Get on your feet but don’t forget to kneel
Just look at him… Oh man, he’s breaking your heart watching him… His friends took him out of his stinking bed and prepared him for another shift.
And they carried him to his usually spot, at the Temple gate. It was just another day, the sky wasn’t any bluer the birds didn’t sing any louder, the sun didn’t shine any brighter...
And they left him there, by the Temple gate, with his useless legs out on a dirty rag. A poor crippled man. He never felt his legs, he never moved them. Never ran as a boy, never walked as a man.
And today seams to be just a day, no better and no worse then all the other days of the tedious life of this poor crippled beggar. Another boring useless day? No, not today. This is your day isn’t it?
He didn’t know yet, but today would take him from living a vegetative obscure life and obscure death, and would boost him into eternity. Who was he, we don’t know. The Bible reveals nothing about his life up to this day, and nothing about his life after this day. But this day would be written about and read about by millions of people all over the world. Acts 3:1.2 READ
This story - the healing of this congenital cripple man - is the story of my life and your life. It demonstrates that Jesus Christ is truly raised from the dead, that He ascended into the heavens, seated at the right hand of God, that He is the Lord of all and Savior of his people.
And it demonstrates Jesus power and authority to continue to perform miracles in history after His ascension to heaven in 31 AD. And the pinnacle of all miracles is saving sinners like me.
Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and on earth. And so in Acts 3 we find this type of miracle the apostles performed in the Name of, and by the authority of Lord Jesus Christ. I will like to make some points about this Bible passage.
On that day, Peter and John went into the temple. They had to go through the Court of the Gentiles and through the Court of Women to get to the Court of Israel, where they would join with other Jewish men for prayer.
On their way, they went through the Gate Beautiful, which opened to the Court of Women. This beautiful gate was huge - 50 cubits high and 40 cubits wide. Overlaid with Corinthian bronze, it was truly a work of art.
It might have also been known as the Nicanor Gate, named after a wealthy man from Alexandria, Nicanor, who supposedly donated it. Here Peter and John encountered a congenital cripple who was begging for alms.
In Bible times, poor beggars were found often by rich people's houses as well as by busy streets and anywhere else people would pass. They were especially found near the temple gates and this still true today.
Beggar gypsies are around churches in Romania; the same in France and UK. Paris and London’s churches are literally homes for many beggars. Chased by police, they return always back.
In my last trip I saw a large number of beggars. There are so many beggars there is no way one could respond to all of them. The solution is not to “see” them. But the beggars made this difficult. Those who are movable would press themselves on you. They would approach you, tugging at your sleeve and pleading for help.
Those not able to move would call loud for charity. The beggar would be aggressive, something like the salesmen as you walk through the appliance section at Sears. You would concentrate on not seeing them as they converge on you, and you hurry to get through the section before you are trapped.
Beautiful gate but repulsive beggars all around it - what a contrasting picture! Go away beggar, I cannot see this place because of you… I came to this church, and I entered trough this beautiful gate to enjoy myself, to admire the view, to listen nice music and good sermons… But you, miserable beggar, you ruin my day!
Let’s take a closer look at the crippled man as a type of a sinner This particular beggar was 40 years old and had been a cripple all his life. He did not suffer an accident and become. He was born that way. He doesn’t know how wonderful is to walk. Actually, he never tried to walk.
Look at him in his childhood - every kid running, jumping, climbing… he can’t. Frustration. As a teenager, he is looking depressed how others go for a diner with their girlfriends. He can’t. He will never find a girl willing to date and marry a crippled man, unable to work and to sustain a family.
No social security benefits or a monthly pay check from Medicare… He had to beg to support himself. Not easy, isn’t? To beg… to stay like this in a visible spot and to keep your hand opened: “Please, give my some money, please”… (Go away, go to work for yourself, oh, you can’t? OK, ask your relatives to help you, I have my own problems!)….
“This unfortunate man had long desired to see Jesus, that he might be healed; but he was almost helpless, and was far removed from the scene of the great Physician's labors. His pleadings at last induced some friends to bear him to the gate of the temple, but upon arriving there, he found that the One upon whom his hopes were centered, had been put to a cruel death”. AA 57.2
The Spirit of Prophecy tells us the crippled beggar knew about Jesus. He heard something about Jesus: Jesus TEACHINGS and Jesus miracles… However, either he didn’t trust this news about the divine healer; either he postponed a meeting with him.
So the day when he finally decided to ask his carriers to bring him to Jesus, he realized that Jesus was crucified. And after Jesus teachings and Jesus miracles, he understood something about Jesus’ SACRIFICE. But the time passed, the Holy Spirit came into apostolic church and the apostles begin fulfilling the great commission:
to preach Jesus expiatory death and his resurrection! And the crippled heard again something new: Jesus’ teachings, Jesus miracles, Jesus resurrection, and now he understood that Jesus DIED for everybody sins, including his! He knew by then the religion basics.
And now I would like to ask you a question: what is worth it for all this knowledge? Is it any good for this hemiplegic man to know religion? Is it any good for us to have knowledge, to know about Jesus’ teachings, Jesus miracles and Jesus sacrifice, while we still crippled? Paralyzed? Unable to walk?
It is any good for a paralyzed man to sit in his wheel chair in front of his TV set, watching a show with a former crippled guy now cured and walking?
The Scripture tells us that he was carried to that beautiful temple gate daily and placed there to beg alms. A devout worshiper will toss him a coin or two, showing mercy to a miserable beggar. This was considered to be commendable, especially to self-righteous Pharisees.
Keep in mind: the beggar is placed not into the Temple, but outside, at the gate… Inside the Name of the Lord is praised. Inside = worship. Outside = begging. I’m afraid that many worshipers, still outside in their spiritual experience. They are staying and begging at the gate.
Pleeeease Lord, give me this, give me that, be with me, conduct me, help me. Religion as a lifetime continuous begging. Asking God to give us blessings, but from the courtyard. From an outside relation with Him. Because, inside is the Sanctuary and you have to enter bringing a sacrifice and praising God. Outside is more convenient…
Is your experience as well? Just staying outside of an authentic relationship, staying at the gate and begging little bit of this, little bit of that… Being unhappy when not receiving, and being satisfied with a little coin of blessings from time to time…
Staying out because we think God did so little for us. We used to say “God did wonderful thinks for me”… 20 years ago! How about now. Nah!, not now…And inside we compare ourselves with others, and we are resentful ... It seems that God helped, healed, and enrich others but not us...
And God did so little for us because we didn’t ask him for real! Seriously! Not just playing religion. We just want him for some coins, that all… It’s sad.
And I have something else to say it. We share the same story as this crippled man did: we can’t walk and others carry us. The pastor, the elders, a tele-preacher, somebody from family… a second hand religion. Is that your experience? Others are carrying you… we are just passive spectators, crippled spirituality (hold your hand to beg!)
Contented with this condition: begging at the gate. They even compare the gates and proudly say: I am begging at the Beautiful gate! How about you? Well I am begging at the Sheep gate. I feel sorry for you, that is such a norrow gate, with many doctrines, and interdictions... Come here, let’s beg together at my gate, it’s a popular gate!...
Do we understand? Doesn’t matter how the gate looks like: this would not change our fundamental problem: still outside, crippled and begging, instead of being inside, walking and praising.
On this particular day, Jesus' apostles, Peter and John, came to the temple for prayer at the same time when the beggar was carried to the Temple’s gate, the Beautiful gate. Acts 3: 3.4 READ.
Look at us! Peter told the man. In other words: "Man, pay attention to us! Do not focus on money. Look at us. We are Jesus’ disciples - do you recognize us?"
This cripple man is the perfect picture of every human being born after Adam’s fall. Like this man, we are all born crippled. We all suffer from total depravity in the sense that sin has radically and fundamentally affected our thoughts, our wills, and our affections.
In Jeremiah 17:9 we read, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. This cripple had a serious problem, but he became used to it. I am sure he didn't even give much thought to his problem anymore. Maybe once in a while, but you know, he become used to it…
We are the same. Have you read any articles about SIN recently in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or Time magazine? Just speak about Jesus Christ and His power to save and see how “normal” people are looking at you… . If you desire their attention just talk politics and gay-lesbian issues.
The problem of sin is dead serious. Now, in this country we often hear the slogan, "It's the economy, stupid!" And we think that only if we get enough money, all our problems will be solved. Inject more money in economy… Bail-out the financial institutions…
But the truth is: money cannot help man in the fundamental sense. In fact, philosophy and technology cannot help man either. They can only give us a little good feeling like we might get from drugs. They are band-aid solutions, which leave us congenital cripples without any cure. The tragedy is that no human being is able to even diagnose man's problem, let alone cure it. It is tragic that we, like this cripple, accept deformity and abnormality as normal. So Peter was saying,
"What about the possibility of standing on your own two feet? Have you ever thought of walking and leaping and praising God? What about going into the temple yourself, instead of spending all these years outside - cut off, separated and unclean. What about going into the temple and singing and praising God yourself?"
The cripple did not think about these things. He thought that all he needed was money. We are the same today. No one is interested in understanding human depravity. All we need is a little more money, we think. A little more money and our problems will be solved!
A little more money will not take care of anything. So Peter, instead of giving the crippled man a coin, commanded him, "Look at us!" "Pay attention to us!"
Peter was saying. We are apostles of Jesus of Nazareth. You didn’t hear what happened recently here in Jerusalem? Didn't you hear about Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified, buried, but on the third day he was raised from the dead?
We are witnesses of his resurrection. We are Christ's apostles, appointed to declare to all people the good news, the gospel of salvation. Mr. Cripple, Mr. Philosopher, Mr. Priest, Mr. Scientist, Mrs. Nice Conservative/Liberal: this Jesus Christ alone is the Savior and only he is able to solve your problem.
Like this cripple, we good Christians also almost believe this heresy that a little more money will solve our problems. Suppose we want to send out some missionaries. All we need is what? Money. And so we develop programs to raise money for these missionaries.
ILLUSTRATION. Sometimes I get letters and e-mails like this: "I want to go to such-and-such a place. And we know you are now pastor in US and you have a good support from your church. Can you send me some money?" When we think like this, we believe a lie.
From millions of prayers, many of them imply God for help. Do you know what the majority asked for? To win the lottery ticket. What was the cripple's true need? An electronic wheel chair, computer assisted? It was restoration to perfect health and, more importantly, restoration to God. Jesus Christ only could help him, and so Peter told him, Look at us! Why? This man could not find out about him unless he moves attention from money to apostles faces reflecting Jesus face. .
And verse 5 says: The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting... what? A gift!... How teribile is this human limitation, our limitation not his. We are the ones described in this Scripture! How awful is to have this spiritual deformation, not physically one.
Personally I am certain that the heaven’s inhabitants are amazed and stunned. We hear about God’s love, salvation, redemption, we know John 3,16 and how God give EVERYTHING to save us. He give everything and we still having almost nothing, poor, beggars asking for a coin of good time, for a nickel of good feeling, for a dime of personal proud. God gave all he has had, but we don’t take it... Just little bit... Lord, hallo, I think it’s a mistake, you give me all that you have, instead of a little luck.
Peter said at this moment: "Silver and gold I have none, but you know what? In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." It is Jesus - his power and his authority - who makes the difference. It is not Peter or John or anyone else.
Remember, this crippled man was not seeking salvation. He was looking for money -a little copper coin, perhaps, to be tossed in his direction. But God is able to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine," Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20 and God gave him something of infinitely greater worth - eternal life, salvation, and hope.
It seems that the first crippled thought was: “Come on, to be healed... words and nothing else that nice words... sermons and sermons, I heard thousands of them. That is theory! I need something more!...
Is somebody present that he think this way? Come on, salvation, Jesus inside, eternal life... WORDS...Church is just a social weekly activity, nice, good occasion to meet my friends, and that’s it! It will be terrible and I hope that is not the case. I am convinced that Jesus can do for me everything in order to make me walk again! And for you, too.
And in that moment, Peter lost his patience. Ignoring his hand, verse 7: Peter took him by the right hand, (the same one, his tool as beggar) and lifted him up. Immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
This was a miracle! And if you do not believe in miracles, I feel sorry for you as I said. Why? Because if we believe everything came into being by accident, then our own life has no meaning, no purpose, no significance. Not only crippled, we are blind and ignorant to think this way, the Bible says.
Acts 3:8 (NIV) He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
I like this. Nobody had to tell him to go into 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 did not consider if it would offend them or being considered crazy.
I can just hear him now: Excuse me sir, I have to tell you my story: until now I was crippled man, couldn’t walk, couldn’t even feel my feet, just laid there on the street... And do you know what Jesus’ apostles that I personally encountered said? - In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk! – and guess what: ta-da!... well I suppose you can see for yourself, that’s right, I CAN WALK!
HAD HE BEEN LIKE SOME CHRISTIANS KNOW HIS FIRST REACTION WOULD HAVE BEEN:
- OH NO, NOW I'LL HAVE TO BUY SHOES, or
- GREAT NOW I'LL HAVE TO GET A JOB.
The crippled man was healed immediately and the Bible tells us he leaped to his feet and stood. The soles of his feet were strengthened and he was able to stand for the first time in his life. He began to walk. A very unusual activity for somebody who never did it before.
And not only was he vigorous, but he was exuberant, so he began to praise the God who healed him. He was worshiping, walking and leaping and praising God. Not at the gate anymore. Inside, in the Temple! What freedom, what joy, what exuberance, what enthusiasm he was experiencing!
We must realize that the Christian life is a joyful life, a life of freedom in Christ. "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36). It is an abundant life, a life in which rivers of living water flow out of us. It is a life of celebration and filling with the Holy Spirit. It is a life of always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
CALL. Be cured and praise the Lord. Acts 3:8.9 (read it).
Get on your feet, but don’t forget to kneel. The true Jesus’ church is composed by walking people, jumping full of joy, praising God. Begging no more at the gate. The gate could be prettier than the Temple – it is another paradox of modern religion. Big gates, large ways coming trough, but no worship at the gate.