3:16 Acts

July 3, 2016

Acts 3:16
It was a day, just a day like any other day.   His brothers had gotten him out of bed and
gotten him dressed.  And on their way to
work they carried him to his usual spot at the temple gate.  It was just a day, the sky wasn’t any bluer,
the birds didn’t sing any louder, the sun didn’t shine any brighter, it was
just a day.  Just a day, like any other
day.  And yet before it was finished it
would be unlike any other day in his life. 
It was just a day. 
And as he lay with his shrivelled twisted legs extended in front of him
he thought of all the days he had laid in front of the temple gate and how
those days stretched out like an endless horizon before him.   
It was just a day. 
And he looked down at the useless limbs stretched out on the blanket in
front of him.  They were his, but they
weren’t even a part of him, he had never felt them, never moved them.  Never ran as a  boy, never walked as a man. And today was
just a day, no better and no worse than all the other days that had made up the
life of this poor crippled beggar.  But
without his knowledge and without his consent today would become the day he
would never forget.  And today would take
him from  being a beggar destined for an
obscure life and obscure death, and would propel him into  immortality. 
Who was he?  We don’t know.  The scriptures reveal nothing about his life
up to this day, and nothing about his life after this day. 
But today, this day, this ordinary day would  be written about by a doctor and read about
by millions upon millions of people all over 
the world.    The man and the day
are written about in Acts chapter 3:16 .
This is week two of our 3:16 series, last week we
started with the 3:16 that people are most familiar with, John 3:16 and for the
next ten weeks we are going to be bouncing around the Old and New Testament
looking at various 3:16s throughout the Bible. 
In this case it involves the first healing attributed to the early
church.  Peter and John have gone to the
temple for prayer and outside of the gates they meet and heal a man who we are
told was lame from birth. 
Well, the healing attracted a crowd and Peter sees a
great opportunity to preach and the sermon has the same theme as the one he
preached on the day of Pentecost.  God
sent his Son, You killed him, say you’re sorry.   And for proof he offers up these words: Acts
3:16
 “Through faith in the name of Jesus,
this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’
name has healed him before your very eyes.”
The people who Acts 3:16 was originally addressed to
witnessed what happened that day, and that’s where we are going this morning. 
What a day.  A
day that would never be forgotten.  The
story starts with these words;  Acts
3:1-2
 Peter and John went to the Temple one
afternoon to take part in the three o’clock prayer service.  As they
approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in.
The first thing we discover is that  1) -This
Man Had a Problem.
Here was a man with a problem, he was a cripple.  This wasn’t a subject open to
discussion.  It wasn’t debatable, it
wasn’t abstract or iffy, instead it was definite.   A man lame from
birth. 
It wasn’t his fault that he was lame. Sometimes our
misfortunes have only one person to blame and that is us.  We smoke and die of lung cancer, hey don’t
stand there shaking your fist at God demanding “how could you do this to
me.” you’re paddling your own canoe. 
You abuse alcohol and get cirrhosis of the liver or drive your family
away, your fault. Commit adultery and your spouse leaves you, don’t blame
everyone else ok. 
But sometimes it isn’t.  I have a good friend how never had a drink
and has been fighting for his life since his liver betrayed him.  I’ve met folks who were good spouses, maybe
not perfect spouses but good spouses and they were betrayed by their
partners.  And as far as we know it
wasn’t this man’s fault that he was a cripple. 
And as far as we know it wasn’t the fault of anyone
else either.  Sometimes there are others
who are responsible for our problems.  
We know for instance that children who are born to people who smoke or
drink, or take drugs during their pregnancy are more apt to have problems then
other babies.  Sometimes physical abuse
will occur, or an accident will happen for which someone else is to blame.
All we know is that this was a man who wasn’t
physically whole.  He wasn’t everything
that physical man is supposed to be, he was a cripple he couldn’t walk.  In today’s climate where everything has to be
said in the politically correct way we would say that he was “physically
disadvantaged”  or “physically
challenged”.  I have a friend who is
bald and he says that he is “folliclely challenged” does that mean
that someone who is short is “vertically challenged”. 
Now here is a shock: 
We all have problems.   And
sometimes there are those in our lives who try to minimize what we are going
through,  we are told to build a bridge
and get over it. 
Robert
Fulghum who wrote “All I Really
Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”  minimizes
our problems with these words,    “If you break your neck, if you have nothing
to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is
inconvenience.” 
Others would remind us that
problems are simply learning opportunities, Self-help, success guru Anthony Robbins writes “Every
problem is a gift – without problems we would not grow.”  And we are told by Lee Iacocca “We are continually faced by great opportunities
brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”
But when your problem is staring you in the face it
doesn’t seem like an inconvenience, an opportunity or a gift, sometimes it
seems insurmountable.
It might not be a physical problem, or maybe it is.    Or maybe it is an emotional problem, or
maybe it is a relational problem, you are estranged from somebody you love. Or
maybe it is a financial problem and there is more month then there is
paycheque. 
But we all have problems, and just because they aren’t
displayed outside the temple gate doesn’t make them any less real.  And in most cases our problems are as
individual as we are.   But there is a
problem that we all share. 
We are all born with a spiritual problem, and that is
we are born with a streak of rebellion that leads us far from God.  That is why Paul tells us in Romans 3:23  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious
standard. 
None of us are
born worthy to enter into the presence of God. 
We are born with a bent toward sin, with a streak of rebellion.  We try to achieve goodness, but we can’t
quite reach it on our own. Every culture has a set  of mores to be followed.  Every group of men on this planet have sought
to justify themselves and have devised some means to appease their God or Gods
and yet the prophet says in Isaiah
64:6
 We are all infected and impure with
sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the
wind.  That’s a
problem.
In themselves our righteous acts are really neat, they
are wonderful, beautiful, marvellous things. 
And if we compare them to the works of others they may very well look
like the very finest of linens.  And yet
when we hold them up to the righteousness of God, then they are just dirty
pieces of cloth.  They can’t stand the
comparison.  And that’s not just your
righteousness, it’s Billy Graham’s, and Mother Theresa’s and John             Wesley’s and every other person who
ever lived.  We aren’t spiritually whole;
we are spiritual cripples.  Or to be
politically correct we are “sin disadvantaged” or “righteously
challenged.”
Acts 3:1-2  Peter
and John went to the Temple one afternoon to take part in the three o’clock
prayer service.  As they approached the
Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside
the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the
people going into the Temple.
2) He
Thought He knew What He Needed
This man didn’t fool himself, he knew he was lame.
He’d come to grips with that a long time ago. 
And it was a rough time to be handicapped.  There was no social security or Medicare.
It was a time and an age when physical prowess and the
quest for perfection abounded.  The Romans
had their gladiatorial contest and the Greeks had their Olympic games.  And there was no sympathy and no place for
those who weren’t quite as perfect  as
they should be. 
Not every age or culture takes care of the less
fortunate as is common today in our western society.  Only in Canada do we take those who are too
old to work and unable to make a meaningful contribution to society and appoint
them to the senate. 
This man knew that he had limited potential, he knew
that all the dreams and all the hopes and all the aspirations in the world
could not make his dead legs function. 
He was honest in his evaluation; his friends were taking him out to
beg.  He wasn’t going for a walk, or to
tap dance or play basketball.  He had
accepted the facts.
If he was going to survive it would be by
begging.   And he sought out one of the
most profitable spots, the main door to the temple.  The devout Jews came here at 9 am, noon and 3
pm.  People coming to worship God, and he
was trying to make them feel guilty.  There’s
a lot to be said for guilt.  How many
Salvation Army kettles do you see set up just outside the liquor stores at
Christmas time.
We will never get to heaven on our own. Never, never,
never.  We’ll never be that good, we’ll
never do enough good, we’ll never, ever, ever deserve heaven on our own.   And it is only when we are able to admit
that, that Jesus Christ will be any good to us. 
The Halifax Infirmary is a really neat 
place, it’s full of people who are sick, or at least think they
are.  It’s like the guy who called the
doctor and said, “I’m calling about my uncle Fred”
and the doctor said, “I  keep
telling you, your uncle only thinks he’s sick”  “oh but it’s worse now” replied the
man, “now he thinks he’s dead.” 
People go to the hospital for one of two reasons, 1)
to get better, or 2) to ease their suffering. 
That’s it.  Other than that there
is no good reason to be in a hospital. 
The food might not be bad but it ain’t great.  And the beds don’t look very comfortable, and
the company is downright depressing.    
But if you are sick it is an ideal place. Mark 2:17  When Jesus
heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I
have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know
they are sinners.”
If you’re not sick then you don’t need a doctor, and
if you’re not lost then you don’t need to be found
I hate to admit to being lost.  I’d drive around in circle all days before I’d
swallow my pride and stop someone and tell them I’m lost.  And until you are ready to admit to the
fact  that you need Jesus Christ he can’t
help you.
Acts 3:4-6  Peter and John looked at him intently, and
Peter said, “Look at us!”  The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting
some money.  But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But
I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and
walk!”
3) What
He Was Offered Was Better Than What He Wanted
Now, the beggar
thought he knew what he needed, he needed a handout.  And he thought that was what he was going to
get.   
He asked for
alms and Peter said “look at us”.  Now when I was in sales I knew when I had a
sale.  There were things that were said
or done that told me “you got this one in the bag.”  “This is a nice suit does it come in
blue?”  “Boy I really like this
car can I get a cassette deck put in?” 
I sold cars a really long time ago. 
“Look
at us” they said.  And
that was a good sign, why? Think about it what do you do when you see a  bum on the street panhandling?  Or you go to 
the mall  and someone is standing
there with a box for the minor hockey and you have no change?   You look the other way don’t you?  The lame man looked at them
eagerly, expecting some money.  When  we approach God in prayer we have to approach
expecting an answer.  Matthew 7:7-10  “Keep on asking, and
you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on
knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone
who knocks, the door will be opened. 
“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them
a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a
fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!
Most of us are pushovers for our kids, we like to give
things to them when we can. And when we come to God in prayer and ask that our
sins be forgiven we have to expect him to forgive them.  Not hope but expect.  Christ will forgive us and save us and give
us eternal life but we have to ask. We need to approach him.  The beggar never would have gotten anywhere
if he hadn’t asked.  Christ has to be
approached with a positive attitude.  The
beggar probably didn’t say “you probably don’t want to give me anything do
you?”
Acts 3:7  Then Peter took the lame man by the right
hand and helped him up.
4) All
He Had to Do Was Believe
 
Put yourself in his spot, every day of his adult life
this man had been carried to this spot to beg. 
Rain & shine, warm weather and cold weather.  He had had days when he had collected next to
nothing and other days when he had tripled his usual take.    He had taken physical and verbal abuse from
children and teenagers and adults.  He
had been ridiculed and slandered. 
But never had he ever heard anything like this.  He’d asked for a crumb and been offered a
banquet, had asked for a pittance and been offered his very life.  How should he react, what thoughts coursed
through his head?   “Tens of
thousands of people in Jerusalem and I get a fruitcake.” or maybe it was
“oh no if I can walk then I’ll have to get a job!”  what were his initial thoughts?  Had he heard tell of Peter, John, or Jesus of
Nazareth?  We will probably never
know.  But this we do know, he believed Peter. 
The scriptures say Then
Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up.  Did you catch
that?  Peter  didn’t grab him under his arms and lift  him up instead he took him by the hand and
helped him  up.  Peter assisted the beggar to his feet, he
helped him get up.  And that means that the
man must have helped as well.   
He put his weight on his legs and felt the strength
course down his thighs.  He did something
he had never done before, he pushed himself to a sitting position and then got
to his feet.  And as his muscles began to
swell, and tingle with the unfamiliar tensions and movement he realized  that he was doing the impossible, he was
standing by himself.  And slowly the
realization dawned on him, this wasn’t a practical joke.  These men indeed had more to offer him then
silver and  gold.  For they had given him what nature had
deprived him of, they had given him his legs. 
But only through his belief did this happen, and only by believing the
words of this stranger was he standing.
Acts 3:7  Then Peter took the lame man by the right
hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly
healed and strengthened.
5)
He Received More Than He Asked For.
 
One minute half a man, the next minute whole.  One minute crippled the next minute
healed.  Just as his handicap had been
beyond dispute so was his healing. Not even the Sanhedrin and high priest could
doubt or  disbelieve what they and
witnessed.  How do you argue with
success?  Here was a man who had been
crippled by a cruel quirk of nature, and yet now he was whole, just as if his
handicap had never been.  The skin which
had hung loosely on useless muscles now clung to the well-defined shape of
thigh and calf muscles.  The legs that
had never moved now responded to every whim, 
the feet that had never felt now sensed the pebbles and dust that lay
beneath them.  Although we have a
spiritual handicap we can  be made
whole.  King David had committed
adultery, murder and treason and yet in Psalms 51:7 David
writes- Psalm 51:7  Purify
me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Paul says concerning sin in Romans 6:23  For the
wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ
Jesus our Lord.
 When you ask
for forgiveness your being is touched and you are made every bit as whole and
clean as Adam was before the fall.  It
doesn’t matter what the sin, Jesus Christ is 
able to make you whiter then snow. 
The violent murderer becomes like as innocent as a new born babe.  The foulest prostitute becomes as pure as a
virgin.   It was over thirty years ago Madonna
had her first hit song and  it said,
“Like a virgin, touched for the very first time.”  and although it had nothing to do with
salvation and forgiveness it could have.  
Because that’s what happens when Jesus comes into your life, Paul says
it best in  2 Corinthians 5:17  This means that
anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a
new life has begun!
Every sin, every evil thought, word, or deed, every
hurt, every scorn, shall be gone, it won’t even be history, because history is
recorded.  King David said it best in Psalm 103:12  He
(God)  has removed our sins as far from
us as the east is from the west.
Acts 3:8  He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began
to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with
them.
6) He
Was Full of Praise
  
I like this, nobody had to tell him to go to the
temple.  Nobody told him he should thank
God but he knew he had to.  His very
first act was one of praise and thanksgiving.   
He was on fire and he wanted to share it with everyone he met. 
He didn’t consider if it would offend them, he didn’t
wonder if it  would drive them away, he
wanted to tell them what happened in the name of Jesus.   I can just hear him now, “excuse me
sir, I don’t know you but a few minutes ago I was a  cripple, couldn’t walk, couldn’t even more my
toes, just laid there on the street and do you know what a man came up and
said, ‘silver and gold have I none but what I have  I give to you, in the name of Jesus Christ of
Nazareth walk.’  and guess what, well I
suppose you can see for yourself, that’s right I can walk.”  If he had of been like some Christians I know
his first reaction would have been, “Oh no, now I’ll have to buy shoes.”
It might not hurt you know if we got a little more
excited about our faith, after all if you were drowning and someone threw you a
rope you’d get excited.  And if you had
cancer and someone developed a cure you’d get excited.  And if your team won the Stanley cup, you’d
get excited.
Perhaps in the midst of our problems we need to pray
as David did in  Psalm 51:8  Oh,
give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice.