What to Do When You Don’t Have What People Want

Peter and John were going up to the temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the established prayer time. Meanwhile, a man crippled since birth was being carried in. Every day, people would place him at the temple gate known as the Beautiful Gate so he could ask for money from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he began to ask them for a gift. Peter and John stared at him. Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gazed at them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise up and walk!” Then he grasped the man’s right hand and raised him up. At once his feet and ankles became strong. Jumping up, he began to walk around. He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God. (Acts 3:1-9 CEB)

I love this story! I love it because this is evidence of Peter doing the exact kind of thing Jesus did: healing a man so that he could walk. This is the perfect next step in the unfolding story of Acts. In Acts 1, Jesus says to the disciples, “You’re going to be my witnesses and you’re going to receive power when the Holy Spirit shows up.” In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit shows up. And here in Acts 3, we see that Jesus wasn’t making it up. The Holy Spirit has come and the first thing we see Peter doing is healing a man exactly as Jesus would have done.

Peter was so bold to attempt this, and to be willing to say to this man, “Listen, I don’t have what you’re asking for, but here’s what I do have.” This is a hard concept for us to grasp. If all of our resources were stripped away, if all of our money, possessions, connections, etc. were taken away from us, what could we offer people? Most of us assume that if we don’t have any stuff, we don’t have anything to offer. The less stuff we have, the less we can do, right? Not so! Peter doesn’t have any money, but he offers the man what he has, the name and power of Jesus.

There’s a famous painting of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, sending Thomas Coke and others to America. The story goes that the words Wesley spoke to them to send them off were simply this: “Offer them Christ.” It was that simple. Offer them Christ, because regardless of what they think they want and regardless of what they’re asking for, Christ is what they need. This doesn’t mean ignoring physical needs and only focusing on “spiritual needs,” it’s actually quite the opposite. In this case, Peter and John met this man’s physical needs by offering him Christ. It is only Christ who knows our deepest needs and only Christ who can fulfill them.

God, when I don’t feel like I have anything to offer, give me the boldness of Peter to offer what I do have, the love of Christ.

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