Can you think of an event in your life that caused you to believe that God was real?
Few things overwhelm our soul and generate faith like personal encounters with our God. I’m talking about those times when God acts in and through us that opens our eyes to the reality of the Almighty. And not just the God-incidences but the times when we deliberately reach out in faith and find the hand of the almighty reaching through us. That’s when you and me are making HIStory!
Like when we pray and see the results of those prayers instantly manifest. I don’t know about you but it blows me away every time! It catches me off guard until I put two and two together and find it can only equal God in our midst. That’s when you and me are making HIStory.
Jesus Christ said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38).
Jesus also said, “(17) …these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; (18) they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:16-18 (NIV) The way Mark puts it you would think this is the normal Christian life…or is it?
How many here have prayed for someone and didn’t see any difference? How many of you have prayed for healing only to watch the person get worse or die within days? I’ve experienced that plenty. In fact, there was a time in my early days of pastoring that I would tell people who asked me to pray that “the majority of folks I prayed for lately died shortly thereafter. Are you sure you want me to pray for you?”
Of course in saying that, what I wasn’t telling them was that most of the folks I was praying for were in Hospice or had suffered severe trauma or otherwise were about to die. For some of them my prayers for healing were eternal based and very welcomed.
But then there was that one time when I was called to pray in the Intensive Care Unit for someone who was given hours, days at most, to live by the doctors and she went home from the hospital shortly after that prayer. And what about the one who suffered severe migraines and wasn’t functioning well at work because of them. God chose to give her freedom from those nasty headaches when we prayed together. And of course there was that pastor down in Kenya who suffered from an ulcerated mouth that was instantly healed, right in time for lunch. He was pretty joyful.
I could go on but the point is I didn’t stop praying simply because some people got worse and died nor even if I couldn’t see the results in the people I prayed for right away. I chose to continue to pray for anyone who asked for prayer and many who didn’t too! Because prayer is supposed to be a part of the normal Christian life. And sometimes God chooses to use us to do far more than what can be seen on the surface.
Take for example today’s passage in HIStory. This is one of those exciting, amazing God encounter passages where some disciples of Christ took a step of faith and got their faith super charged. So turn in your Bibles with me to Acts 3:1-10 and let’s witness HIStory.
(1) One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. (2) Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. (3) When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. (4) Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” (5) So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. (6) Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (7) Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (8) He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. (9) When all the people saw him walking and praising God, (10) they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Acts 3:1-10 (NIV)
HIStory is full of times when God uses ordinary people to help people. We have seen that all along this year. God actually chooses to use people like you and me, our stories, in HIStory. Is that awesome or what?
As we count down the final few weeks of our 52 week challenge we have come full circle. We were studying the book of Acts when God prompted this trip through HIStory and during the next few weeks, having been in every book of the Bible, we return to Acts. But it wouldn’t be fitting to jump in at the end so for the next 3 weeks we’ll take another look at 3 specific passages where relatively new disciples of Christ learned to follow Him and were amazed along the journey.
Let’s begin with a look at the background for today’s passage. As we come to this chapter, Luke had just finished telling Theophilus that “…many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43 (NIV).
Miracles and wonders were happening among the apostles with such regularity and because of them the Kingdom grew very quickly. Today’s passage was just one of the many.
Some might say that main character in today’s passage is this nameless disabled man found verse 2. Others would point to Peter and John, the apostles since it was by their actions that this man was healed. Though I’m sure that both of those apostles would completely disagree with that. And Peter makes that abundantly clear even as the healing comes about. It is “in the name of Jesus Christ”(6) that this man was healed. A point to be taken carefully if you remember what I said when we went through Act 19 last year.
For those who weren’t here then, Luke told us the account of the seven sons of Sceva. “(13) Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (14) Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. (15) [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (16) Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (Acts 19:13-16 (NIV).
Our spiritual authority comes from Jesus Christ not man. Yet sometimes we think it’s man that bestows authority upon us as we get degrees or rise up in the ranks. Man does have authority over the affairs of man but never does God use man’s authority to heal or drive out demons. That authority is Christ’s alone and it is His to give to whom He is pleased to give it to. Matthew 28:19 says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples”. In our passage today Jesus has given Peter authority to heal.
So in reality this passage is all about Jesus; He is the main character. And yet, He chooses to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things as a part of HIStory.
Ordinary people like this beggar. Every day the routine was the same for this poor disabled man, he knew it so well. Luke described him as “crippled from birth”(2). The Greek literally means “crippled from his mother’s womb” (cholos ek koilias metros autou, lit., Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 9: John and Acts.). So this man knew no other way of life.
Long before he understood his inability to walk this daily pattern became established in his life by those who cared for him. Perhaps it was his mother or other close friends, were not specifically told but someone would carry him and had been his legs throughout his forty years of life. They painstakingly brought him through the court of the gentiles, past the court of the women, to what is described as the Beautiful Gate.
My friend Peter and his wife Bev took this picture when they were in Israel this fall. This was “the” place to beg because it was just outside the Temple court where many worshippers would have to pass. It would be like having someone on our doorstep at the church. Everyone coming and going was bound to notice a person sitting there begging.
Some folks with compassionate hearts would likely give something as would those with guilty consciences who are hoping to find favour from God.
Jewfaq.org provides this look into the modern view of charity from a Jewish perspective: “The word “charity” suggests benevolence and generosity, a magnanimous act by the wealthy and powerful for the benefit of the poor and needy. The word “tzedakah” is derived from the Hebrew root Tzadei-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor is not viewed as a generous, magnanimous act; it is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due….Giving to the poor is an obligation in Judaism, a duty that cannot be forsaken even by those who are themselves in need. … Tzedakah is one of the three acts that gain us forgiveness from our sins. The High Holiday liturgy repeatedly states that G-d has inscribed a judgment against all who have sinned, but teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah can alleviate the decree” (http://www.jewfaq.org/tzedakah.htm).
The crippled man in our passage today had no other way to make a living. And Jewish law considered it a good thing, a meritorious thing, to give to such as he. It wasn’t looked upon with distain, as begging has come today, it was in a sense his job to bring the giver merit or forgiveness before God. But then again in those days only those who could not work due to infirmity or physical deformity would choose to be found begging in such a place.
Anyway, everyday, this poor beggar could only get to the gate never into the Temple. Yet he never got be a part of what was going on inside because his infirmities disqualified him from entering. Always on the outside looking in. This was his life until the day it was awesomely transformed and he forever became a part of HIStory.
Luke tells us, Peter and John went to pray that day. It was their habit and truly it was a good habit to have. “The Jews observed three times of prayer—morning (9:00 a.m.), afternoon (3:00 p.m.), and evening (sunset)’” (Life Application Bible Commentary – Acts). You and I may enter into prayer at any and all times but for this miracle to be placed in HIStory there needed to be a specific time and place. It was the 3pm prayer time. If you remember a few weeks ago we looked at God-incidence. That there is no such thing as coincidence in life only those things that God places in our path and for a purpose He knows.
We’re not told if Peter & John had ever noticed that beggar before that fateful day. What were are told is that day began like all the others, with a crippled man who sat begging and when he saw Peter & John he “asked them for money” (3).
Frankly we’ve all been there haven’t we? You walk downtown and by the Quilt shop in the 300 block, by that alley way that leads to parking, sits Mike in his wheel chair. Sometimes he’ll ask or have a sign out, other times he just sits hoping you’ll notice he is in need of some help. What do you do?
Do you ignore him? Do you cross the street so you don’t have to confront that awkward moment? What should you do? What is prudent?
I’ve been to Africa, I’ve been accosted by multiple beggars at the same time, all looking for a hand out. So I’ve often wondered why the apostle Peter responded as he did. I’m reasonably sure he didn’t have any change on him because Peter was known for his brash truthfulness.
Still he is only human. And he had denied knowing Jesus at times. Yet if he was without money why even speak to the man? Why get his hopes up? Why say to him, “Look at us” (4)? Was it so the man could see no purse with coins? “Look at us” Peter said.
It certainly got the mans attention! I suspect he thought here comes my dinner. Boy was he in for a surprise!
Peter looked him in the eyes and said what has been recorded for us in HIStory. “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6 (NIV). Who taught Peter this tactic? Was it in the evangelism 101 manual? What compelled Peter to say such a thing?
Well if this passage was simply Peter’s story we might have been told by him why he did it. But this is HIStory. The story of God who works through ordinary people to do extraordinary things!
The God who just the previous chapter sent forth a wind that shook the prayer room and fire descended upon it’s inhabitants causing them to speak previously unknown languages. It is HIStory…the Holy Spirit.
Say did you notice that the signs and wonders were not done by everyone but by the apostles only? And that everyone that saw those signs and wonders was filled with awe? There was a purpose back then for those signs and wonders. Those specific God encounters. Just as there is today. Those miracles bring people face to face with the fact that God exists and that He is able to do things we’ll never be able to explain. It takes God to move people who have been crippled since birth to their feet.
But God often uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Luke tells us that Peter, “(7) Took him by the right hand, … helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (8) He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (Acts 3:7-8 (NIV). Peter was just an ordinary man, a fisherman by trade. But the moment his hand touched the man crippled from birth, something happened. Something passed through Peter and ignited within that man. Actually it was Some One, not some thing! The One that passed through Peter into the man born lame was Jesus Christ! And this was yet another part of HIStory. In fact the Bible is all about Him.
What a gift! Most people look at his physical healing as the gift that day but the real gift is found in the second half of verse 8. “Then he (the once lame man) went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God” (8). The restriction of worshipping God was removed and he was instantly freed to worship and praise God like everyone else he had watched for the past forty years.
Here is a couple of things I noticed from this part of HIStory. We see from Peter that sometimes the best hand out is a hand up. He helped the man get back on his feet by introducing him to the power of the risen Lord, giving Christ all the credit each step of the way. “In the name of Jesus Christ, walk”. Peter knew he had the authority to do this but he still had to exercise that authority in order to do this.
Notice too, Peter didn’t stop exercising authority as soon as the man jumped to his feet. That was only the start of this man’s faith journey. Peter and John actually went with him into the Temple courts. They came along side of the man for his first visit into God’s presence they didn’t just send him in on his own. He had no idea what to expect behind that gate!
And can you imagine that scene as this man put his whole body in action for everybody to see? Dr. Luke tells us that those feet and ankles that would have been useless for walking became instantly strengthened. And strong enough to not only carry the man’s weight but also to allow him to leap for joy in God’s presence!
Which was maybe not the decorum that the folks behind that gate were used to. Some nodding of the heads, some heartfelt prayers, maybe a chorus or Psalm or two. But jumping and leaping and praising God? A wet blanket could have easily been thrown on this man’s fire. But not while Peter and John joined in his excitement. The bible says, a cord of three stranded is pretty strong (cf. Eccl. 4:12).
And notice too, there was no shutting him up. Luke tell us his first impulse was to go and praise God in the midst of His people. We’d call that going to church in your old neighborhood where the people know you for who you were not who you have become. It is a powerful testimony when they see the new you standing there.
Luke says, “ 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, (10) they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:9-10 (NIV).
So what are you and I as old believers supposed to get from this passage? We can be like those who knew that man’s former way of life and be filled with wonder and amazement when new people come to faith by the power of the risen Lord. And we can rejoice with them knowing what lies ahead.
And we can be those who reach out a hand like Peter knowing that God can do exceedingly abundantly above what we can imagine when we are obedient to His call. And we can give new believers a fighting chance by pointing them to Christ alone who really does change lives and not making them our disciples but showing them through His Word how to be His.
Let’s dig deeper into HIStory
Acts 3:1-10 You and me making HIStory! Is God Still With US? Immanuel?
1. Why do we pray for people? Doesn’t God already know what they need?
2. Have you prayed for someone and they got immediately better?
3. Isaiah called the child of the virgin Immanuel which means? (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; 9:6; Mt. 1:23, Lk 1:35, Jn. 1:1-2,)
4. Where were Peter & John going in verse 1? Why? ( Ps 55:17, Dan 6:10, Dan 9:21; Luke 1:10 )
5. When was the last time you went for a prayer meeting or Kesha? Was it work or play?
6. What important detail do we learn about the man Peter prayed for in verse 2? (Jn 9:1-11)
7. What did the man actually want? (4-6) Why did Peter pray? (Jn. 5:6; 2 Cor 8:9; 1 Peter 4:10; Mt 7:22-23)
8. Why did Peter lend a hand to the man? (Mark 1:31;5:41;9:27; Lk 13:13)
9. What did the man do at Peter’s request? (Isa 35:6; Jn 5:38-39; Ps. 103:1-3; Ps. 107:20-22; Lk 17:15-18; Lk 18:43)
10. What was the crowd’s reaction?