[K:NWTS 12/2 (Sep 1997) 26-31]
In Acts chapter 2, we find the famous sermon by the apostle Peter which he preached during Pentecost. At the center of Peter's Pentecost sermon is the death and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead together with his ascension into heaven above. Further, as Peter proclaimed the risen Christ and confronted the people with their sins, the New Testament church was born from above. The church was rooted in the resurrection and ascension of Christ—who himself became the firstborn from the dead. Because of Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension, and the pouring out of his Spirit—the church began to take shape as God's new creation. Ushered in by Christ's redemptive work, a whole new order was beginning to make itself known to the people and to be experienced by them. In the comprehensive conversion and radical transformation that is described for us in the latter verses of Acts 2, we are told at least 3,000 had come to believe and to embrace the risen Christ.
The Text: Acts 3:1-8
As we come to Acts 3, the feast of Pentecost has come to an end, and no doubt many of the Jews, who had come to Jerusalem from all parts of the world, had leftreturning to their own homes. Following the incredible Pentecost scene some days later, we are told in Acts 3:1 that at three in the afternoon, Peter and John went up to the temple to pray. Even though Christ's redemptive work had fulfilled the temple service and its ceremonies, the apostles still adhere to these Old Testament forms and practices.
As you make your way through the book of Acts, you must see the progressive and gradual displacement of the temple, and that Old Administration, by the church and the New Administration. When you come to Acts 21:30, you are told that the temple doors were shut-the displacement of the Old by the New was complete and there was no more going back. But now, here in Acts 3, at three in the afternoon, Peter and John head to the temple to pray, since the transition from the temple and the Old Administration to the church and the New Administration was not yet completed.
After walking across the court of the Gentiles, the apostles had to pass through the Beautiful Gate to the actual temple area. In front of that gate sat a beggar who had been lame from birth. Every day he was carried to that same spot to beg for alms from those who were entering the temple. In the verses that follow, we are told how Peter and John miraculously healed this man in the name and power of Jesus of Nazareth.
What are we to make of this healing event? (1) Was this miraculous healing event performed to display their own power and piety as apostles of the risen Lord? (2) Was this miraculous healing event even done simply out of pity for a man who was physically handicapped or disabled from birth? (3) Or was the purpose of this healing event simply and only to authenticate their own authority in proclaiming the message about the risen Christ? You can probably tell by the way I am asking these questions that the answer is (4) none of the above. We must understand the significance of this healing event in light of what precedes it, and especially in the light of what follows it!
Remember, this healing event follows on the heels of Peter's great Pentecost sermon in which he declared the almighty power of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Then, subsequent to this healing event, beginning in verse 12 of Acts 3 and continuing into chapter 4, Peter once again proclaims the incredible power and glory of God in raising Jesus from the dead. And also in this, his second sermon (vv. 12-26), the apostle Peter makes it clear that the healing of this lame man was not by their own power or piety, but by the almighty power of the covenant Living God who raised up Jesus from the dead (v. 12). Based on this context then, in the healing of this cripple, you must at least take stock of the power of Christ's resurrection. Truly, what an awesome display of God's resurrection power!
This man had been crippled, unable to walk from birth. No amount of physical therapy or persuasive speech would enable this man to get up and walk. His legs and his feet had no life in them. They were dead. Further, this lame man had to be carried to the temple gate every day. He possessed no power or potential within himself to get up and walk, and thus he was not able to walk into the temple.
You say wait a minute, why doesn't someone just carry him the rest of the way into the temple? They already carried him everyday to the temple gate. After all, what was a few more feet? Was this some kind of cruel joke that they were playing upon this poor cripple? No, the Old Testament ceremonial law did not allow the lame to go beyond the temple gate. The law kept the lame at a distance. Thus, from birth, this man, this lame man, had never been permitted to enter into the temple itself. His entire life, he had been cut off from the temple; and to be cut off from the temple was to be cut off from the presence of God.
Further, even in his physically crippled state, he does not recognize the apostles and the supernatural power of the risen Jesus that was displayed during Pentecost. Instead, upon seeing Peter and John, he asks for natural sustenance, earthly and material provisionshe asks for money. No doubt, having been brought to the temple gate everyday most of his life, he was probably present during Pentecost. He must have seen the crowds who heard the apostles and saw the great wonders and miracles that they performed in the name of the risen Lord Jesus. And even if he did not hear the sermon himself, he certainly must have heard about the message that they proclaimed. How they spoke about this man Jesus of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead. Resurrection power! Power over death itself. Nevertheless, despite this awareness, he does not even inquire of this supernatural and awesome power; rather he asks for alms! He asks for money. This lame man still did not understand nor did he yet truly recognize his own great need. Peter and John by the power of the Spirit had to awaken him to his great need in order to restore him to complete health.
"But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!" And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened." Through the Holy Spirit, Peter and John saw him as an object of God's love and good pleasure. And in the name and in the power of the risen Lord, they raise this man up, and his feet and ankles were strengthened. God gives new life to his dead limbs, and they are created anew! "And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk." In this miraculous healing, God through Peter and John displays the power of Christ’s resurrection to this cripple and before all the people who were watching. What an awesome testimony; or, we might even say, what a great illustration of Christ's resurrection power in the physical healing of this lame man!
But if we were to stop at his point, we would stop short. We would stop short of seeing something of the grace and glory of this healing event that God is communicating to the people who were there, as well as to you and to me. You must see more here than merely a visible and awesome illustration of raw resurrection power! In this restoration of physical life, you must see the restoration and re-creation of spiritual life. Thus, in this physical healing, in the raising of this lame man to his feet, we have before us a symbolic representation of spiritual healing. We have before us not just an illustration of the power of Christ's resurrection; rather, we have before us the reality of Christ's resurrection power as it gives rise to the resurrection of this lame man. In this physical healing is a picture of spiritual resurrection!
But in the spiritual resurrection of this lame man, you must not sit back in your pew or chair as if you are merely a spectatorlike someone walking through an art gallery and staring at various paintings on the wall! No, you are also included in this healing event, because you participate in the time of its fulfillment as originally promised and anticipated in the Old Testament. In verse 6 of Isaiah chapter 35, the prophet, looking forward to the coming of God and the salvation that he will bring, states that "the lame will leap like a deer!" The kingdom blessings promised in the Old Testament find their fulfillment in the coming, death, and especially the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Day of Salvation has come—and the lame are leaping! (Isa. 35:4-6; cf. Lk. 4:18-21). And this "lame-man," God transformed with the resurrection of Christ into the "leaping man."
Why was this man walking and leaping and praising God? Was this because he was healed physically? Well, yes, in part this was certainly true. However, where does the text tell us that he was going when he was walking and leaping and praising God? Verse 8 tells us that he was going into the temple, into God's very presence! Remember, he had been lame from birth, and he had never been allowed to enter the temple. But now for the first time in his life, the Spirit of the risen Christ raised him up so that he could enter the special place where God dwells. That is why he is walking and leaping and praising God! Immediately upon his resurrection-healing, he was made to understand, by faith, that there was no true life, that there was no true joy, apart from being in God's presence and enjoying communion with him.
Who was this lame man anyway, who became the leaping man? Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, does not tell us his name does he? Is this because Luke did not know his name? I don't think so. Rather, this was kind of a deliberate pattern in Luke's writings. Luke refers to him in verse 2 of our text as a "certain man." In chapter 18 of his gospel, Luke refers to an unnamed, rich, young ruler who comes to Jesus as a "certain ruler." Then, at the end of that same chapter, Luke refers to an unnamed blind man that Jesus heals as a "certain blind man," even though Mark's gospel tells us his name was Bartimaeus. All these men are not named by Luke, and that deliberately!
So I ask the question again, Who was this lame man that became the "leaping man"? You are the leaping man! You all were formerly spiritual lame men. You all were once spiritual cripplesabsolutely powerless and unable to save yourselves. You were kept at a distance because of the holiness of God's law and your failure and inability to obey it. You were cut off from God's presence and fellowship and communion with him, and that because of your sin! And not only that, but like the lame man you did not seek the living God of heaven and the power of his saving grace found in his Son's name.
Because of your sinful condition, you faced a hopeless and impossible situation!
But praise God, the things impossible with men, are possible with God! That impossible condition that faced us, was met by and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Christ was not spiritually lamebecause he was sinlessby his perfect keeping of the law, he acquired resurrection life for you. Only with Christ's resurrection did God accomplish the impossible for you. Just as this lame man was raised and enabled to walk by the power of Christ's resurrection, you too have been raised spiritually, and that presently! And you had as much to do with your resurrection, your salvation, as this lame man did with his rising up and walking! Absolutely nothing.
You once were the lame man, but now you are the leaping man, leaping like a deer in your heart, and that because there is no other place you would rather be this side of glory, than right here, in God's presence, with his people, in worship and communion with him.
Reformation Orthodox Presbyterian
Morgantown, West Virginia