Today we are back (finally!) in Acts and ready to take on chapter three. This is actually the first “apostle-initiated” mission event in church history (at Pentecost the Spirit showed up and the apostles reacted, and of course before that Jesus was leading the way), and as such it creates a paradigm for future mission and outreach work. Enjoy!
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame 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. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
1. It starts with prayer and devotion.
My guess, along with many scholars, is that Peter and John followed the tradition of pious Jews in their day and prayed multiple times throughout the day, including the traditional “ninth hour” (that’s 3pm) trip to the temple. A key for us then, is that everything that follows in this story begins from their posture of seeking God’s presence. It is through their consistent devotion to God in prayer that they are brought into contact with this lame man. This is a paradigm! If we give ourselves consistently to God and to His purposes in the world in prayer we will find that God begins directing us to the work that He has for us. We might say that mission should be the natural outcome of prayer.
2. Mission requires vision.
Peter and John can only do the work that Jesus sent them to do (John 20:21, among other scriptures) if they can see the people who need Jesus. Imagine how many times people walked by this beggar without noticing him. My guess is that Peter and John themselves walked by him many times as well without raising an eyebrow. Yet here, in the wake of receiving the Spirit at Pentecost (after praying, remember?) they truly see this man and his need… Which brings us to our second paradigm of the passage: we can’t share the blessing we’ve received from God with others if we can’t see them! We often talk about vision in terms of leadership and charting a course for the future. But mission requires FIRST a vision for those in need in the present. If we can’t see them (or dare we say, if we don’t know them!) them we can’t do the work Jesus has for us.
3. There’s no avoiding the risk.
While we’re told in Acts 2:43 that many “signs and wonders” were done by the apostles, this is the first recorded healing for Peter after Jesus’ ascension. At the very least, it is probably Peter’s first healing away from the group and in front of an unbelieving and potentially hostile crowd. I can’t help but believe then that Peter might have been a little anxious as he proclaimed healing to this man! At the very least his heart rate is going up! But here’s the thing, in order for the healing to take place Peter had to take this risk. He couldn’t go and whisper in a corner to the guy, or just say a silent prayer and yank the guy’s arm, he had to speak in front of all the people passing by and be “that guy” who is willing to risk (at the very least) his reputation to see God’s work done. And, if you’re thinking this is a third paradigm, you’re right! Ultimately, all legitimate mission involves risk and the possibility of spectacular failure.
So… let’s now take these paradigms to a personal level:
How is your devotion to prayer and God’s presence fueling your sense of mission?
Who are you seeing with prayer-inspired vision as someone God is sending you to?
What risk will you take to share the blessing you’ve received from God with them?