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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:A lame man walks!
Text:Acts Acts 3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness
 
Preached:2010-08-01
Added:2011-03-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 84:1,3,4

Psalm 71:7,8

Psalm 23:1,2,3

Psalm 126:1,2

Psalm 65:3  

Read:  Isaiah 35; Acts 3.

Text:  Acts 3.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

His expectations were not high.  A copper coin or two would satisfy him.  Just enough to let him eat, and occasionally something more for clothing, a bed or perhaps a drop of wine.  He could dream, but could not hope for more.

There he lay.  Lame since birth.  Reduced to the life of beggar. A picture of misery, in front of a gate called “Beautiful”.

When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple for the 3:00 o’clock Afternoon Prayers, his expectations were not high.  “Please, sirs, can you spare a poor lame beggar a few small coins?” 

But Peter and John were not able to meet his expectations.  “What you want”, Peter replied, “I don’t have.”

But Peter did have something else, something so much better to give to him.  “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 

And for the first time in his life of over 40 years a feeling of strength coursed through his body all the way to his feet and his ankles.  For the first time in his life of over 40 years the man born lame stood up on his own two feet.  No, he did not get what he had requested, but he got so much more than he had ever dared to hope or dream for!  He could get up!  He could walk!  He could leap!  He could jump!  This was a miracle!  It was as if he had received a new life!  A time of refreshing, of restoration had come to this man born lame. 

Such things don’t seem to happen anymore.  I believe that God can still do miracles, and I have witnessed things that so clearly displayed the hand of God that I would call them miracles.  But I have never seen a man born lame get up and walk. 

So why did it happen then, but not now?  Has the Christian church lost something?  Has the name of Jesus lost something?  Is there something missing?

The man who moments earlier had been lame was now walking and leaping and praising God.  He was excited about what had happened to him.  He was excited about Jesus, through whose name he had been healed.  We can understand that:  we would be walking and leaping and praising God too if such a thing ever happened to us! 

But at times we feel more like the lame man before he could walk.  A picture of misery in front of the gate called Beautiful.  Holding out our hands for a little comfort, for a little help, to get us through the day.  But hardly daring to receive more than that – at least, not in this life! 

But Jesus says, Get up!  Turn from your sins and have faith in My name.  And I will give you times of refreshing, I will restore your life!”

We may not see a lame man get up and walk.  But that is OK.  For it is not the miracle that we are to focus on, but the message we see in it.  The message that in Jesus’ name we may receive times of refreshing, a restored life in Him!

I preach to you the Gospel of life as it is given to us in Acts 3 under the following heading:

A lame man walks as a testimony to restored life in Jesus’ Name.

1.    A testimony to what was promised.

2.    A testimony to what is promised.

1. A testimony to what was promised.

In Isaiah 34 and 35, two futures are described.  Chapter 34 speaks of the wrath of God against the world, that is those who are the enemies of God and His people, with a particular focus on the judgment concerning Edom.  On that great and terrible day the stars would fall from the sky (Isa. 34:4), and the sword of the LORD would destroy them (Isa. 34:5).  But God’s chosen people could look forward to a good future, to one of blessing when they would see the glory of the LORD, the Excellency of our God (Isa. 35:2).  The LORD promised He would save His people and that salvation would be complete.  Not only would the desert rejoice and bloom with life, but

“the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing.”  (Isa. 35:5,6)

The ransomed of the LORD, His chosen covenant ones, would return from exile and would come to Zion with singing and everlasting joy.  (Isa. 35:10)  They would be walking and leaping and praising God and all sorrow and sighing would be a thing of the past.

It was in this manner that Isaiah described the coming age, the time when the LORD would reveal His glory and send the promised Messiah.  This was the future that the people of Zion could look forward to.

Isaiah 35 prophesied of a time when the blind would see, the deaf would hear and the lame would walk.  But this physical healing was a picture of something deeper, of something spiritual.  It was a picture of all things being made new, of the restoration of life, of spiritual blessing that would come when Israel returned to Zion.  And indeed, as we will later sing in Psalm 126, Zion was restored, brought out of bondage from the LORD.  But the full restoration of the kingdom of Israel would not come until the Son of Promise, the Messiah, would be revealed.

And when Jesus Christ was revealed, the signs and miracles that He performed were done to show that the “times of refreshing” had come, that the prophecies of old would be fulfilled.  In Luke 7 John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”  And Jesus answered and said to then,

“Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard:  that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.”  (Luke 7:22) 

The miracles that Jesus performed proved that the Time of Salvation, that time the prophets had all looked forward to, that this time had come.  The Promised Messiah, the One through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed, was now in their midst.

But then He died. And the conclusion of the people was that this Jesus of Nazareth was not the One He claimed to be.  He was not the Saviour, and He could not restore the Kingdom to Israel, He could not usher in that great Messianic Age that the prophet Isaiah had spoken of.

And the people of Jerusalem killed him.  As Peter reminded the Jews in Acts 3:14,15, the people of Jerusalem delivered Him up to Pontius Pilate.  They denied Him, they wanted a murderer to live instead of Him, and they killed the Prince of Life.  Jesus, they believed, was dead, buried, and best forgotten.

But now there is a man who had been born lame.  A man they all knew well, one who had laid daily at the Beautiful Temple Gate.  And he was with two of Jesus’ disciples, walking and leaping and praising God.  Healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  And, as can be expected, the people stared at him with wonder and amazement!  How could it be that a man born lame was now leaping like a deer?  And as the crowd ran to see him, exclaiming in amazement over what happened, Peter got the peoples’ attention and began to speak.  And what Peter has to say is telling.

·      He takes the focus away from the lame man.  He does not ask the lame man to stand up taller and straighter and show off his new, strong legs.  He does not get the man to stand up and to tell the people what God had done for him. 

·      He takes the focus away from himself and John.  “Why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk?” 

·      He takes the focus away from the miracle that had just taken place.  “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this?”

Peter took the focus away from all of these things and pointed instead to the One who had healed this man, to Jesus of Nazareth.  But he wanted the people of Jerusalem to see Jesus for who He really is.  He wanted them to see Jesus as the One through whom the prophecies of the Old Testament were being fulfilled.

And so Peter began to explain the meaning of what had taken place by speaking of “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers.”  (Acts 3:13)  For it was the God of the covenant, the God who had spoken His promises of old who was now at work.  He had prophesied of this day in Genesis 12, in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 53.   Indeed all the prophets, from Samuel and all those following him, had in one way or another spoken of the things that were now taking place. 

Jesus of Nazareth was the One of whom the Old Testament spoke and looked forward to.  And so Peter used words and names from the Old Testament to describe who Jesus really is.  He called Jesus God’s “Servant”, that is, the One whom Isaiah 53 said would be bruised for our transgressions and by whose stripes we would be healed.  He called Jesus the “Holy One” and the “Just” or the “Righteous One”.  He confirmed that Jesus was the Great Prophet, the One who Moses had spoken about.

This Jesus, Peter told them, This Jesus whom the Jews had denied and crucified, this Jesus was alive and glorified at God’s right hand.  This Jesus was the One who had been promised, the One who would bring about times of refreshing, the restoration of life, the making of all things new.  And the healing of the lame man was a testimony to this, was evidence that Jesus is the Christ.

And then Peter continued in Acts 3:16,

“And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know.” 

Jesus had indeed died, but He rose again, ascended into heaven and is exalted at God’s right hand.  And now, through His Spirit, He was now active in restoring all things to Himself.  In this manner Peter explained that although he spoke the words, it was Jesus who had healed this man.  When Peter spoke in Jesus’ name, with the faith that had been given to him for this man’s healing, it was Jesus who was acting, not Peter.  And when, by faith, this lame man accepted the hand of Peter and stood up, he was healed!

But the healing of this lame man now calls the Jews to respond.  If Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Prophet to come, the Suffering servant who would bring in the time of refreshing and restoration, then the Jews in the first place, the children of the Promise, of the covenant, must repent and believe.  The Jews had not recognized this Jesus of Nazareth for who He really is.  In ignorance they had rejected Him and even had Him put to death.  But now He is revealed to them as the Promised Messiah, the Prince or the Author of life itself.  And for the Jews, indeed for all of us, to enjoy the restoration of all things in Christ, we must repent and be converted.  Rather than turn from God, we must turn to Him and receive the blessings of a restored life in Jesus’ name.

2. A testimony to what is promised.

When he saw Peter and John come towards, him, the lame beggar had low expectations.  A copper coin or two would satisfy him.  There he had lain:  a picture of misery, in front of a gate called “Beautiful”.  But this man, through faith in the name of Jesus, was made strong.  When Peter commanded him to rise up and walk, he was instantly and completely healed to the point that he was seen walking and leaping and praising God!

But what about us?  What can we expect?  What can we hope for?

There are times when leaping and praising God sounds like a dream, when we feel more like the lame man before he could walk.  There are times when we hold out our hands for a little comfort, for a little help, but hardly dare to expect more than that – at least, not in this life.

But what does the glorified Christ, He who rules from the Father’s right hand, promise us?  What can we hope for? What should our expectations be?

Many miracles took place in the early church.  Sick people and also those with unclean spirits were healed.  Acts 5 says that some were healed when only Peter’s shadow passed over them.

There are times when we too might hope and pray for such a miracle.  And as we pray, we can be confident that God is able to heal, for He is both Almighty God and our faithful Father.  But then we must also remember the particular time in the history of God’s salvation in which we live.  We live in that time of history that is sometimes referred to as “already - not yet”.  Christ has already been revealed as the Promised Messiah and has already been glorified at the Father’s right hand.  But He has not yet restored all things to Himself.  The complete fulfilment of the promised new creation lies in the future, when Jesus returns on the clouds of heaven.  And so the miracles that the apostles performed in those first days after Pentecost did not signify the complete fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, but of the beginning of the new, Messianic Age.

The miracles we read about in the book of Acts were signs that pointed to something else.  They were signs that pointed to the glorified Christ and to the complete restoration of life that we receive in Him.

The disciples could not heal people whenever they wished, and they did not heal people without exception.  The apostle Paul healed many people, but he does not appear to have healed his friend and fellow worker Epaphroditus who almost died.  (Phil. 2:27)  And 2 Timothy 4:20 says that Paul also left Trophimus sick in Miletus.  And Paul himself had a thorn in his flesh that did God did not remove.  And so the apostles did not receive the gift of healing to heal whomever they pleased.  Sometimes they did not receive the miracle that they had prayed for.

But that was right, for the miracles were a testimony to something else.  The miracles were a sign that God had made this Jesus of Nazareth both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) and that by believing in Him, we will receive the forgiveness of sins and can look forward to the complete restoration of our lives.

And that is why Peter takes the focus away from the lame man and away from himself and calls the people to give their full attention to the name of Jesus. For ultimately, it was not a number of miracles that Christ had come to accomplish, but the miracle of a new life.

A lame man walks as a testimony to restored life in Jesus’ name.  Yes it is true that the complete restoration of all things, when God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, lies in the near future, when our Lord returns.  But through the healing of this lame man, the Lord calls us to the restoration of life that begins already today.

·      He wants you to repent and be converted to Him.

·      He wants your sins to be blotted out.

·      He wants you to live in the presence of the Lord and so already now to enjoy times of refreshing.

·      He wants you to look forward to the future with hope, confident that when Christ returns He will restore all things, and that all things will be made new. 

·      He wants you to be walking and leaping and praising God.

Does the joy that filled the lame man’s heart, causing him to walk and leap and praise God, does that joy fill you also?  Is the Gospel so real, so vivid, so beautiful to you that your spirit, soul and body feels new and refreshed?  Are you ready to praise God and exclaim with joy and gladness, “How good it is to be a Christian, what a blessed life I have in Him!”?

There are times in our lives when we do not feel that way.  There are times when our lives could better be described as “lying in misery before the gate called Beautiful”, when the joy of faith is clouded with the guilt of sin and the pains of this present life.  There are times when we long to be refreshed in the joy of faith, when we long to enjoy even the smallest taste of the fullness of salvation.

But the way forward is clear.  “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”  (Acts 3:19)

Does that sound too good to be true?  Is that too great a thing to hope for, even today? 

For our sins to be blotted out, to be remembered no more, may seem like a dream.  Many of us go through life weighed down with a burden of guilt.  It makes us depressed, it makes us anxious.  It makes us long for the time when the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing; when the waters cover the wilderness and streams flow in the desert.

That final restoration lies in the future; it is the promised hope that we are eagerly waiting for.  But the joy of salvation, the complete forgiveness of sins and the restoration of life is already offered to you, right now.

The last verse of Acts 3, verse 26, says, “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

“To you first.”  No, that does not directly apply to you and me.  It was to the Jews first that Jesus was sent, to bless them and forgive them.  But understand just which Jews Peter was addressing here!  He was talking to the very Jews who had denied the Christ, who had handed him over to be crucified, who had exchanged Him for a murderer.  To quote from one commentator,

“It is to these people, the very ones who had been instrumental in the greatest crime in human history, that God now comes with the gospel of salvation. And He comes to them first.  It is God’s way of saying, “I know what you have done, but I do not hold it over you.  I love you anyway.  It is precisely for people like you that I caused Jesus to die.””  (James Montgomery Boice, Acts, p70)

And there is something else I’d like to point out.  In Acts 3, the apostle Peter said to the Jews, “But you denied the Holy One.”  That was their sin.  And yet Peter held open the gospel to them, urging them to repent and believe, promising that God would blot out their sin and restore their life!

And Peter could say that with complete certainty.  For Peter himself had denied the Christ, had his sins forgiven, and been restored to his Saviour.

And for us today, the promise of the Gospel remains.  Regardless of what we have done, regardless of the guilt that we might carry, God proclaims His Son to You.  It is for you that Jesus died.  He died and rose again, and now sits in glory at the Father’s right hand so that believing in Him, you might have life in His name.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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