. I learnt one things however. I could beg and bring in money for my family. At the temple gates sat many who were like me. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years as I sought to catch the eye of passersby as they entered the temple. I was very young when I was carried to the temple. Being young bought more pity. Eventually it became worth while to be the begger at this gate, especially during festivals and on market days. I felt I could contribute to my families needs and the on the whole people felt compassion and were willing to help. You know the ones who have compassion and the ones who don’t. You become skilled at catching the attention of new comers or the ones who have not seen you in a while. There were different entrances to the temple and over time, because I had been doing this for so many years I found that the gate Beautiful had a larger entrance and at certain times of the day I could earn a lot more. It was an average day for a begger, the morning had been a little slow but I knew the afternoon prayer meeting would create an opportunity so I made sure I was positined and ready. I had only just settled in for the afternoon when two men who had watched me being set down came over to me and over the noise of the passerby grabbed my attention. I got a little excited as I knew by the look on thier faces and their willingness to talk to someone like me that this could be a great afternoon for me. They didn’t look wealthy but I had come to learn that compassion is not measured by the wealth of a man. They realised that I was expected some change and one of them showed me his empty pockets and commented that he didn’t have any money…and the next thing I knew before I could process my disappointment the had grabbed my arm lift me to my feet and at the same time said these words that will ring in my ears for the rest of my life…’Silver and gold I don’t have but I do have something of much greater value.. in the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.’ I didn’t have time to argue before I realised that my legs and my ankles that had never ever worked were strong enough to stand on and walk on, You have to understand…my feet have never walked. My legs didn’t have the normal muscle mass of a forty year old, my ankles had never had any strength. Something took place instantly that gave my body what it had never had…strength, stability, agility,coordination and movement. I had never learnt to walk and the next thing I am not just wlking..I am leaping, jumping, dancing ….. I had never jumped rope as a kid, I had never danced at a Jewish party, I had never run a race with my friends, I had never leapt over anything in my life and the first place I find myself doing all of this is at the gates of the temple and through the courts where all the people were mingling. You have to understand that the excitement I was feeling and the overwhelming sense of joy I felt in that moment over rode any fear or concern I might have had about what the people thought or what the priest in the temple might have thought, these people have seen me most days for the past forty year…but no one had touched me. I was unclean and untouchable and anyone touching me on entering the temple would not have been allowed to enter. These men were more powerful than my disability and my unclean status didn’t keep them from reaching out and holding my hand. These men did not let a rule about external purity keep them from touching me and reaching out to me. I didn’t care what these Jews who claimed to know God would think of this crazed man yelling, and squealing and leaping like a child thought. I could not contain my excitement. Money can’t buy this sense of value and worth, money can’t buy what these men gave me. They gave me back all that I had never had and they re-write my entire identity. My entire identity had been ‘cripple, begger, needy’ and in a moment when the name of a Jesus was spoken, heaven touched my body and changed my life entirely. It must have caused a stir because the people came running to see what was happening. There was intrigue, curiosity and excitement rippling through the crowd. A cripple from birth doesn’t just get up and leap around in the middle of the temple without drawing attention. What happened next was more powerful than my healing…it was Peter’s message. I had heard strange stories about this teacher Jesus but thought he had been killed as a heretic but here these men begin to explain to the crowd who healed me. Peter stood up and explained with eloquence, confidence and authority all that Jesus was about and how they came to heal a man crippled from birth. He spoke with authority as if he knew what he was talking about. He explained from the Torah all that had been prophecies to our people and how this Jesus who had healed me could heal their hearts too. My life was changed that day because two men chose to let the power of God touch a man like me. Jesus became more than a story for me that day. He changed my life and re-wrote my story. Everything about these men, their authority, their humilit, their courage, their faith pointed to Jesus. What happened to me simply gave them the opportunity to point to Jesus and make his name known. They used my miracle to show what Jesus can do…
It took a while for me to adjust to living without my old identity and life as a cripple. It too a long time for the people I lived with and who knew me to realise I was no longer a victim and a cripple but able and strong and healthy. I could walk to the table at dinner, I could walk to the market, I could walk into the temple .I could no longer rely on hand outs. My whole identity had been wrapped up in my disability and I had to learn to see life differently and teach others how to treat me. I found myself seeking out the people who knew this Jesus. The most significant thing when these men explained to the crowd what had happened to me was that they didn’t take the credit. They gave Jesus all the credit. I realised it wasn’t what these men did for me but what Jesus did through them. I had a story of Jesus that I began to share with anyone who asked me. They knew that they had no power in themselves to heal me. These men were bold and spoke with conviction of the reason they had prayed for me. What happened outside the prayer meeting that day was more holy and precious and spiritual than what happened inside…these men gave me a life I had never known. They didn’t just see me..they didn’t see what I wanted and begged for ..butsomethign far greater…so often as a begger I would look at a person and only see what they could offer me but now I look st people, differently. I want to see people like Peter did…with the eyes of Jesus and the eyes of faith. That night, there was great rejoicing in my house and many came to ask how a cripple like me could walk again and I was able to tell them about a man called Jesus…
This passage speaks interesting things to me today…how often do I approach the house of God, relying on my crippling fear or crippling uncertainty to define your approach.
how often do I stand at a distance from where I am being invited , crippled in how I view a situation and awaiting a handout that will temporarily make me feel better instead of realising the miracle has already happened and I am already free…
How often do we see others who are crippled unsure of how to enter the presence of God but willingingly taking hand out from do golden insesd of belting that the name of ajesus can change them interrelated.
How often do we wear our crippled story like a comfortable jacket..the dysfunction family, the broken relationship, the financial burden when he is aksing us to stand up in the name of Jesus and allow him to strengthen our ankles and walk in unfamiliar ways.