I published an article last week that was based upon the good Samaritan parable that Jesus told.
I did the best I could to stay faithful to the story. Without adding any elements to the story simply for dramatic effect. I just replaced all of the 1st century references in the story with 21st century ones. I did my best to pick fair cultural equivalents to the road, the Levite, and the Samaritan. And it did it back in college, so there’s that.
There is another story I want to talk about that’s along the same lines, and I want to do this one with some more rigid theological backing. It’s in Acts 3
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently 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 nor gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Unlike the Good Samaritan this is a historical story. We believe this actually happened, in the early church, with the new leader Peter. Look at how he interacts with poor people. There’s a very similar principle at work here that Peter picked up from listening to Jesus for a couple years. It delves into what we do with people who need help.
Notice a couple things:
1. "Peter looked intently at him"
2. "Silver and gold have I none"
3. "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazereth, stand up"
It seems like while trying to chug this spiritual Milkshake we get caught up in the chunky pieces of number 3 and start to ask some really complicated and controversial questions about miracles and healing. Which we ultimately decide we don’t know the answer to, and so we move on. But in doing so, we miss some of the more melty digestible truth of Number 1 and the creamy sweetness of 2 which we could really learn from if we tried to.
Let’s focus on 1 to start with, What if this story ended right there? What if it only said:
And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them.
How much better is that, than what you and I do every day when we see a beggar? No miraculous healing, no exchange on money, Just the attention. How few of us are willing to offer even that much? Or do we avert our eyes and hope that if we just ignore them they will go away?
An acquaintance of mine wrote this article about that very thing. Let’s start there.
Or here’s a version with Jesus doing it:
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
What if that was all I did. "Oh hi, what did you want?" I can do that much!
I confess that I have not taken the time of day to interact with people who I know desperately need interaction. But who I suspect want something from me that I’m not willing or not able to give. I want to avoid akwardness more than I want to pursue Christ, and I want to change that about myself. Right here before God and the internet I choose to commit to being a good enough Samaritan to look, at the very least. To look intently at beggars in my life. Literal historical human beggars as well as metaphorical ones and say, if nothing else "No I won’t give you any money, sorry"
We’ll cover 2 in the next post