God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 36
April 10, 2017
Monday, April 10 – Acts 3:1-10
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Points of Interest:
- In our final week, we’ll take a quick tour through some interesting moments in the first half of the book of Acts. Acts tells the story of the first followers of Jesus after his death and resurrection, particularly how they developed Jesus-centered faith communities in the middle of the first century A.D. The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr has written, “Outside of your own inner experience of a God who is “merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, and steadfast in love most religion will remain merely ritualistic, moralistic, doctrinaire, and unhappy.” (Things Hidden, 10-11) We’ll look at the inner experience and lives of these early followers of Jesus, how life for them was anything but rigid and unhappy. And we’ll consider how our own experience of God can continue to inspire a fresh, joyful, and powerful life.
- Peter and John were prominent apprentices of Jesus. In Acts, they and others are now called apostles, which means sent ones. They’ve been sent by Jesus to be his witnesses, to demonstrate and tell his side of the story of life in Jerusalem, the surrounding countryside, and beyond. They’ve also been experiencing an unusual sense of God’s closeness and power – what they have called being filled with the Holy Spirit.
- Peter and John are heading to the temple for prayer time, as if that’s a normal thing to do. That reminds us that the way of Jesus was a renewal movement within Judaism long before a religion named Christianity came to be. Part of the story here is the second generation of Jesus followers increasingly distanced themselves from Judaism, a process that accelerated over the centuries, to tragic effect.
- Isn’t it ironic that this highly disabled individual is dropped off to beg each morning at a place known as the Beautiful Gate? I wonder if this was just for his survival or if others profited off of his begging as well.
- As Peter and John walk into the temple, they look intently at the beggar, and in return, the man fixes his attention on them. This reminds me of Jesus and the power of touch – openness to interruption and a healing encounter, being practiced in both directions here.
- Peter practices what social worker friends of mine have called a strength-based approach. Rather than focusing on what he doesn’t have or doesn’t want to give (in his case, money), he identifies what he does have to give and can give cheerfully.
- In Peter’s case, what he has to give is power-healing. Strange as this might sound like us, Acts reports this kind of spiritual power as pretty freely available to some of the apostles, particularly in the early months of their new storytelling and organizing. Many people have continued to witness physical healing come through prayer, even if it’s not usually as rapid or reliable as Peter expects it to be here.
- In case we wonder just how great an event this is in the life of the former beggar, we’re told that he jumped up and started leaping and praising God inside the temple. This must have been quite a scene!
- Wonder and amazement become common words in the early chapters of Acts, and understandably so, if you ask me. Some of us might read this scene, though, with something less than wonder and amazement. We might be suspicious of the tale, or intimidated by it. I’ve had both of these reactions before – dismissive of these miracle stories as well as insecure that I’m not performing them.
I find that both of these reactions sidetrack me from what I’m calling Peter’s strength-based, give what you’ve got from God approach. As I see it, there are many, many ways we can ask for the Spirit of God’s help in being joy and wonder and awe-producers in the world. If we’d like to try to do that through prayer for healing in Jesus’ name, there are ways to learn to do that with humility and respect and spiritual power. If we’d like to do that through unusually lavish and effective generosity or friendship or artistry or professional competence or you name it, there seem to be many, many ways we can give what we have to others – practicing the power of touch and inviting the Spirit of God to bring joy and wonder through the impact of what we have to give.
Prayer for our city – Likely the city you live or work in has many people of obvious or not-so-obvious human need. Pray that God would give individuals and institutions (schools, churches, hospitals, government agencies, elder care facilities, etc.) in your city the power to renew joy in needy people’s lives, whether through the means they are expecting it or not.
Spiritual Exercise – This week our spiritual exercise will focus on hearing an invitation from the Spirit of God to a joyful life and welcoming the power of the Spirit of God to that end. How would it feel if you were to produce joy, wonder, and amazement through your generosity and work? Talk to God about a way God could help you do that today – perhaps something that feels within your reach, even if it would take some extra boldness and help from God to make it happen. Ask God to give you the power of the Spirit to follow through on what you talk about, and to give power for it to bring you and others much joy.