Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time for prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried up, who was placed at the temple gate called “the Beautiful Gate” every day so he could beg for money from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple courts, he asked them for money. Peter looked directly at him (as did John) and said, “Look at us!” So the lame man paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized him as the man who used to sit and ask for donations at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with astonishment and amazement at what had happened to him.
You know what’s remarkable about this story? It’s not the healing, as such. When disabled people show up in the narratives of the Gospels and Acts, they are invariably healed.* What’s especially remarkable in this story is the status of this lame man. He has a family, or friends, or some community who care enough about him to help him get where he’s going each morning and each evening.
Yet even so, this support community has decided the only thing this man is good for is begging. Even in the first century, that wasn’t the case. There were jobs which could be done from a seated position. The man could have been taught to read and write, or to handle money. He could have excelled in several different artisan roles. At the very least, he could have been given a modified role in the family business. Instead, they saw his disability as making him useless, and turned him out each day as a beggar.
They didn’t want what was best for the man, and so he never learned to want what was best for himself. He accepted their conclusion that he could do no better. And how could he not accept it? It had likely been driven in to him from before he could remember.
So he spent his life begging. Until two servants of God arrived and dared to want the best for him, empowering him to be fully accepted by his family and community.
CS Lewis once wrote “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.”
This man’s family’s desires were too weak – they wanted what they thought was good for him, in the form of a good spot for begging. But they didn’t have the courage to desire what was best.
Sometimes, our desires are pointed in the wrong direction, and we are unable to see that the mediocre things we want are preventing us from seeing the great things we could pursue.
Are you settling for good enough? What would be best for you that you haven’t had the courage to pursue? Will you be daring enough to ask God to empower you to do so now?
*We should keep in mind that the assumption made in the first century was that disabilities were automatically bad and in need of healing, while not preserving that mindset in the present. The idea of a disabled person always being in need of healing is, in our time, ableist, and we ought to continue efforts of a fully integrated society.