May 5, 2024. Sermon title: Healing of the Body and Soul

First Mennonite Church

May 5, 2024

Healing of the Body and Soul

Text: Acts 3:1-4:4

As you can notice, our passage is extensive, so I will break it into three major sections: a) the healing of the lame man. B) Peter’s second sermon, and c) the result of Peter’s preaching.

According to Cornelius a Lapide, Thomas Aquinas called the attention of Pope Innocent II when Thomas found him counting out a large sum of money. “You see, Thomas,” said the Pope, “the church can no longer say, ‘Silver and gold have I none.’” “It is true, holy Father,” replied Thomas, “but neither can she now say, ‘Rise and walk.’”[1] That truth is not much different for us Christians too.

Our passage is part of Luke’s exquisite storytelling work. The context is one of the temple gates. There is debate about the exact location of the temple gate Beautiful. However, Luke’s purpose in telling this story is to show that the miracle took place in a public space and that the recipient’s life was restored beyond his expectations.

It was three in the afternoon, the hour of the evening prayer in the temple, and Peter and John were headed to fulfill their religious duties, as other pious Jews did. As they were about to enter the temple, a beggar asked them for money. Luke tells us the man was crippled from birth and had to be carried to this location every day. It might mean that this man had staked out a particular spot as his to beg for alms every day. Almsgiving was one of the two most important practices in Jewish piety; prayer is the other practice.

In response to the beggar’s request, Peter and John address the beggar directly: “Look at us,” 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.” While the beggar was expecting to receive money, something he was used to receiving, however often, Peter and John were able to give him something much more worthy, the gift he had never had: mobility on his own. His physical condition, not only prevented him from moving on his own, but was also the reason he was not allowed to enter the temple courts to worship God. In Leviticus 21, the Lord gave commands to Moses that those with physical ailments and disabilities may “not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy” (v. 17-23). Therefore, although the beggar would come so close to the place where God could be met, his physical condition banned him from entering the sacred space.   

It seems that even when the beggar requested money his expectations were not high. Peter and John had to call him to look at them. Peter and John look at the man intently, thus asking the man to look at them directly as well. Divine mercy is always personal as the Psalmist says:

The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
19 to deliver them from death
    and keep them alive in famine (Psalm 33:18, 19)

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry (Psalm 34:15).

At their call, the beggar looked attentively at Peter and John, with raised expectations of getting something. However, the disciples’ words do not imply that they did not care to help the poor man. It was their real situation. They were penniless. Nonetheless, what they had was something no other generous person had ever given the begging man. They had the spiritual authority to restore more than just the beggar’s physical brokenness.

“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk,” Peter commanded. At this, Peter helped the man to his feet, and from there the man began to walk and went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. Everyone there recognized the excited man was the same who used to beg. Onlookers were amazed at the scene of what had just happened. As the man clings to Peter and John, he intimately identifies with his healers. The crowds gather immediately, allowing Peter to explain what was happening.

Thus, comes Peter’s second sermon. He once again points out that the miracle took place through faith in Jesus, the one “you handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.” But Peter graciously excuses his listeners’ actions against God’s Servant by telling them that they acted in ignorance. And yet again, Peter calls his audience to repentance and to turn to God, but this time, the result of repentance includes more than what he told those in his first sermon. When Peter called his audience to repentance after his Pentecost sermon, he said they’d be forgiven of their sins and would receive the Holy Spirit as the disciples had. On this occasion, he said that if they repented “their sins will be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he (God) may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”

Peter extends the scope of God’s gracious acceptance of those who rejected his Son, by blotting out their sins and giving them newness of life. Times of refreshing indicate God’s gift of a clean slate to his people. But not only that, even the promise of a second coming of God’s Messiah. However, Peter said, [For now] Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”

Please remember the question the disciples so eagerly asked Jesus when they met him after his resurrection: “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus told them, the timing for that only the Father knows. Here, Peter clarifies that God will not only restore the kingdom to Israel but that he will restore everything when the Messiah comes again.

While Peter was still speaking to the people, the authorities came. These were the priests, the temple guards, and the Sadducees. As verse two says: They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. The first two groups, the priests and the captain of the temple were responsible for watching over matters of ritual purity. These were the official guardians of theological matters and sacrificial purity. The Sadducees derive their name from both the Hebrew word for “righteousness” and from an Arronid priest “Zadok” (2Sam. 2:17; Ezekiel 40:46).   Their authority in the temple is less known. The Sadducees are one of the most educated and sophisticated religious groups. Therefore, it could be that their scorn for the uneducated disciples motivated their antagonism. 

There are a few points I would like us to take from this passage:

  1. When Peter commands the lame man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” He is not using the incantation of a magician, as though by the mere invocation of a sacred name power could be released. His command was based on his conviction of the continuing authority of the living Jesus given them. Peter embodied the promise and authority of Jesus who had told them, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you tell this mountain to move and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
  2. Luke tells us that when the people recognized the man as the one who was lame, “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” In the Gospels, healing miracles are “enacted parables.” That is, those who are healed experienced in their bodies the saving grace of God, through Jesus and his disciples. When God’s healing grace reaches a person’s soul, he or she experiences God’s gift of salvation.
  3. Let us try to understand what Peter told his fellow Israelites if they were to respond to God’s calling through Jesus, his Son: Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

There are a couple of things that would happen if Peter’s Jewish audience would turn to God. A) Their sins would be wiped out. B) Times of refreshing/renewal will come from the Lord. C) The Messiah will come again. It seems that Peter ties the second coming of the Lord with Israel’s response to God’s message through Christ. It seems that the coming of the Lord depends on Israel’s response to Jesus, as God’s Messiah. But there is something else. Among a large part of evangelicals, there is a view that the closing of time or of “the present age” as it is also called, the time when all things are restored by God, that a few important things should happen first. In that scheme of events, first, there should be a rapture, then a period of unspeakable calamities, a millennium, the resurrection of all the dead, the final judgment, among others, and finally the restoration of all things in God’s kingdom. Well, Peter gives us a view very much consistent with what Jesus says in John 5:28, 29, where he says: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” According to Jesus’ words, the resurrection for all will occur at the same time and judgment will follow. And that is what Peter says here. He says that at the coming of the Messiah God will restore everything.   

Let me say, however, that regardless of how the end unfolds or happens, it is the least of things we need to worry about. The future is “fixed” in God’s plan and is therefore removed as a principal concern of ours. What matters today is that we live a repentant life before the Lord and that we heed his call to share the good news.

  • The Sadducees came while Peter and John were still speaking to the people seized Peter and John and put them in jail until the next day. Then even today, institutional authority is always concerned about those with a different voice or opinion. Let us remember that those in power, either by election or by self-appointment, will oftentimes act on their self-interest, sometimes doing things that go against their moral code. In the Book of Acts, the Sadducees are the antagonists of the disciples’ ministry. The opposition Peter and his friends encountered, even when doing what was right, is a reminder to us about the inherent danger there is when following Jesus as Lord and Savior.
  • One last word. The lame man was given what no amount of money could ever afford him. As we saw, miracles are “enacted parables.” Miracles of healing tell us that a deeper healing has also taken place. In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus often referred to an act of healing as an act of saving. Jesus said to the woman after he had healed her, “Go in peace, your faith has saved you.” The lame man could not stand before the presence of God, even when he was in the house of the Lord. It was not until the grace of the Living Lord reached him through Peter. Here we are in this holy place. Can we stand by ourselves before the Living Christ? Or are we lame in our spirit? Who will or is reaching out to us on behalf of the Living Lord? As I on occasion say in my prayers, “Lord, here we are in your presence, not based on our merits because we have none, but on the merits of Jesus your Son, our Savior.” So, today, if you feel lame in your spirit, let me reach out to you, “In the name of the Living Jesus Christ, stand and walk!” Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] Quoted by Bod Deffinbaugh. lame excuses to preach on Acts 3. (May 1, 2024)