Health and Prosperity
By Rafael Figueroa
Peter and John Heal a Man Who Was Lame hovers over the lobby of the College of Health Sciences at Samford University. It is one of four biblical scenes of healing that D. Jeffrey Mims painted for Samford. The university prides itself on its Christian identity; these biblical murals display that well. This painting represents the hope, salvation, and heroism that Samford University prizes.
The painting tells the story found in the Acts 3: 1-10. In the painting, Peter and John, followers and apostles of Jesus of Nazareth, are standing in front of a man who cannot walk. Many onlookers are looking at the three men. Peter is reaching out his hand towards the lame man to help him stand. Meanwhile, John raises his right hand and points to the sky. This suggests that the apostles are using the power of Jesus and God in heaven to heal this man. According to Acts, Peter and John were on their way to the temple for morning prayer when they encountered a crippled beggar asking for money. Little information is given about this beggar other than the fact that he has been crippled all his life. Rather than ignoring the poor man like most people do beggars, Peter and John look intently at him. The lame man was expecting some donation since the two apostles looked so keenly at him. Instead of getting money, he is instead given the ability to walk by the power of God. Peter helped the lame man up. The lame man’s muscles became strong, and he stood up. The man who was no longer lame was shocked, but filled with joy. He started jumping up and down with the power of his legs and praised God.
There are several meanings behind this story. This man, who was born without the ability to walk, would have been considered useless. Since he could not walk, he could not work. He essentially could not make a living. This is probably the reason why he ended up becoming a beggar. Even though he could not work and have a self-sufficient life, he still hoped that through begging he would be able to earn some money. This theme of hope is present in both the painting and the story. The painting also depicts the themes of salvation and heroism. God’s salvation gave the lame man the ability to walk, through the heroic action of Peter and John, which quickly landed them on trial before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4). The overall theme behind this story and painting is that people should follow Jesus’ example to help others, no matter the risks.
Mims’ four scenes of healing are now suspended above the main lobby of the College of Health Sciences. When I first toured the campus in May 2020, my family and I visited the College of Health Sciences because that was the place where I would be studying for most of my time here in Samford. Once I entered the building, the first thing I saw was Peter and John Heal a Man Who Was Lame. This was due to the fact that the painting is the last in the sequence of the four murals and is in an angle facing the entrance.
The painting was originally located in the rotunda of Samford University’s Dwight and Lucille Beeson Center of Healing Arts from 1988 to October 2017. At the time, the Beeson Center was the home of the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. These paintings exhibit North Carolina painter D. Jeffrey Mims’s debt to the Renaissance. Mims modeled his style of Renaissance and classical realism after artists like Raphael and Michelangelo. If one were to compare Mims’ work to these Renaissance painters’ works the resemblance is evident. Nicolas Poussin’s The Healing of The Lame Man is clearly a model for Mims’ painting. The three main characters Peter, John, and the lame man, have very similar poses. The Renaissance style gives off a very glorious feeling. It celebrates what God can do through humans.
In 2014, Samford University purchased the buildings that were built as the headquarters of Southern Progress Corporation. The Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing which was formerly housed in the rotunda building relocated into the former Southern Progress buildings along with the other schools that formed the new College of Health Sciences. The murals, and the angel statue that was in front of the rotunda building, moved with the nursing school. It was very important to display these paintings in the College of Health Sciences because of their message.
This image, along with its sister murals, has many uses for both the College of Health Sciences and Samford University. Since Samford University is a Christian school, these paintings of biblical stories fit very well into the overarching values that Samford hopes to instill in its students. Samford University’s motto “For God, For Learning, Forever” connects with the paintings. These murals promote biblical research because they leave the audience in a sense of awe and inspiration to look these stories up in the Bible. These images are truly a spectacle to look at. As stated before, Mims perfectly depicted the scenes from words to very life-like images. “Peter and John Heal a Man Who Was Lame” is very memorable to me because of its artistic style and message.
The most important message to take away from this painting is its real meaning behind its location. All four of these murals depict a form of healing. The first in the sequence of murals depicts Moses drawing water from a rock for people that are thirsty. Next, Jesus is healing a man’s blindness. After that, Jesus is reviving a dead man. In the painting discussed here, Peter and John heal this man who was unable to walk. Its current home, the College of Health Sciences, strives to this level of healing. The College of Health Sciences believes in the message of healing others like the people in the paintings. This is the true interpretation of why these paintings are located in the College of Health Sciences and not anywhere else.
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Peter and John Heal a Man Born Lame
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Artist: D. Jeffery Mims
Installed in Current Location: 2017
Location: Lobby of Building 1, College of Health Sciences, Samford University, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Birmingham, Alabama, 35229
Rafael Figueroa ‘22 was a student in the first-year seminar on Religious Images in Birmingham (UCCA 102) in Samford University Department of Biblical and Religious Studies in Fall 2020.
Published November 22, 2020.