September 9, 2018
Pastor John Hering
Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, an hour of prayer. 2 A certain man who was lame from birth was carried there every day and placed at the temple gate, which is called Beautiful, so that he could beg for donations from those entering the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked them for a donation. 4 Peter looked directly at him, as did John. Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So the man paid close attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” 7 Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. 8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk. He entered the temple courts with them, walking, jumping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him as the one who used to sit begging for money at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Ah! The Food! Chipotle chicken tacos; Chorizo, onions, Cilantro, and lime on flour tortillas; Searing sautéed steak all on a server’s platter stepping like a dancer between tables and smiling at happy customers. The tables with white linen, fresh flowers and candles flickering stand in contrast to the refinished bar with mirrored shelves reflecting rows of bottles standing tall over the sparkling clean floor—all on display as the celebrity chef and his crew leave the scene of another episode of Bar Rescue! Bar Rescue is a reality show featuring veteran nightlife expert Jon Taffer as he seeks to rescue bars on the brink of failing and restore it to profitability. He shows up on the scene, assesses the issues, confronts the owners with the problems, outlines the changes he intends to make (like changing the menu, adding decoration and dishes he believes will appeal to the local consumer, changing the décor) then oversees the cleaning/remodeling, trains the staff and gives the bar owner a beautiful outline to success.
Wouldn’t it make an interesting reality show is someone would do that in your life? I’m sure you’d like to make some changes in your life, too. They would come in and assess our life, confront us with the issues, outline the changes that need to be made to address the messes in our life, train us and give us suggestions on how to succeed! But, is this reality? Can we play a Jon Taffer role and turn things around? Today’s lesson from Acts 3 addresses these questions with a focus on a most unusual place call “The Beautiful Gate.” There at this gate some followers of Jesus focus on a love that turns things around. Therefore, let’s visit this place called
To see a Beautiful Miracle
So you walk into the movie theater and notice a toilet seat in the middle of the seats. That’s unusual. Or you open up the carton of eggs and there is a lime in one of the spaces. That’s unusual. So, the scene before us in Acts 3 just doesn’t seem right. There is the Beautiful Gate (20 feet high, gold and silver sides glimmering in the sun, supporting two brass doors so massive that historians report that it took 20 men to open and close a door). This was the main entrance to the worship area. The fine people of Jerusalem walked through this gate to worship the Lord God of Israel. But, something didn’t seem right:
“Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, an hour of prayer. 2 A certain man who was lame from birth was carried there every day and placed at the temple gate, which is called Beautiful, so that he could beg for donations from those entering the temple.”
Like dirty overalls on a prom queen, something didn’t seem right. Every day they brought this man to this gate to beg. Are you tempted to look at this man, or any person with special needs and equate physical or mental disabilities with disdain? This kind of prejudice is sinful and an offense to our God. I say this because some might think that the thing that doesn’t seem right in this scene is the lame man. No way. It doesn’t say that this man’s disability made him unfit to be here. He may have been well dressed, well versed and quite handsome for all we know. Rather it was the situation that was ugly!
We have to know the OT rules God established for his people to see the real ugliness of the situation. In Deut 5 God gave this command to his people for time when they encountered situations like this lame man.
“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. ….. There need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.”
Do you believe it? If the family, friends and relatives of this lame man had followed God’s directives for charity and generosity, he would not have been a beggar. But, because people ignore God’s way to manage their blessings we have to see this ugly scene at the Beautiful Gate of people probably looking straight ahead and avoiding this beggar much like the Priest and Levite in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan.
We learn this man had been here at the Beautiful Gate for a long time. How many times do you think Peter and John had seen this same man here before—and maybe even ignored him like the crowds. But, today was different. Why?
“3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked them for a donation.”
Do you think Peter and John said to themselves, “WWJD!” (What would Jesus do?). Jesus would have walked right past the man! I probably had done so many times coming into and out of the temple area during his time of teaching and preaching (knowing full well what he would do through the disciples some day). Rather, I think the disciples were thinking of a bigger point. “WDJD” (What DID Jesus do!). What did Jesus do for sinners– who crawl along life with crazy excuses? Who grind through life with a guilty conscience, who are ugly with the sores of sin on their lives, who are infested by the flies of temptation buzzing around their heads. Jesus gave all who are ill from the pain of sorrow and the special needs of hurting souls more than a Beautiful Gate to sit by, but a beautiful miracle of love, forgiveness, and spiritual healing when he died on the cross.
“3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked them for a donation. 4 Peter looked directly at him, as did John. Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So the man paid close attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.”
The man expected a hand out. Through Peter and John God gave him a hand up! Beautiful! Please don’t miss the obvious comfort from this account. A Beautiful miracle took place!
“6 But Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” 7 Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately the man’s feet and ankles were made strong.” A small donation would have lasted a day or two, but to be healed was a miracle to last the rest of his life!
I know we all deal with our own aches and pains, broken bones and special needs. God has never promised to take them all away or make us better until we’re in heaven some day. But, neither do we want to make light of the grace of our God’s healing hand over our illnesses and pains. There are kids here that once had broken bones. Not now. Adults have gone through surgeries, but you won’t know it today. Even people who were diagnosed with Cancer, now are living cancer free. These are nothing short of the beautiful miracles of Gods grace. And when healing doesn’t go according to our plan, but God allows suffering to continue, let it serve to reminds us that this earth is not our home, that sin has ruined it, and that we even pray, “Deliver us from Evil” knowing some day through some evil event, we will leave this world to spend eternity with Jesus in heaven. Let us always be eager like this man,
“8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk. He entered the temple courts with them, walking, jumping, and praising God.”
Let us praise God for his beautiful miracle of healing physically when it happens, and eternally, because it has happened already. We know this because of the
Yes, the early Apostle were given the ability to do miracles by the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. But they never used this ability to show off. The miracles they performed was always connected to a message. Listen:
“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
They were saying what Jesus was showing in the gospel lesson today.
“Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!”(which means “Be opened!”)” (Mark 7:34).
Jesus was communicating to the deaf man, “Healing comes from God. I am God and can cure you of every weakness. Body and Soul!”
This was the same message at the Beautiful Gate for the lame man and for the crowds. They saw the blind man who had a need, but through their actions and their message they were able to help him with his greater need—forgiveness and live eternal! They direct our attention to the bigger issue—“What did Jesus do for beggars like you and me!?” Praise be to God! Jesus paid the penalty we deserved to pay for all our sins. Jesus paid the debt we owed to God, a price far more than a few coins in the offering plate, far more than a year or two in jail, far more than the paycheck from a job, far more than what we spend on the pleasures of this life. Jesus paid with his life so we stand more than cancer-free, we stand with the “hell-of-a-debt” free before God!
So, Peter did not just say to the man, “Walk!” but
“In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”
and unpacked a miraculous message for this man and for the crowds. Just think of the setting. Luke’s gospel tells us that after Jesus’ ascension Christians were gathering in the temple courts regularly “praising God!” (Luke 24:53). Maybe this man connected the dots. We can well imagine him thinking, “This Jesus was the man I used to see teaching here in the temple courts, this is the man about whom Christians have been talking about. This is Jesus Christ the Nazarene that was put to death, but reported to have risen from the dead, and who has all power over everything. And now I’m standing here as living proof of that power. I have a Savior Jesus who loves me, died for me, forgave me and has now healed me!”
It is pretty neat to watch Bar-Rescue and see how someone can change things around. But, even after things are changed around, if we would go back and visit those same places today do you think they are all clean, new and serving outstanding food? Maybe, but probably not. Changing a building doesn’t necessarily change the attitudes and motivation for people to always do their best. Aren’t you so thankful that Jesus has come into your life with more than a life change. He made a life-rescue! Jesus made you his very own through the miracle of your baptism, and he continues to work to call you to daily repentance and to trust in his forgiveness through his word! Dear Christian Friends, today you also stand forgiven for Jesus’ sake because Jesus’ Beautiful love for you will never fail. It’s your Beautiful miracle that came to you from God’s Beautiful message. Bar-Rescues and people with special needs may have a miraculous change in their lives that lasts a while. But, today you believe in Jesus and someday you will pass through the Beautiful Gate of Heaven to live forever with Jesus. Amen!