Bible Study with Jairus – Acts 4
Acts 4 tells the story of Peter healing a lame man. For 40 years, the man had been begging for food at the temple gates with no hope of healing in sight. However, the lame man’s faith and perseverance finally cured him. When Peter met him, he was healed instantly.
We can learn an important lesson from the lame man. In the process of seeking God, we should not be disappointed and depressed when healing takes a long time. We should not be deterred by the spirit of religion. Instead, we should be bold enough to pay the price and pursue all the promises of God by faith.
Why did it take 40 years for the lame man to receive healing?
While reading Acts 4, the Holy Spirit led me to dive deeper into the story of the lame man who was healed by Peter at the Beautiful Gate. Although the healing of the lame man has already been mentioned in Acts 3, this chapter records the impact of this incident. As a result of the healing, the priests, court officials, and Sadducees came to arrest Peter. They interrogated him, asking him by what ability and in whose name he was doing these miracles. Of course Peter told them it was in the name of Jesus that he could perform such miracles.
The chief priests would not even believe Jesus while he performed miracles on earth, and they were even less willing to pay attention to rowdy Peter. The chief priests tried to frighten Peter and the other disciples, telling them they were not allowed to preach in the name of Jesus anymore. However, Peter and the others didn’t listen.
Acts 4:22 says, “The man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.” A brother in our Bible study wondered if there was any special meaning to the man’s age. This question leads to the theme of our study today. We will look at this story from the perspective of the lame man who was healed.
The man had lived 40 years without cure. It took more than 40 years for him to be healed. This fact reminds me of other occurrences of the number 40 in the Bible. It is interesting that 40 often correlates with times of difficulty and trial. The Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness, and Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness. Both were times of trial. What about this lame man who had not been healed for 40 years? Was he also undergoing a type of trial?
Begging was not easy in Israel. Many beggars were people with disabilities, such as the two blind men in the book of Matthew. These beggars were begging for food when they heard that Jesus was coming. They immediately threw off their clothes and ran towards Jesus, shouting, “Son of David, save us.” They wanted to recover their sight. Some preachers believe that the clothes they left behind were not ordinary clothes, but clothes approved and distributed by the chief priests, elders, scribes and other leadership systems of Israel. The cloak confirmed that you were blind, giving you permission to beg. When the Israelites saw this cloak, they would give money to the poor and blind, as their legal code prescribed. Over time, the cloak had become a symbol. It was the approval they needed within the system in order to beg for food and receive relief from others. It gave them a certain degree of protection.
When the blind men threw off their cloaks, they were abandoning their former status and identity as blind people. Ignoring the criticism and hindrance of the disciples, they ran towards Jesus for healing. This is the modern-day equivalent of abandoning social security or disability insurance.
There was a price to pay for pursuing Jesus by faith. The chief priests, elders and scribes did not approve of those who believed in Jesus. The formerly blind man in the book of John was cast out of the synagogue for his faith in Jesus. The synagogue and the temple community were of great importance to the Jewish people, so this rejection cost him his relationship with family and community. The price of trusting Christ was high, but Bartimaeus and the other blind man ignored this. They abandoned the shackles and benefits of the system and trusted in Jesus alone. Naturally, they also received a generous reward.
I want to briefly mention the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the flow of blood. The woman with an issue of blood kept telling herself, “I can be healed by just touching Jesus’ clothes.” According to the law, this woman was unclean. If she went into crowds and contaminated others, she could be stoned. But she did not care. She risked her life to see Jesus, and in the end, Jesus praised her great faith.
Everyone who is healed in the Bible is outstanding in some way. Whether they had outstanding faith or persistence, they all are all amazing examples to us. God’s mercy and sovereignty extended to these ordinary people and made them great. We can extrapolate that the man at the Beautiful Gate was also an extraordinary person.
The Beautiful Gate was at the entrance of the temple. In Eastern cultures, a gate is a place of great importance. When I was in China, I witnessed two fruit vendors fighting over the premier spot at the gate. In China, if you set up a stall in a market or at the gate of a school to sell things, you will not be able to occupy the best spot unless you have special skills. Even if you are able to occupy the best spot, more clever and ruthless people will eventually drive you away.
With that in mind, let’s imagine that it was a big accomplishment for this man to beg at the Beautiful Gate. We don’t know how many years he’d been begging there. It is likely that he had been begging there for quite a long time. It was not easy. We don’t know if he had friends in the system, a relationship with the high priest or his relatives, so that no one would drive him away. If he was someone in the system or someone who had benefited from the system, then there was a relational price to pay for accepting Peter’s services. This man was far from ordinary because he was willing to pay the price.
The lame man must have been grateful he got to beg at such a premier spot. Maybe other blind men envied him, saying how fortunate he was to be able to beg at the Beautiful Gate. There, he was sheltered from wind and rain. The people who entered the temple to make sacrifices were not short on money. He had many advantages over those who begged out in the streets. However, this man was not satisfied and continued to seek more. His yearning for more shows that he was not an ordinary person.
Jesus must have been in and out of this same temple many times during his lifetime. Did Jesus encounter this same lame man while he was living on earth? If so, he did not heal him. Did this man feel disappointed and avoid coming here to continue begging? We know that inside his heart, he was longing to be healed. Although he didn’t even recognize it externally, we know that the man was seeking for healing by faith.
Why can we be so confident about his faith? We know that when Paul healed someone, the Bible specifically mentions that Paul saw that the person had faith to be healed. Before he released the healing, Paul evaluated the person’s faith. In other words, many in the Bible were healed because of their faith. They may not have known it, but the apostles saw their faith. We can imagine that this lame man was yearning for healing. Even after so many years, he persisted in begging at the Gate of Beautiful in hopes that one day, he would get healed. Even if he might have missed the healing from Jesus, he did not give up. His persistency shows that he was extraordinary.
God blesses the humble
If Jesus saw the lame man, why didn’t he heal him? We have no way to prove that Jesus really saw him or not, but if he did, we can draw on a general principle to formulate an answer to this question. When Jesus healed a blind man, he did it to display God’s miraculous deeds. In the same way, the disabled man in Acts must have been uniquely destined to display God’s awesome deeds through the apostles.
Peter was a fisherman from Galilee, and many people did not trust him. However, God wanted to perform signs and wonders through the apostles in order to show God’s power. Most people did not respect this rowdy Peter, but this lame man had no prejudice against him. In his spirit, he sensed that Peter could help him. His humility and discernment enabled him to hope that Peter could help him. This shows the extraordinary humility of the lame man.
In the church today, many people look down on a humble person being used by God. Because of pride, we cannot accept the help of someone who seems inferior to us. How many blessings have we missed because of our pride? As mentioned earlier, this lame man may have been from a noble or upper class, since he could get a spot to beg at a place like the Beautiful Gate. Even if he was from a rich family, he was willing to seek help from a poor fisherman like Peter. His humility shows that he was not an ordinary person. Many high priests, scribes, and palace guards were too prideful to accept Peter’s or Jesus’s help. They scoffed, “What good could come out of Galilee?”
God often speaks through the humble person. God often speaks to us through people we look down on. If we have a proud spirit, we will miss God’s blessings because we will not hear what the Lord is saying to us.
The story behind the healing testimony
We usually read the Bible from a broad, traditional perspective. When we read this chapter, we see overarching themes such as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power through Peter. However, there are subtler things that might be easy to miss. For example, just think about the rescue and redemption that this healing brought to the man and his family, who had suffered so much humiliation!
In my own life, our healing and miracle baby had a great impact on our unsaved family. My mother, who worshipped bodhisattva for many years, has noticed a difference in me since this miraculous baby was born. Before our baby’s birth, she said that my smile looked forced on photographs. Even though I was smiling, she could see the bitter sadness on my face. However, the photos now show an inner happiness which can’t be concealed. My mother also agreed not to worship bodhisattva. “The God you believe in can perform miracles and wonders,” she exclaimed. Because of this miracle, she believed in the Lord and got baptized.
Another Christian brother shared his mother had been paralyzed and bedridden for five years. While listening to the preaching of the gospel, she stood up by faith. What an impact this event had on this young man, who was in middle school at the time. He was shocked! The power of the gospel is so great. This brother’s mother later came to America to visit her son, and I saw her with my own eyes.
I don’t deny that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s healing authority and power from God had an important impact on the healing of this lame man. However, the role of the individual cannot be ignored. For Peter, this was just an ordinary ministry day. But for those who were healed, it was a life-altering moment of salvation.
In my experience of seeking divine healing, I have encountered opposition and differences of opinion. Some people think that God no longer heals today. I told them we would rather believe but be disappointed than give up seeking. In the end, we chose to continue to seek God and finally received His healing touch. When I talk about this experience, I often say that if a person is not healed, he experiences 0% of God’s healing, and if he is healed, he is experiencing 100% of God’s healing. There is no in-between. In other words, you either got it or you didn’t get it.
God shows no partiality to man
In conclusion, God is not partial to people. He has set a specific time and place to heal you. There are signs, wonders and blessings waiting for you. However, God hopes that through the process of waiting, you grow in humility and confidence, growing in your experiential knowledge of his love.
However, many people gave up halfway and don’t hold on till the end. Brothers and sisters, it’s not that God is unwilling to bless you, or that God is partial. It is because you did not continue on the road of blessing that God has set for you. We encourage those brothers and sisters who are still suffering to believe in God’s love. Continue to seek the miracles that you hope for with faith. You will surely receive them!
Why didn’t the church continue to hold all things in common?
The last paragraph of Acts 4 tells us that the disciples had everything in common. The text mentions that Barnabas sold a field that belonged to him, brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (36-37). Why was Barnabas specifically mentioned here? I believe his action was part of the reason God chose him as an apostle. When Barnabas sold his field and placed it at the feet of the apostle, his action proved that he was true to God, and God was pleased. Later the Holy Spirit chose him to be an apostle, alongside Paul.
However, Ananias’ story turned out very differently. Ananias sold his property and only donated half of the proceeds. Because he claimed he had donated all of his earnings, he was killed by God. Perhaps this was a special time when God was choosing the apostles. Such a deliberate deception to God was severely punished by Him. We know that in the church today, many Christians don’t even tithe in the first place. They give far less than Ananias did. Yet God does not punish them as severely as he did Ananias. Perhaps Ananias longed for the status of an apostle and knew that God was in the process of choosing his servants. Because of Ananias’ lack of total consecration, he was severely punished by God. Such punishment may reflect God’s high standard for his chosen servants. It is not necessarily a general principle for the church.
Ananias could have become an apostle just like Barnabas. Although he yearned to do good works, he was not humble like Barnabas. Although he wanted to be an apostle, he refused to pay a similar price. As a result, he received a severe judgment instead of special status. This is a wake-up call for those of us who serve God today.
Have you ever wondered why we no longer share all things and hold all things in common? As was the case with Ananias’ death, this may also be a special case. After the church formed on the day of Pentecost, God intended the gospel to be spread forth from Jerusalem. Therefore, it was especially important for an apostle to be able to give himself entirely to the ministry. The apostles’ complete consecration was crucial so that the gospel could spread forth from Jerusalem for the very first time. Just like the first shell fired by a cannon needs to have adequate gunpowder, God needed the apostles to be completely consecrated so that the gospel could spread for the very first time.
Although the practice of holding all things in common has not been a continual practice of the church over the centuries, there are specific examples of this happening during times of great spiritual revival. George Mueller, the father of faith giving, established an orphanage by faith, which moved many people to donate money. One day, a poor old lady donated her life savings to him. She said, “I’ve saved all my life, hoping to buy a coat that I love. I’m going to save enough money soon. However God moved me to donate this money today.” Mueller replied, “Your money is too precious, you think about it again.” However, this old lady insisted on donating the money.
In the Plymouth Brethren movement led by John Nelson Darby, many members of the brotherhood were well-off. Following the example of John Nelson Darby, they donated their property and were willing to serve God in poverty. Darby himself came from a noble and rich family, but for the sake of the gospel and the holiness of the church, he was willing to give up his wealth. I don’t mean that that every servant of God must become poor. But since many of the clergy of the Anglican Church at that time were unsaved and were greedy for the world, Darby offered himself as a shining example of poverty and holiness.
The Holy Spirit moves in different ways at different times, but he always calls us to holiness, purity, and joy in Him.