In the first century there was no Welfare Department, no Department of Human Services, no local food bank or organization to help the handicapped or the sick. This man’s situation was chronic. He was lame from birth. He had never walked so his entire life he was dependent upon the generosity and kindness of others.
There was no check in the mail and no meals on wheels being delivered. If he did not show up to beg and if friends did not show up to carry him to a place to beg and if passersby did not respond to his begging, this man would not eat.
The temple gate location was a good strategy. The Jewish faith encouraged giving to the poor so as folks were going to the temple and coming from the temple, this could catch them at an opportune time. The temple could be the most profitable place of opportunity for this man in need.
It’s interesting to note the contrasts this scene creates for us:
- Everyone is busy and walking to the temple, but the crippled man is immobilized. He has never walked.
- Everyone has a destination and a focus on getting there. This man can go nowhere unless others take him.
- The worshipers go every day to give God glory through prayer. This beggar comes every day hoping to receive a hand out.
- The temple gate is called Beautiful, but the atrophied, crippled legs (and most likely the unbathed and smelly body) would be perceived as anything but beautiful.
The man is placed there, Dr. Luke tells us, every day. Every day. And every day Peter and John have most likely traveled through that same gate – three times a day –on their way to pray. It’s possible that before His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus had even been with them as they traveled to the temple to pray.
So why now? Why is this day the day they see him? Only God knows.
In verse 3 we read that the man reaches out to Peter and John as they are heading to their 3 PM prayer appointment:
When he saw Peter and John about to enter,
he asked them for money.
He makes his need known. He asks Peter and John for money. And he asks just as they are about to enter the temple. Is the clock chiming 3? Are they late – or about to be late? Would it be easy to just ignore him because they are going to do a holy and spiritual act – going to worship God Almighty? Is that what they have done hundreds of times before? Possibly. Most likely. But today they embrace the interruption:
Peter looked straight at him, as did John.
Then Peter said, “Look at us!”
Peter and John stop. They make time. They embrace the interruption. They look straight at the man.
It’s not comfortable to look at poverty or sickness or racial discrimination. It’s not comfortable to get involved with abuse or hunger or mental illness.
It’s draining. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting.
But you must look at it first and acknowledge it before you can do anything about it.
Peter and John didn’t look the other way. They didn’t glance and keep their pace. They stopped. They looked. They got involved. They made time. They embraced the divine interruption.
They interrupted their plans. They had an important appointment with the creator of the universe. They were going to pray.
You and I have important appointments. The more important the appointment, perhaps the greater the sacrifice it is to embrace an interruption.
The woman of God embraces divine interruptions.
You can listen to the complete teaching lecture for Acts Lesson 4 here: