We each have very strong memories of significant places in our lives. Places that we will always remember with fondness and sentimentality because of a particular event–a birthday trip, a wedding, a proposal. Other places evoke dread and fear due to what happened there, and these are places we’d rather forget.
It’s the middle of the night and I am wide awake, having been awakened by a nightmare. I chose to read some scripture out of my new Bible and came across a story I had forgotten about.
The story is found in Acts 3. The major players are Peter, John and a lame man. Let’s see what happens:
3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.2 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. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 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!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.8 And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
I love this story. Here is a lame man who daily is carried to this gate called Beautiful in order to ask for alms from those who are entering the temple. He can’t go into the temple. He really can’t go anywhere, except for where his friends lay him down. So day after day, he sits outside the gate called Beautiful, begging.
Why is the gate called beautiful? Because it was. It was large and ornate; some believe it was layered with gold. It was a common entrance into the temple, as seen by the fact that beggars would gather there asking for alms as the people went in for prayers. It was a beautiful place for all to behold, but it probably wasn’t very beautiful for this lame man. No, I imagine it was a place of humiliation, of the shame of having to ask for alms. A reminder as people walked through the gate that he could not. Not beautiful, at all.
But there was something different about this day at the Gate called Beautiful. Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, were entering the temple for prayer. Their eyes fixed upon this lame man. They SAW him. Not only did they see him, but they directed this man to fix his eyes upon them, which the lame man did, probably with no expectation than a few alms given out of pity.
But not today. Today the lame man is about to receive something much better than alms. He was going to receive healing, for Peter declared it to be so in the name of Jesus, and it was so. Peter took the man by the hand and helped him to stand. His feet and ankles were made strong.
And suddenly everything changed. Imagine with me for a moment what it must have been like for the man, to walk through the Gate called Beautiful and into the temple!! This place that represented no hope, pity, shame all of a sudden became a place where this lame man would always be able to point to and say “There! Right there at the Gate called Beautiful I was healed! I was healed in Jesus name!!”
The man entered the temple walking, leaping and praising God. Praising God..not praising Peter or John, but giving glory where it was due; to our almighty God. Who transforms us. Who heals us. Who turns scars into things of beauty. Who turns places into what they are intended to be.
All the people saw him, for they knew him as “the lame man by the Gate Beautiful”. They were astonished. Amazed.
Do you have a Gate called Beautiful in your life—a place where God met with you so strongly that you’ve never forgotten it? He does that. He comes to us sometimes in such a powerful way that we are transformed in the moment and suddenly where we are takes on new meaning. Other times, I know, he seems absent. But during those times we must preach to ourselves that He is still there. He still sees and knows, and will move again in our lives if we continue to pursue Him with all of our heart, soul and mind.