Do You See Me Sitting Here?
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Acts 3:1-3:10 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
Sermon Series: The Book of Acts
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Do You See Me Sitting Here?
Chuck Swindoll tells about a man who went to see a psychiatrist because he was extremely depressed. The psychiatrist just could not get him to snap out of it. So he said to the man, “Tonight I want you to go to the circus in town because they have a clown named the Great Rinaldi, he is the funniest clown I have ever seen. Whenever I go to see the Great Rinaldi it always lifts my spirits.” The man responded. “You don’t understand doctor, I am the Great Rinaldi.”
This world is full of Great Rinaldis, who are empty. They are desperate and can find no relief not even in the comedy of a clown. They may put on masks of happiness, to appear fine to everyone, but when they return to their homes at night they cry themselves to sleep because their life is pointless and they long to find something in life to make them happy and give them a sense of meaning. They look at their lives and wonder what it is all about. Life must have more to offer me than this, they say.
Billy Joel in his hit song Piano Man examines all the miserable people who come into his bar and it’s his job to help them forget about life for awhile. You know, this culture is full of miserable people who would like to forget about life forever.
God has given us the responsibility as Christians and as churches to reach these hurting people. The church above all else is a place for people who have problems. The church was designed for the single mother who works two jobs to support her kids. Church is for the drug addict who can’t stop his habit. Church is for the man who can’t stay away from pornography on the internet. Church is for the young person who struggles with self esteem. The church is for the young couple who lives together and doesn’t know its not the best way to build a home. The church is for the alcoholic who is ready to admit he needs help. Ezekiel 34:16 instructs, “Search for the lost, bring back those that stray away, put bandages on those that are hurt, and make the weak strong."
But you know the problem with so many of our churches is that we often pass by the hurting souls in our world and ignore them and in doing so we miss an amazing opportunity to lead them to Christ. Because it is often hurting souls that make the best converts to Christ. They are broken and they have nowhere to turn and Jesus is the visible answer to their predicament. We need to be perceptive enough as Christians to notice the hurt in people and give them what they need and that is Jesus.
I. THE EXPOSITION
In Acts chapter 3 we read a hurting soul that was brought into the church. Acts 3 is an account of a crippled beggar who Peter and John, two disciples met one day outside the temple in Jerusalem. This beggar was hurting deeply. He had sat near the temple everyday and no one noticed him sitting there? To me this crippled beggar represents exactly the kind of person the church is trying to reach. Those who have been crippled by life’s circumstances. From this story I think we can learn some valuable lessons about how to minister to those people around our churches who are hurting like this crippled beggar. Acts 3:1.
Verse 1, “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer at three in the afternoon.” Let’s stop here and keep in mind that this is at the beginning of the church and so believers in Christ were still attached to the temple. In fact, Acts 2:46 says that the believers were meeting in the temple area on a daily basis. So it is not uncommon to see Peter and John going to the temple to pray because they were still probably observing many Jewish religious customs.
Now this is not the first time we see Peter and John together in the Bible. Luke 5:10 tells us they were partners in a fishing business. Luke 22:8 says they worked together to prepare the last supper for Jesus. John 20:3 tells us that ran together to the tomb on Easter morning. And later in Acts 8 we read that they ministered together to some Samaritans who believed. And here we see them going together to the temple for one of the three times of Jewish prayer.
Verse 2, “Now a cripple man 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.” The temple gate called beautiful was one of the favored entrances into the temple and thousands passed through it on a daily basis. That is why we see this crippled man being put there. He knew exactly where the most people would enter the temple at one time. And the more people who entered, the more money he could mooch off them. This verse says that the crippled man was carried to the temple and put every day to beg. He probably had cohorts who were in business with him. They probably made enough money everyday from his begging to live a nicely. It was their livelihood to bring their crippled friend to the gate and leave him to beg.
We have some people in my church in Cincinnati who know what it is like to beg. They tell me that if a beggar finds a good spot on the street where a lot of people pass by, he can make sometimes up to $200 dollars a day.
And this crippled man was a professional beggar like that. He knew exactly what to say to warrant pity. He knew exactly the best times to be at the temple. He knew how to work the crowd for their spare change.
Warren Wiersbe points out that the giving of alms to the poor was an important part of the Jewish faith and so many Jews going to the temple would give to these beggars over and over again as a way of fulfilling their religious duty. The beggar probably rationalized his behavior saying to himself, “I’m just helping these religious folks do a good deed.” They give to me and they feel good about themselves, what’s wrong with that. We need each other. They help me and I help them.
Verse 3, “When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter, said, ‘Look at us!’ So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.”
This man called out to Peter and John perhaps because he knew who they were. They had probably been to the temple everyday and he recognized them as regulars there. Perhaps the two apostles had given him money or even talked to him about Jesus.
I suspect that this was not the first time that Peter and John had seen this poor beggar. But something this day touched Peter’s heart and he stopped. There were probably scores of beggars at the gate that afternoon but Peter talked to this one. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit that tugged at his heart, but he gave this man his full attention. The Kings James Version says that Peter fastened his eyes upon him.” The Phillips translation says, “Peter looked intently at the man.”
Now the Bible says the beggar expected to get something from Peter and John. Most likely, his immediate desire was money. People often think money is the answer to their problem. But Verse 6 records Peter’s words. “silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And verse 7 says, “Taking him by the right hand, Peter helped him up and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk.” Peter had no money for this man, but he had something much better. He had healing.
And this says Peter healed this man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. What that means was that he was doing the miracle “by the authority and power of Jesus Christ.” Peter wanted to let this man know that it was not him, who was doing this. It was Jesus. Peter would take no credit for it. Jesus was working this miracle. It was Jesus alone who had the power to change lives.
Verse 8, “Then he (the crippled man) went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple and they were filled with wonderment and amazement at what had happened to him.” This man no longer was confined to stand outside the temple, he now entered the holy place and gave due praise to the Lord. And those around him took note that he was the same man, who just seconds before was confined to begging. There was no mistake, a miracle had taken place. Jesus had made the lame to walk.
Now I would like us to see is that this crippled beggar represents the people who we as churches are trying to reach! There are many people, trapped in crippling situations who need the churches help finding the power of Jesus Christ. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Peter and John and see how they were able to help this man and lead him to the life changing power of Jesus Christ. Notice four specific things Peter and John did in order to minister to this man that we as Christians and churches should do to minister to those in around us.
First, notice that PETER AND JOHN GOT OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY AND MET LOST PEOPLE. Peter and John went as a team out to where the people were. The temple was a place they knew that they would meet many who didn’t know Jesus. The temple was a gathering place for many in Jerusalem.
Peter and John were not hiding themselves away from the world. They weren’t content to sit around the church and discuss the Bible with the other ten apostles they got out into the culture of Jerusalem. And we could learn a very valuable lesson from Peter and John. They weren’t satisfied to just associate with Christians and those like them. They got outside the church walls and were intentional about mingling with the crowds in Jerusalem. That’s why they went at three in afternoon because that was the hour of prayer and they knew people would be flocking to the temple.
We must do what Peter and John did. We’ve got to go out into the streets and meet the people around us. Irene Feldkamp is a member of our church. She came two years ago and was baptized. But Irene came to church because of Mark Miller, who got to know her because he frequented a restaurant where Irene waitressed. Mark could see that Irene needed the Lord. And so he kept going back there each week to eat until she came to church. Mark didn’t particularly like the food at the place, he went because he knew that a waitress there needed the Lord.
And we each need to look outside the four walls of our church and start looking for people in our lives who need Jesus. As I said, Peter and John had probably met this crippled man before, they knew who he was. They had probably talked with him before. They had built a relationship with him. They probably walked by him everyday, deliberately just to greet him.
Do you have some places you go every week, maybe the salon or the barber shop, a restaurant where you frequent and you could build a relationship with a waitress or a cook or your barber and then influence them for Christ? Do you have some non-Christian friends you see everyday at work? Mike Breaux the senior minister at the Southland Christian Church eats at a bar every week and knows all the guys who hang out there. Peter and John got outside the church and went looking for souls. How else are we going to win souls if we aren’t looking.
Secondly, PETER AND JOHN WERE PERCEPTIVE AND RESPONDED TO HIS HURT. Peter and John were not too busy or too much in a hurry to notice this hurting man. The Bible says that Peter looked at him attentively. Thousands of religious people walked by this man everyday oblivious to his condition but Peter and John two Christians noticed. They were perceptive.
Jim Cymbala in his book Fresh Power writes, “Peter responded exactly the opposite to how most people respond to beggars. Most of us try not to make eye contact with them. But by the spirit Peter perceived that God was about to do something for this individual. Peter did not feel drawn to everybody at the gate but only to this particular man.”
But often we are not like Peter and John. We are too distracted by the routine of life, to notice a hurting soul. There are people we come in contact with on a daily basis who are hurting and crying out but we never notice. I mean here were Peter and John, two hotshots of the church, thousands of people were flocking to hear them preach each day and yet they noticed one single little beggar.
One of my favorite preachers is Dave Stone from the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s the preacher in a church that has 17,000 people. Dave has written books and is a popular motivational speaker. He was chosen as an influential leader in his community. But Steve Carr, a friend of mine told me that a few years ago at the North American Christian Convention in Kansas City that he was leaving the convention and saw Dave Stone, mega church preacher sitting on a park bench talking with a homeless man. Dave has not become too much of a famous preacher to stop and give his time to one man who needed a friend.
Do you notice the needs of people? Have you looked around, have you seen the pain and suffering of people? In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus tells of a man who had been beaten and robbed and left alone to die on the roadside. And a priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man, the Bible says he passed by on the other side. And so too a Levite, a religious man, when he came to the place and saw him, he too passed by on the other side. And we are too often like the priest and the Levite, we pass by a hurting soul. We are too busy or too numb to notice a need. Peter and John did not pass by on the other side. They stopped and noticed this man’s condition.
Notice also that PETER AND JOHN WERE WILLING TO TOUCH THE UNWANTED. Verse 7 says that Peter took this man by the right hand and helped him up. Peter was the only one amongst thousands of people that day who was willing to touch the untouchable. I mean would you be willing to reach down and touch a filthy homeless crippled beggar on the street. I mean this man was an irritant to society, harassing people as they entered to worship! No one wanted anything to do with him, except these two disciples of Jesus Christ. The world had kicked him to the curb. But Peter and John wanted to bring him into the church.
And as churches we need to be willing to help people like this man who the world has kicked and dragged through the mud. The single mother who has been abandoned by her husband. The widower whose wife committed suicide. The drug addict, whose pusher still calls him everyday trying to hook him again. The homosexual who has HIV. The teenager whose parents kicked her out after she told them she was pregnant. The guy who is covered with tattoos and is pierced in all kinds of places.
We’ve got a guy name Mark Batelle that comes to our church. Mark is an excellent musician and a solid Christian. But Mark also has the “F” word tattooed on the back of his bald head. A few months ago the president of Cincinnati Bible College and Seminary came to visit our church. And I looked into the crowd and sure enough David Faust, the president of CBC was sitting right behind Mark starring straight into the explictive on the back of his head. The church should be a place where the president of a Bible College can sit next to guy with tattoos.
J.K. Jones, is a professor at Lincoln Christian College. But while in school he was a preacher in a small church in Illinois. And he says that he was in his office one morning when he got a phone call asking if he could go to a local hospital to visit a sick patient. The person wanted to see a minister, but several ministers had refused to see him. Jones agreed to stop by. After running some errands he walked into the hospital and up to the patient’s room. He was amazed to see a sign in bold letters across the door, A-I-D-S. (Keep in mind this was in the early 80s before they knew how the disease spread. Jones said he was frightened.) "I didn’t want to go in," he said, "but I remembered the words of Christ, if anyone sees a brother in need but has not pity on him, how can the love of God be in him. So I went in." He was a young man, 21 years of age, Jones says. A homosexual whose partner had infected him and split. He wanted to talk about God. He wanted to know if God could forgive him.
Jones said, "I was trembling, but I told him about God’s unconditional love and his grace and I reached out and took his hand and we prayed. I didn’t stay long. But as I left I said something to him, not really thinking about it, ’son,’ I said, If you get better, we would love to have to come to our church." Well three months later, Jones recalls, "That sickly young man and his mother showed up at our church, you could tell he was very sick." People in the church starred, as he sat the entire service through with his head on his mother’s lap. No one listened to my sermon he says, they just starred. Rumors had been floating around the community about this boy and his lifestyle and about his disease, everyone knew who he was.
As the church service ended, Jones was greeting members as they left the front door. He was not surprised by their responses and whispers. Just two of his church members said to him, "Pastor, It is so great that a sinner can come home." But more than most Jones said responded unfavorably to his presence. "Who invited him here, can you believe he’s here, do you know who he is?" Needless to say, Pastor Jones didn’t stay at that church long.
And sadly, most churches are not willing to deal with the untouchable. Instead we want perfect people who come dressed in a suit and tie and come carrying a leather bound Bible. They don’t dance, don’t play cards, don’t drink. We have an idealized person who belongs in church and it is certainly not someone with AIDS or with tatoos. Sadly many of our churches are certainly not wanting to touch the stripper or the prostitute or the teenager with blue hair. But Peter and John show us who as Christians we need to be trying to reach. Those who are crippled by circumstances. Those who are hurting. Those who are untouchable and who the world passes by.
And if we as Christian churches say we really want to reach lost souls then we had better be willing to touch some “beggars.”
One last thing, PETER AND JOHN GAVE THE MAN WHAT HE TRULY NEEDED. What he truly needed was Jesus! He didn’t need money like he was begging for. He needed divine intervention. He needed Jesus. And that is what Peter gave him. Silver and gold I have none, but I have Jesus, he told him. And that is what he gave him.
And we must keep in mind that what people really need from us as churches is Jesus. They don’t need a club or friends or a place to hang out as much as they need Jesus. They don’t need a fancy sermon or a program or the right kind of music or a class for their kids as much as they need Jesus. They don’t need to discuss doctrinal issues or debate theological ideas. They don’t need to know who wrote the book of Isaiah. They need Jesus and when they come to our churches they ought to be able to find him. Peter and John gave this man Jesus.
And it does very little good to bring people to our churches if they aren’t a place where non-believers can encounter Christ. Len Sweet tells about one Gen –X church planter in Chicago who began a new church that attempted to reach younger people. One of his younger members admitted to him, “Pastor, I hope you know that if it weren’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be a Christian.”
Folks, there is a dying hurting world out there and we must look around and we must give them Jesus.
Warren Wiersbe, a commentator sums up this story for us. He writes, “It is easy to see in this man an illustration of what salvation is like. He was born lame and all of us are born unable to walk so as to please God. The man was also poor, and we as sinners are bankrupt before God, unable to pay the tremendous debt we owe Him. He was “outside the temple” and all sinners are separated from God. The man was healed wholly by the power of Christ, and the healing was immediate.”
Let’s pray. Lord help us to reach out the hurting and the dying. Help us love people enough to notice their pain. Help us to love you enough to want to bring people to you. In Christ name, we pray. Amen.