Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Get On Your Feet                                                                                

   Acts 3:1-3:11 (NRSV)

It was a day, just a day like any other day.


His brothers had gotten him out of bed and gotten him dressed.


And on their way to work they carried him to his usual spot at the temple gate.


It was just an ordinary day, the sky wasn't any bluer, the birds didn't sing any louder, and the sun didn't shine any brighter.


It was just a day, like any other day.


And yet before it was finished it would be unlike any other day in his life.  


And, as he lay with his shriveled twisted legs extended in front of him, he thought of all the days he had laid in front of the temple gate and how those days stretched out like an endless horizon before him.


And he looked down at the useless limbs, stretched out on the blanket in front of him.


They were his, but they weren't even a part of him, he had never felt them, never moved them.


Never ran as a boy, never walked as a man.


And today was just a day, no better and no worse than all the other days that had made up the life of this poor crippled beggar.


But without his knowledge and without his consent, today would become the day he would never forget.


And today would take him from being a beggar destined for an obscure life and obscure death, and would propel him into immortality.


We don’t know who he was.


The scriptures reveal nothing about his life up to this day, and nothing about his life after this day.

But today, this day, this ordinary day would be written about by a doctor and read about by millions upon millions of people all over the world.


The man and the day are written about in Acts 3:1-11.


1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon.
2 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.
3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms.
4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”
5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.
6 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.”
7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
8 Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
9 All the people saw him walking and praising God,
10 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.
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished.

What a day.


A day that would never be forgotten.


And this morning we are going to look at that day.

The first thing we discover is that this man was not whole.


Now a man crippled from birth was a man with a problem; he was a cripple.


This wasn't a subject open to discussion.


It wasn't debatable, it wasn't abstract or iffy; instead it was definite.

It wasn't his fault that he was crippled.


Sometimes our misfortunes have only one person to blame and that is us.


We smoke and die of lung cancer, but don't stand there shaking your fist at God demanding "How could you do this to me."


You're paddling your own canoe.


You abuse alcohol and get cirrhosis of the liver or drive your family away, and it’s your fault.


If you commit adultery and your spouse leaves you, don't blame everyone else, ok.


But as far as we know it wasn't this man's fault that he was a cripple.

And as far as we know it wasn't the fault of anyone else either.


Sometimes there are others who are responsible for our problems.


We know for instance that children who are born to people who smoke or drink, or take drugs during their pregnancy are more apt to have problems than other babies.


Sometimes physical abuse will occur, or an accident will happen for which someone else is to blame.


I heard of a man who is a cripple, because a doctor, who had been partying prior to the delivery, goofed and severed his spinal cord when he performed the caesarean.


But there is no evidence of that here.


All we know is that this was a man who wasn't physically whole.


He wasn't everything that a physical man is supposed to be, he was a cripple; he couldn't walk.


In today's climate, where everything has to be said in the politically correct way we would say that he was "physically disadvantaged" or "physically challenged".


I have a friend who is bald and he says that he is "follicley challenged."


Does that mean that someone who is short is "vertically challenged"?

Many of us are not whole physically, and there are some of us who have problems with a physical handicap.


But we are all born with a spiritual handicap.


Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

None of us are born worthy to enter into the presence of God.


We are born with a predisposition toward sin, and with a streak of rebellion.


We try to achieve goodness, but we can't quite reach it on our own.


Every culture has a set of customs to be followed.


Every group of men on this planet have sought to justify themselves and have devised some means to appease their god or gods and yet the prophet says in Isaiah 64:6: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

In themselves our righteous acts are really neat; they are wonderful, beautiful, marvelous things.


And, if we compare them to the works of others they may appear to be the best.


And yet when we hold them up to the righteousness of God, then they are just dirty pieces of cloth.


They can't stand the comparison.


And that's not just your righteousness, its Billy Grahams, and mother Theresa’s and John Wesley’s and every other person who ever lived.


We aren't spiritually whole, we are spiritual cripples.


Or to be politically correct we are "sin disadvantaged" or “righteously challenged.”

The second thing we notice is that he was honest in his evaluation of himself.


Acts 3:2 tells us “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.”

This man didn't fool himself; he knew he was a cripple.


He'd come to grips with that a long time ago.


And it was a rough time to be handicapped.


There was no Social Security or Medicare.

It was a time and an age when physical ability and the pursuit of perfection flourished.


The Romans had their gladiator contests and the Greeks had their Olympic Games.


And there was no sympathy and no place for those who weren't quite as perfect as they should be.

Not every age or culture takes care of the less fortunate like western society does today.


Where else do they take those who are too old to work and unable to make a meaningful contribution to society and appoint them to the Senate.

This man knew that he had limited potential, he knew that all the dreams and all the hopes and all the aspirations in the world could not make his dead legs function.


He was honest in his evaluation; his friends were taking him out to beg.


He wasn't going for a walk, or to tap dance or play basket ball.


He had accepted the facts.


If he was going to survive it would be by begging.


And he sought out one of the most profitable spots, the main door to the temple.


The devout Jews came here at 9 am, noon and 3 pm.


People were coming to worship God, and he was trying to make them feel guilty.


There's a lot to be said for guilt, I remember the Salvation Army in Kansas City setting up their Christmas appeal stands just outside the liquor stores.

Jeff Steinberg, when he was a child said he was determined to ride a tricycle.


And he spoke about the numbers of times he fell off and got back on again.


Determined to ride a trike like a normal child he tried and tried, but he never did.


Ray Charles makes beautiful music, but he will probably never paint a sunset.


Rick Hanson wheeled around the world in his wheel chair but he was honest and didn't try to walk.


Michael J. Fox is a pretty good actor but he'll always be short.


And sometimes we need to be honest with ourselves and admit our short comings.

We will never get to heaven on our own.


Never, never, never.


We'll never be that good, we'll never do enough good, and we’ll never, ever, ever deserve heaven on our own.


And it is only when we are able to admit that, that Jesus Christ will be any good to us.


The doctor’s office is a really neat place, it's full of people who are sick, or at least think they are.


It's like the guy who called the doctor and said, "I’m calling about my uncle Fred" and the doctor said, "I keep telling you, your uncle only thinks he's sick" "Oh but it's worse now" replied the man, "Now he thinks he's dead."

People go to the hospital for one of two reasons, 1) to get better, or 2) to ease their suffering.


That's it.


Other than that there is no good reason to be in a hospital.


The food might not be bad but it isn’t great.


And the beds don't look very comfortable, and the company is down right depressing.


But if you are sick it is an ideal place.


Mark 2:17 tells us that Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

If you're not sick then you don't need a doctor, and if you're not lost then you don't need to be found.


I wonder if anyone else here is as strong willed as I am.


If you are that isn't being strong willed its being pig headed.


I hate to admit to being lost.


I'd drive around in circle all day before I’d swallow my pride and stop someone and tell them I’m lost.


And until you are ready to admit to the fact that you need Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior He can't help you.

The third thing that occurs to us is that the man was expectant, because it says in a verse 5: “And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.”

Now that’s a positive attitude.


He asked for alms and Peter said, "Look at us".


Now when I owned a Service Master business, I was the salesman.


 I was inexperienced, but I knew when I had a sale.


There were things that were said or done that told me "You got this one in the bag."


When you’re a salesman, you like to hear things like this:


      "This is a nice suit does it come in blue?"


      "Boy I really like this car can I get a cassette put in?"


When Peter said, "Look at us" that was a good sign, why?


Think about it, what do you do when you see a bum on the street panhandling?


Or you go to the mall and someone is standing there with a box for some charity and you have no change?


You look the other way don't you?


So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.


When we approach God in prayer we have to approach expecting an answer.


Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:9-10: "Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?  Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?”

Most of us are pushovers for our kids; we like to give things to them when we can.


And when we come to God in prayer and ask that our sins be forgiven, we have to expect Him to forgive them.


Not hope but expect.


Christ will forgive us and save us and give us eternal life, but we have to ask.


We need to approach Him.


The beggar never would have gotten anywhere if he hadn't asked.


Christ has to be approached with a positive attitude.


The beggar probably didn't say "You probably don't want to give me anything do you?"

Another thing we notice about this man is that he believed.


Verses 6 and 7 tell us: “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.

Put yourself in his spot, everyday of his adult life this man had been carried to this spot to beg.


Rain & shine, warm weather and cold weather, he had to beg or starve.


He had had days when he had collected next to nothing and other days when he had tripled his usual take.


He had taken physical and verbal abuse from children and teenagers and adults.


He had been ridiculed and slandered.


But never had he ever heard anything like this.


He'd asked for a crumb and been offered a banquet, had asked for a trifle and been offered his very life.


How should he react, what thoughts coursed through his head?


Perhaps he thought: "Tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem and I get a present." or maybe it was "Oh no if I can walk then I’ll have to get a job!"


What were his initial thoughts?


Had he heard tell of Peter, John, or Jesus of Nazareth?


We’ll probably never know.


But this we do know, he believed Peter.

The scriptures say, “And he took him by the right hand and raised him up.”


He didn't grab him under his arms and lift him; he took him by the hand and helped him up.


Peter assisted the beggar to his feet; so he helped him get up.


And the man must have helped as well.

He put his weight on his legs and felt the strength flow down his thighs.


He did something he had never done before; he pushed himself to a sitting position and then got to his feet.


And as his muscles began to swell, and tingle with the unfamiliar tensions and movement he realized that he was doing the impossible, he was standing by himself.


And slowly the realization dawned on him, this wasn't a practical joke.


These men indeed had more to offer him then silver and gold.


For they had given him what nature had deprived him of, they had given him his legs.


But only through his belief did this happen, and only by believing the words of this stranger was he standing.

The fifth thing I want to say is that he was made whole.


In the last part of verse 7 it says, “And immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.”

One minute half a man, the next minute whole.


One minute crippled the next minute healed.


Just as his handicap had been beyond dispute, so was his healing.


Not even the Sanhedrin and high priest could doubt or disbelieve what they and witnessed.


How do you argue with success?


Here was a man who had been crippled by a cruel quirk of nature, and yet now he was whole, just as if his handicap had never been.


The skin which had hung loosely on useless muscles now clung to the well defined shape of thigh and calf muscles.


The legs that had never moved now responded to every whim, the feet that had never felt now sensed the pebbles and dust that lay beneath them.


Although we have a spiritual handicap we can be made whole.


King David had committed adultery, murder and treason and yet in psalms 51:7 David writes; “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Listen to what Paul says concerning sin in Romans 6:23; “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When you ask for forgiveness your being is touched and you are made every bit as whole and clean as Adam was before the fall.


It doesn't matter what the sin is, Jesus Christ is able to make you whiter than snow.


The violent murderer becomes as innocent as a new born baby.


The foulest prostitute becomes as pure as a virgin.


Fourteen years ago Madonna had her first hit song and it said, "Like a virgin, touched for the very first time."


And although it had nothing to do with salvation it could have.


Because, that's what happens, when Jesus comes into your life.


Paul says it best in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Every sin, every evil thought, word, or deed, every hurt, every scorn, shall be gone; it won't even be history, because history is recorded.


King David had this to say about it in psalms 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.”

The last thing I can say about this man is that he was full of praise.


In verse 8 we read, “Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”

I like this; nobody had to tell him to go to the temple.


Nobody told him he should thank God, but he knew he had to.


His very first act was one of praise and thanksgiving.


He was on fire and he wanted to share it with everyone he met.


He didn't consider if it would offend them, he didn't wonder if it would drive them away, he wanted to tell them what happened in the name of Jesus.


I can just hear him now, "Excuse me sir, I don't know you but a few minutes ago I was a cripple, couldn't walk, couldn't even move my toes, just laid there on the street and do you know what, a man came up to me and 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 guess what; well I suppose you can see for yourself, that's right I can walk."


If he had been like some Christians, you know what his first reaction would have been, “Oh no, now I’ll have to buy shoes”, or “Oh great now I’ll have to get a job.

You know, it might not hurt if we got a little more excited about our faith, after all if you were drowning and someone threw you a rope you'd get excited.


And if you had cancer and someone developed a cure you'd get excited.


And if your team won the Super Bowl, you'd get excited.                 


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