Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Acts 3.2-8.
The form of words that Peter uses when he addresses the beggar have always intrigued me. He doesn’t say, “I can’t give you money but I can heal you”; no — what he says is, “I haven’t got any money but I have got something else and it’s that something else that I’ll give to you.” And my question is: What is that something else?
In C S Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Lucy’s is given a little bottle containing a cordial and told, “If you or any of your friends is hurt, a few drops of this will restore them”. And the way things are worded in these verses from Acts, we might almost suppose that Peter has something similar — a vial of golden liquid which the beggar is given to drink and which brings life and strength to his crippled limbs — an elixir of life! But, hang on a minute … Isn’t that just what Peter and John did have? And isn’t it what I have … and all who have within them the Spirit of Jesus? As kingdom people we really do hold the elixir of kingdom life that can bring kingdom wholeness and healing to those who drink of it. We heard yesterday how Jesus told the Father: “As you sent me into the world so I have sent them into the world” (John 17.18). Same mission, same Spirit, same authority.
But (without in any way undermining the force of that thought) I also take on board another thought, and it is this. Jesus himself must have walked past that same beggar many times without offering him a drink from the elixir of life. (We are told that the beggar was put there every day, and Jesus was always in and out of the temple when he was in Jerusalem.) Why not? Quite simply, because the Father did not prompt him to do so. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 4.19).
So where does this leave me? Is the fact that I see so little healing take place when I pray and lay hands on the sick due to any diminution of the power of God to heal … or is it not due to my acting as if the authority of God’s people to heal is a “hospital-emptying” general authority rather than the specific, Father-directed, targetted authority that was given to Jesus?
I note in this passage that other rather strange phrase, “Peter looked straight at him, as did John”. The verb is atenizo. It means to gaze, to lock one’s eyes on something. It is more than merely seeing. And the suggestion within the verb is that as the glance of Peter and John passed over the man, the Spirit marked him out to them in some arresting way … imparted to them the knowledge that the Father was healing the cripple and that their task was to give him that healing as the Father’s gift.
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see what you are doing and give me the willingness to do it too in the authority of Jesus by the power of your Spirit. Amen.