At the Gate Beautiful: A Parable of Purpose

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6

Reflecting upon the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful, one can infer a parable that illustrates the purpose and function of the Christian Church.

Here was a man lame from birth, carried daily to the temple so he could ask for alms. His paralysis is a metaphor of the biblical view of the condition of mankind: we are born in sin, lost, and crippled in our ability to conquer the devil, temptation, and sin solely by our own strength.

The world is unable to address the problem of sin. All it can do is to give “alms”. We can turn to entertainment, art, literature, music, philosophy, and science, but these only give temporary relief, a momentary escape from our problems.

Just as the lame man was expecting “alms” from Peter and John, mankind often expects the wrong things from the Church, stemming from erroneous notions about its message and function.  People expect moral advice, philosophical teaching, or perhaps psychological treatment. At times, they expect the Church to give political pronouncements on what needs to be done in terms of social issues.

But Peter declares the primary and essential purpose of the Church in a resounding and memorable phrase:  “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

Silver and gold have I none. The business of the Church is not to “give alms”, but to deal with the real problem of man, to be here for one thing: man’s soul. Here is the call, the commission for which the Church is sent: not to be a cultural, psychological, political or social entity, but that which is concerned about the very center of man’s life and his problem:  the dilemma of the paralysis in his soul, that which incapacitates him and sends him astray — his estrangement from God, his ignorance of God.

In response to the man’s need, Peter deliberately points to Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, who is the Christ, the Messiah in the flesh: the One who has the power to heal man’s disabled soul, to give him a new life, to reconcile him to God.

What the lame man received through Peter surpassed all his expectations.  He expected alms, but instead the bones of his once lifeless feet and ankles received strength. He became a man now able to live a fully functional life.

What a person receives from Christ is not temporary relief, but a cure. The Lord cures our guilt from past sins because He gives us absolute forgiveness through His shed blood on the cross.  He gives us an abundant life through the new birth. A fresh beginning.

As we walk with Christ and discover the power and unspeakable joy that He offers us in this new life, surely we cannot help but go through our days on earth leaping and praising God!


*** Reference:  Martyn Lloyd-Jones Sermon: Healing of the Lame Man at the Gate Beautiful

*** Painting: by Nicolas Poussin, 1655  (French, 1594-1665),

Men As Trees, Walking

23And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought.  24And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
Mark 8:23-25 King James Version

The healing of the blind man at Bethsaida illustrates a miracle of Jesus that was not instantaneous, but unfolded as a two-stage process.  There is a marked difference in the healing of another blind man Bartimaeus of Jericho just two chapters away in Mark 10, who immediately received his sight.

Why the variation in the healing method? It was not because of the lack of  Jesus Christ’s powers that the healing was not immediate. It could be surmised that in the first instance, the blind man did not personally ask Jesus to heal him – other men at Bethsaida brought him to Jesus, requesting for the blind man’s healing; however, this may not be the reason for the two-step healing process because in another miracle, a paralytic whose friends brought him to Jesus was healed instantly. One can only infer that the Lord had a message to illustrate — that this particular miracle was a parable in itself.

What is significant here is that Jesus led the blind man out of the town, and it was outside Bethsaida that Jesus initiated the healing process.  It was a personal, one-on-one encounter with the Son of Man.

After Jesus first put His hand on the blind man’s eyes, Jesus asked him what he saw.  The blind man answered,  “I see men as trees walking”.  It required a second touch from Jesus for the blind man to be fully restored to see every man clearly.

The metaphor that is often described here is that of getting to know God and having one’s spiritual “blindness” healed — to be able to discern the truths of God’s Kingdom more clearly.  A lot of expositions on this subject refer to the first step of this healing process as a “lack of clarity” in the perception of spiritual truths. This is the stage when, after an encounter  with “The Way, The Truth and The Life”, the darkness dissipates; however, one’s comprehension of the Truth is still very much blurred and indistinct, leading to uncertainty and double-mindedness.

The saving grace of the blind man at Bethsaida was his honesty.  He could have told Jesus that he was fine, and went on his way, half-cured.  Not only his honesty, but his desire to see more precisely was what made him whole.

It is thought-provoking that the first object of vision after the first touch of Jesus was that of men.  “What do you see?” That was what Jesus asked the man.  The man from Bethsaida could have mentioned other objects that he saw: the pebbles on the road, the animals, plants,  flowers, even his own hands and feet; however, he straightaway focused on other people.  When he was unable to see, how he must have longed to see other people’s faces, their expression as they talked, laughed, or cried.  After the first touch of Jesus, he listened for sounds where the people were, and set his eyes upon them.   But how did he know what trees looked like?  How did he make the resemblance? Perhaps by touching trees, or through other people describing trees to him.  But he was confused. Trees were supposed to be stationary while men were mobile; his blurry vision identified men with trees.

Trees are tall, rigid and upright.  The man must have been kneeling before Jesus because it is described that he “looked up” after the first touch.  It was a daunting sight for the man: other men, like trees, loomed large (appeared imminent in a threatening, magnified form ..  But that did not look quite right to him. He was not satisfied with the fuzzy images, the blurriness and the shadows that he saw. He wanted to see men as they really were.

After the man’s response, “Jesus put His hands again upon the man’s eyes and made him look up, and he was restored, and saw every man clearly”.

What do you see? As Jesus asks, “Do you see as you ought to see?”  Do you see clearly, do you know where you stand in your relationship to God and man, or is there uncertainty, vagueness, or double-mindedness?  Are you on fire for the things of God, or are you  neither hot nor cold?  If your vision is blurry,would you be honest to admit this?  If so, then draw near to Jesus and have Him touch you again so you can be at the place where God wants you to be — not in a state of confusion, brokenness and uncertainty, but rather healed, made whole, and “seeing each man clearly”.

*** Photography by James Insogna — Registered & Protected