14:8 "And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. 9 This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said with a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” And he leaped and walked. 11 Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes."
In New York an experiment was done a few years ago that became popular on Youtube. They selected some individuals who worked in NY City and walked to and from work. They got some of their family members and friends, people they were very familiar with and dressed them as street people begging for spare change. They positioned them on the side walk on their commute between home and work. Of all the individuals they filmed not one person recognized their family members or friends even though they were vocally asking for help and their faces were not disguised. The reason is obvious. We do not see them. We know they are present but they become like a phone booth or fire hydrant; present but non-human.
I was reminded of that video this morning as I read of Paul's experience in Lystra. He passed a cripple. Just a random cripple, to Paul a total stranger. 999 times out of 1000 he would not even be noticed. Like a dumpster or a hot dog stand he is just part of the scenery but not worthy of notice.
Then along comes Paul. Luke ( the author of Acts) tells us Paul looked intently at him. Paul is apparently street preaching. There is no mention of a synagogue. The crippled man is sitting on the ground, there is a crowd gathered but their reaction to Paul and Barnabas tells us they are not Jewish. Paul is speaking and this crippled beggar is there and Paul doesn't just see him. The text says he fixed his gaze on him. Paul did what we rarely do. He treated an "invisible" man with dignity, as a fellow human being. He looked past his deformed non functioning feet and right into his eyes. In those eyes he saw a man who wanted this Jesus that Paul spoke of. He saw in his eyes what he rarely saw in the eyes of "healthy" people. He saw faith.
This man was physically broken living in a place that was spiritually broken. They were so lost they saw Paul and Barnabas as gods. Even the priest of Zeus knew no better. He was a blind man leading the blind. Who would expect to find faith in this place? Better yet, who would even stop here to look for faith. How many would have even locked eyes with that crippled man?
There is a theme that runs through the Bible. God says one of our worst traits is that we see but don't see. We hear but don't hear. All around us are miracles to see, amazing people to encounter, and profound things to hear, yet we miss them all or at least too much of it too often.
Paul looked intently into the eyes of a man who didn't count and saw a heart longing for his Creator. I want to be like Paul. I want those eyes and ears. I want to see and hear what truly matters and find treasure where most would never even look. Jesus came to seek and save the lost and I want to be like Him. For too long I thought the miracle was that he could walk after the encounter when that wasn't the real miracle at all. The real miracle was that a man nearly ruined by religion and blinded by prejudice could now see.