One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2 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. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.
In his remarkable book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” Philip Yancey references a sociological theory that gives us a unique perspective on this passage. He says,
Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self. You become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are.
There is a moment in this text where the lame man sets his focus on Peter and John in a powerful way, and not just out of mystic motivation, but because Peter looks at him and tells him, “look at us” (v. 4). How often had this man been addressed with more than a couple of coins at best, or at worst complete avoidance? Who in his adult life had taken the time to actually stop and have a conversation with him? It is possible that Peter may have been the first person to ever look at this man and ask him to focus on them.
It is enough today for us to remember that there are people in world, people we pass continually in our daily lives, who have been overlooked and undervalued. And part of our role as ambassadors for Christ isn’t just to see them, but to teach them to see again. To show them that everyone isn’t just a potential donation source. People who have been focused on simply surviving need to be taught to see with hopeful eyes again.
What if we apply Yancey’s statement to this text? How does that change our view of what’s going on?
Peter commands this man to look at the apostles.
Fix your gaze on us.
Look at Peter. A grimy fisherman. A loudmouth with a penchant for throwing out curses. A rough-around-the-edges, blue collar guy that had failed Jesus at the worst possible moment.
Look at John. Too young. Inexperienced. Running naked into the fog on the night of Jesus’ arrest. Sure he loved Jesus, but he left the Lord in the moment of crucible with all the rest.
Now, to the lame man begging for provision, crying out for mercy, looking for a way to make it through the day with all of his handicaps and challenges – look at these two worst-to-first stories, look at their lives and let your view change your mind.
These two disciples had been covered by the grace of God, shaped by the patience of Jesus and empowered by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Who better to look at to see what was possible? Who better to lock eyes with in the midnight hour of your life? If there was anyone better to actually look at it would only be the One who’d transformed them, but He had sent these two into the world as His own ambassadors.
The quote from Yancey finishes this way:
How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?
So today I ask the question: what, or better yet who, are you looking at?
If who you’re looking at has a great deal to do with who you are becoming then one of the most important questions of the day for all of us is who are we setting our eyes on? And what do they think is possible in us?
Mentors and leaders, inspirations and motivators. Are we looking at people whose lives and views give us hope for our own story? Or are we constantly looking at those who would bring us down either by example or limiting language?
Peter and John knew that Jesus had changed them, and so it was no great stretch for them to believe that same power could change this man. So when Peter tells him, “look at us,” he’s saying clearly, “look at what’s possible, look at what God can do, and now let your faith be strengthened because He wants to do the same thing for you!”
And I am here to tell you that God wants to do the same thing for you today that He did for Peter and John, that He did for this lame man in Acts 3, and for me a couple of decades ago.