Acts 3:1-10

(sermon note:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a televangelist healer who invited anyone with an ailment to come forward to receive healing. A man in a wheelchair was wheeled forward. The televangelist looked at the man intently, put his hand on his shoulder, and began screaming in tongues. After about 30 seconds, the televangelist screamed at the shocked man in the wheelchair, “RISE! RISE! Stand up, brother!” The man in the wheelchair slowly rose with a bewildered look on his face. People in the crowd gasped, women fainted. “Now walk, my child, walk!” The man slowly started walking and the crowd was stunned into silence. The televangelist gave a microphone to the man. “Now what do you have to say about this miracle of God?!” The man turned and looked at the crowd. “But I still can’t see!”

Oops, silly televangelist assumed the man couldn’t walk from the looks of the wheelchair. Someone should have clued him in! If you’re going to put on a show and claim to have miraculous healing power, you might want to “heal” actual ailments or at least collaborate with the one you’re claiming to heal! Sheesh…I guess those televangelists are easy to unmask after all.

Not that I’m trying to compare Peter with our modern-day sham artist televangelists. I believe the encounter he had with the lame man outside the temple was indeed a miraculous healing. I believe Peter was gifted with not only the power to heal but also the power to preach and transform lives through the spoken word. Just before this encounter with the lame man, we heard Peter preach powerful words of hope and redemption to the people of Jerusalem. And boy, did they ever need to hear such words having just crucified our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! They of all people needed to hear how Jesus had died and rose from the dead! The blood was no longer on their hands, so to speak! Of course, history still condemns the people of Jerusalem for having at least allowed Jesus to be crucified in their city, not to mention encouraging it with heckles as he walked through the streets carrying his cross. But hey, he rose again, all’s good, right?! Well, I suspect the world will always be a little suspicious of the actions of Jerusalem as long as Jesus lives. Much the same way that the world will be suspicious of the actions of Germany for the foreseeable future. A country can’t commit the atrocities of the early 20th century without suspicion thereafter! But we digress…

Yes, Peter’s healing of the lame man was nothing short of a miracle. But why lift it up in this season of Easter? Aren’t we supposed to be reflecting on the resurrection? Perhaps this healing story is an illustration of the resurrection. For a couple weeks now, we’ve been reflecting on how Jesus was resurrected in a different form than his pre-crucifixion form. Jesus didn’t come back to us in the same bodily form. People initially didn’t recognize him when he approached them. The more they talked and interacted with him, the more they came to realize who he was. I like to think that he was hiding in plain sight, meaning he was right there in front of them and yet they could see him. I believe he remains hiding in plain sight even today. He’s out there, friends, we just need to train our eyes and ears to see and hear him, with a little help from the Holy Spirit of course. The resurrected Jesus was with Peter and John as they approached and healed the lame man outside the temple. The resurrected Jesus was working within Peter to bring about the miraculous healing! Even Peter recognized it…”in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Peter was invoking Jesus within him! Jesus was indeed a new bodily form, taking the bodily form of his disciples as needed. Totally cool!

This healing story illustrates how the resurrected Jesus takes on the form of his faithful followers. We say we, as faithful followers, are the body of Christ now. Jesus is alive and well through me and you and Jesus can do some pretty miraculous things through us. We can bring hope to a hopeless word, healing to a sick world, love to an anxious world. Jesus is at work through you and me! If he could work through loud-mouthed, boastful Peter, he can surely work through us timid, non-imposing Lutherans! Heck, we’re his type of people…timid and non-imposing! Except when we want to be heard. Our witness is an important witness to the world!

Incidentally, I love how the healing in today’s reading is prefaced. You’ll notice that Peter and John didn’t simply approach the lame man and declare, “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” No, they approached the man, and we hear that “Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’” Friends, it’s a minor detail but an important detail worth noting. The man needed to first expose himself and his utter powerlessness before he could receive the gift of healing. Friends, we are not any different than that lame man. We are all utterly powerless to our sinful selves. We all need to expose it before we can receive God’s gracious gift of healing. We do a good job of exposing it through our confession at the beginning of worship. I pray that each of us seriously confesses our sins and need for forgiveness. The lame man didn’t need to say anything. His mere eyes conveyed his desperate need for healing. What a gift for Peter to be able to see it! Of course, I’d argue it was Jesus within Peter that saw the man’s powerlessness but that’s silly semantics…

The resurrected Jesus is within you and me, empowering us to do some pretty amazing things in the world today. We are the body of Christ now! Let us rejoice in this and be emboldened to share Christ’s love and healing with the world. Let us give thanks for Jesus within. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.