Peter encounters a beggar outside the temple who's been lame since birth, and heals him This is, I believe, the first time a healing has been done by an apostle rather than Jesus himself.
It's hard for me to read stuff like this without thinking of my brother-in-law. I met him when my sister first started seeing him in 1989, and he became like an adopted big brother to me, very loving and supportive. But he was always in pain. In the mid-70s he was in a building that collapsed from structural defects, and though surgery pulled him out of the initial paralysis, he remained fragile and plagued by problems. A few years after I got to know him he fell -- the sort of ordinary fall that most people would recover from -- went through another round of surgeries, and wound up in a wheelchair. And the pain gotten worse. I can see it in his eyes, in the way his smile is always a little cramped.
In the last year or so he's worked hard to strengthen himself, and he's noticeably improved. Last summer when I visited them, he proudly showed me that he could stand (a bit shakily) for ten seconds or so, which he had not been able to do in years.
Watching this long struggle is why, to be perfectly honest, stories like Acts 3 seem almost pornographic to me. Peter says, "Stand up and walk," and the man's "feet and ankles were made strong," and he literally jumps to his feet. I know many people draw from this the hopeful message that God can perform such miracles, and part of me wants to draw that also. Yet it's manifestly true that except maybe for a few instances like that, when he has a specific Gospel-spreading purpose, God does not do such things.
Coincidentally, yesterday my sister emailed me a link to this page. She's normally not interested in religion, so I was a little surprised. I don't agree with everything the author says, but I resonated with this:
The value of meditation and prayer are well established. The Church provides a place to focus one's attention upon both public and private concerns. Corporate and private prayer each have genuine value. Yet to corrupt this vital function with an appeal for a supernatural Lone Ranger to ride to our rescue is to weaken our spiritual strength and the capacity of the Church to contribute to our individual and corporate need in times of stress. We cannot be con men exploiting the legitimate needs of our parishioners with "worn out magic." We must heal the sick, not add to their sickness. When my wife was dying from a malignant brain tumor where the mortality rate was 100% regardless of treatment, it was almost more than I could bear to tolerate the comfort of the well meaning pious who urged me to "pray for a miracle." What kind of god would participate in such cruelty? Let the child in the next room die, but save my wife? We have to do better than that.
It is better, in a way, to think that God isn't in the miracle-cure business at all than to think he does it with such caprice. Telford has told me before that the miracles in the New Testament aren't supposed to be magic tricks to impress the gullible -- there signs of what will be, in the kingdom of God. Maybe he's right, but still it's hard to read of a crippled man jumping around, while the rest of us have to wait until the end of the world.