Hello, and welcome to Lechem Panim. We are glad you are with us today as we continue to take a look at Acts chapter 3 together.
Becoming Like Your Rabbi-- Now over the last couple of weeks we have been talking about what it meant to be a disciple of a rabbi in the 1st century world of Jesus. Being a disciple meant so much more than just studying so that you could know what your rabbi knew. No, it was about becoming what your rabbi is. You wanted (in every area of your life) to be just like your rabbi. Well, Rabbi Jesus has gone into heaven; and His disciples are left behind to follow in His footsteps; to image Him; to be miniature copies of Him in the world so that the world might look to them but (in doing so) to experience Him. And that is what we see here in the opening chapters of the book of Acts; people are looking to Peter and John, but are discovering Christ. They are seeing in Peter and John the same authority over sickness that Jesus Himself had demonstrated while on earth. And this was experienced first right here at the temple gate called “Beautiful” in the healing of this lame beggar here. This man had been lame since birth and had been laid there by someone else in order to beg. And that in itself is a picture of prevenient grace. The man had been carried to the very place where he could meet the presence of Jesus. And the same is true of us. At my church (Renton Park Chapel) we have been talking about the reality of the fact that very rarely does anybody come to faith in Christ on their own. There is almost always somebody else involved; somebody who is pointing us to (or even carrying us into) the presence of Jesus.
Calling the Disciples-- And the same was true even at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. You know, we often have this idea that Jesus was the one to find His first disciples and initiate that first point of contact. But that isn’t true. [According to the gospel of John, only one of the first five disciples was reached directly by Christ. That was Philip. Jesus said to him, “Follow me” (John 1:43). The other four were reached by someone else’s witness to Christ. Andrew and an unnamed disciple, perhaps John, came as the result of John the Baptist’s witness. Simon came because of his brother Andrew, and Nathanael came because of his friend Philip.] Now that has huge implications for how we think about how Jesus calls men and women to Himself. He doesn’t always call them directly, but does so through the ministry of another person. There is always somebody in the background (like whoever it was that brought this lame beggar to the temple gate; perhaps who did so faithfully for some time) who is helping us to come to Jesus. And that is what we see here. Now this lame beggar came this day only to beg; to have his financial needs met. And that is often when we come to Jesus; when there is a need. But what is amazing is that the healing that Peter and John provide for this beggar in the name of Jesus goes so much further than anything he could have ever hoped for or even prayed for himself. His legs were restored, yes. But even more importantly, he experienced a restoration of his heart as well, as he came to faith in Jesus Christ. His healing was a complete and total restoration.
What About Our Healing?-- Now what does the story of this healing mean for you and for me? How do we apply this passage? Sometimes (if I am going to be honest) I struggle with passages like this because (unlike those who encountered the disciples or Jesus Himself), we don’t always get to experience the physical side of the healing. Often times there is that “thorn in the flesh” we have to deal with like Paul had to deal with; there’s that illness or struggle or burden that God doesn’t see fit to remove right away (or at all) while we are on earth. And so the question we often ask is, “How ought we to participate in Christ’s ministry of healing?” Are we to perform healings in the same way that Peter and John did on a regular basis? Or did God use healings to validate the truth of the Gospel, but then withdraw much of that healing power after the Church was established? That’s a tough question. There is no question that to image Jesus must involve our being agents of healing in culture. But what does that look like, especially considering that while God sometimes does heal through us (which I myself have experienced in and throughout my years of ministry) there are other times when you pray for that person who is sick or lame and God doesn’t heal them, at least in the way we might have originally been praying for. You may be grappling with that question now. Maybe you or someone you love is battling a very serious illness. And you want to know what (if any) healing is available to you for your own situation. And there are often no easy answers to those kinds of questions. But I love what Tony Campolo shares…
[He Was Healed-- Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing. That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, “You prayed for my husband. He had cancer.” Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb that his cancer had been eradicated! But before he could think much about it she said, “He died.”
Campolo felt terrible. But she continued, “Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence.”
But the lady told Campolo, “After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the best days of our lives. We’ve sung. We’ve laughed. We’ve read Scripture. We prayed. Oh, they’ve been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing.”
And then she said something incredibly profound. She said, “He wasn’t cured, but he was healed.”]
The Right Healing-- Today you and I need to recognize that while healing might not always look the way we want it to, God does answer our prayers and does bring the kind of healing that He deems right for us at that time. And in this instance in our passage today, it meant total healing for this man who had been lame since birth. It was physical; it was mental; and it was spiritual. And in this instance it is evident that God wanted to give everyone there at Solomon’s Porch a picture of what He hoped to do spiritually in their hearts in and through faith in Jesus Christ. Now, as you can imagine, the beggar is beside himself with gratitude. We already read of his walking and leaping and praising God. But his joy is further evidenced in verse 11, where it says…
Acts 3:11-16 (ESV)— 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Refutations-- Now [In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter had to refute the accusation that the believers were drunk. In this sermon, he had to refute the notion that he and John had healed the man by their own power. (Paul and Barnabas would face a similar situation after healing a lame man. See Acts 14:8–18.)]
Directed to Jesus-- Now in this we need to notice something foundational to the pattern of Peter's preaching; and really all true Christian preaching. And that is that he doesn’t ever allow the miracles themselves to become the main focus. No, he chooses rather to emphasize the power of the presence of God moving in the midst of His people; that is the focus. And so notice how he directs the attention of the people away from the miracle itself and towards God (particularly Jesus Christ). Even after Pentecost, when so much of the focus of Peter’s message could have been on the gift of tongues and how awesome that was, he instead immediately moves into how it was something God prophesied about, had come to fulfillment, and then he immediately moves into talking about Jesus. And so it is here as well. Right off the bat, the miracle becomes the launching point for talking about Jesus. And that is how it ought to be for us as well. If we truly believe that Jesus is the best thing we can offer the world, we won’t let our conversations get bogged down with much else. We will always find those avenues through which we can begin to share Christ with others.
Coronavirus: A Launching Point-- And by the way, one avenue that God has given you that might not have dawned on you yet is the Corona Virus. I don’t know how things are for where you live, but here in the Seattle area we have an incredibly diverse population; so many cultures so vastly different from one another jam packed together. And think about it; one year ago you would have had little (if anything) in common with many of those cultures, but now you have a touching point. God has given every one of us a common experience; a shared pain that can be a launching point for our talking about the root of all sickness (including spiritual sickness); and that root goes back beyond any lab in China. It stretches all the way back to a garden in Eden, where all our problems first began; and that root is sin. And yet God saw fit to help us by bringing a cure to mankind in and through His Son Jesus Christ.
Common Experiences-- Now in our passage today almost all the people present had recently had a number of shared common experiences. They were all of the same culture (they were all Jews), they had all been there for Passover and Pentecost, and (in being there) they had witnessed (and some even participated in) the death of Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth. And it is that common experience Peter chooses to capitalize on and use as his launching point for sharing the Gospel.
Let’s Carry-- And similarly, you and I need to be taking advantage of every opportunity we can to tell people about Jesus. Because God’s greatest means of bringing healing to culture isn’t any vaccine or drug; it isn’t a shower of healing power from on high. His greatest means of healing are you and me. You and I are the hands and feet of Christ. And so let us commit today to (in every way that we can) be the ones who will carry into the presence of Jesus Christ those who need His touch. Let’s do so. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.