“It is far too common to look at people without ever truly seeing them.”
Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – May 27, 2021
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:1-6, ESV
To go to the temple at the hour of prayer was to surround yourself with the whole of the Jewish community. This was not a sparsely attended midweek prayer service but was the very heartbeat of their religious and economic life. The temple and surrounding areas would have been flooded with people, coming and going at breakneck speeds, rushing from prayer to shopfront or the next business engagement. Though lacking billboards and skyscrapers, this scene was closer to Times Square than it was a simple countryside village!
In the midst of this activity and commotion, Acts 3 presents us with a remarkably intimate and personal scene. Like all major cities, ancient or modern, the poor and homeless are to be found, living in the margins and begging scraps from the tables of the affluent passersby. The man in our story, lame from birth, had suffered physically every day of his life. Yet this physical pain brought with it deep social alienation and isolation, pushing him to the fringe, out of sight and conveniently forgotten by those who did not want to be encumbered by his trials.
In light of this alienation, the response of Peter and John is most remarkable, and worthy of deeper reflection. In a story such as this, it is easy to rush to the miracle, focusing on the healing done in Jesus’ name, commanding the man to “rise up and walk!” However, there is a preceding miracle that must also be pondered and celebrated: the Apostles gave this man the gift of being seen.
Peter directed his gaze at him. Not a passing glance, or a look of annoyance, but focused and directed attention, directing not only his gaze, but his time and attention, fully present and willing to enter into the man’s story and situation. How rare and even miraculous this is! It is far too common to look at people without ever truly seeing them. We may cast our eyes in their direction, but are we able, and willing, to enter into their story? Can we lay aside the question that drives so much of our decision making – “What’s in it for me?” – and instead learn to give our lives away, expecting nothing in return?
Father, give us eyes to see the needs of others around us, and to enter into their stories, loving them as we have been loved, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Who’s story can you fully enter into today?
Audrey Assad: Lead, Kindly Light
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