June 26, 2011

Beggar at the Beautiful Gate

First, a personal prayer of thanksgiving to God who triumphs over wind and fire, and thanks to firefighters putting themselves in danger to protect life and property at all the wildfires burning across the Southwest US, esp. outside Sierra Vista, AZ.

An interview was recently discovered and translated, dating from not long after the first Pentecost. Below is the transcript. (Acts 3)

Ezra: This is Ezra bar Amos reporting from the Temple in Jerusalem. I have with me Benoni bar Jonah. Tell me what happened, Benoni.

Ben: It was the hour of Mincha. Each day someone in my family brings me to the Beautiful Gate.

Ezra: Why does your family bring you here?

Ben: It started when I was a child. My mother would come to pray in the Court of Women for healing of my lameness. She left me at the entrance so I would not defile the Temple with my infirmity.

Ezra: So you are lame? You look perfectly healthy to me.

Ben: I was born with a deformed leg and foot. Until this afternoon I have never walked.

Ezra: Pardon me for being skeptical, but you were just leaping around inside and dancing.

Ben: Let me tell you what happened.

Ezra: You have been begging at the Beautiful Gate for years, then?

Ben: Yes, since I was a child. Today was different though. I was in my usual place. Most people don’t even look at me. Some toss a coin my way as a mitzvah before entering the Temple.

Ezra: Mitzvah is a good deed.

Ben: Yes. I saw a pair of men approaching. They were obviously not from Jerusalem.

Ezra: How do you know?

Ben: When you sit where I have for over 40 years, you know the local worshippers and you recognize the foreigners.

Ezra: Where were these men from?

Ben: I would say Galilee. Anyway, I held up my hand. “Perform a mitzvah, give alms for the lame beggar.”

Ezra: Quite a wheedling voice you have.

Ben: Yes, well, I won’t need it again.

Ezra: Then what happened.

Ben: The men stopped and looked at me. The older man said “Look at us.” I sat up straighter, expecting a coin…

Ezra: Well?

Ben: “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth stand up and walk.”

Ezra: What?

Ben: That is what the big man said. Then he took my arm and pulled me to my feet. It felt like fire was running down my legs. When he released my arm, I thought I would fall. But I didn’t! I stood by myself! For the first time in my life!

Ezra: Pretty amazing.

Ben: Yes! I was so excited that I raced through the Court of Women into the Temple! Everyone heard me shouting. “Praise God! I am whole! I am healed!” I don’t really know what I said. It was exhilerating to walk and run on my own legs.

Ezra: What happened to the men?

Ben: I raced back to hug and thank them. People started running toward us. The men turned and walked toward Solomon’s Portico. I stayed beside them.

Ezra: Why did they go to Solomon’s Portico? I thought they were going to worship.

Ben: Maybe they were trying, like me, to get away from the crowd. Men were arguing. Some said, “It’s the beggar who always sits at the Beautiful Gate.” Others laughed at them. “It cannot be him. This man is not a cripple.”

Ezra: But the crowd stayed with you.

Ben: Yes. That’s when the older man, Peter is his name, turned to face them and started speaking. Gradually the crowd quieted down as he talked.

Ezra: What did he say?

Ben: I will never forget it. He started out with my own unspoken question. “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”

Ezra: So it wasn’t these men who healed you?

Ben: No. Peter gave credit to the Living God. “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has glorified his servant Jesus. You rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.”

Ezra: Raised from the dead?

Ben: Even I have heard the rumors that the rabbi Jesus was seen by many in the city after he was crucified and buried. Peter went on to say, “To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”

Ezra: Did you believe in this Jesus?

Ben: I do now.

Ezra: Did Peter say anything else?

Ben: Yes. He challenged the crowd to repent and quoted Moses who promised, “The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out from the people.”

Ezra: That’s pretty harsh.

Ben: Peter said Jesus is the fulfillment of what Abraham meant when he said “In your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Peter challenged the crowd saying, “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Ezra: Where are these men now?

Ben: They were arrested by the Captain of the Temple guard because the Sadducees ordered it.

Ezra: How does that make you feel?

Ben: I am sorry. I wanted to hear more from them. So did many of those in the crowd. I plan to seek out those who speak about Jesus and learn more.

Ezra: Thank you for your time. This is Ezra bar Amos reporting from Solomon’s Portico at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Benoni and 5000 others became followers of Jesus that day. Peter was moved by the Holy Spirit to heal the beggar and lives were changed. Peter did not take credit for the miracle, but pointed directly to Jesus and God. That is what we, too, should do.

Have you ever felt moved to do something in the name of God, but held back because you were afraid or embarrassed about what others might think? Lives are changed when we allow God to work through us.

Next weekend is the 4th of July when we look at how the Spirit moved in the establishment of our nation.

On July 10 we’ll see what happens when Peter testifies before the Sanhedrin, as we continue our look at this great story of the actions of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women of the early church and gain inspiration from them.

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