What Makes a Saint?
Did you know that a person has to meet five criteria before being declared a saint? It would seem that the hardest of these criteria to qualify for would be that of performing miracles. At least two verifiable miracles, either in life or death, must be attributable to you. If you pass that test, then you can eventually be declared a saint by the church. So get to work!
Of course it almost goes without saying that some very interesting and unusual things have been attributed to various saints as miracles.
In the 1600s, St. Joseph of Cupertino entered into a religious trance and reportedly began hovering over the crowds. He apparently experienced this levitation multiple times — one time in front of a Pope. As a result of his ability to fly, this mystic is now the patron saint of pilots.
In another account, two children once lost a large piece of cheese and prayed to St. Thomas Becket, who came to them in a dream and showed them where they left it.
Stories like this are interesting, however, I imagine that the vast majority of people don’t really consider these to be true miracles. But the miracle that happens in Acts chapter three today has all of the markings of a truly miraculous event! And there were potentially thousands of eye witnesses to what happened.
The Scene: Praying at the Temple
Introducing Peter and John
According to Luke chapter five, Peter and John are long time friends. They form the inner circle of apostles, but they have worked together for a long time in the fishing business. So side by side today, we find the one who betrayed the Lord some days ago, with the one who was found at the foot of the cross. John never left the side of Jesus, while Peter was nowhere to be found. Yet God still sees fit to forgive Peter and use him mightily.
Praying at the Temple at 3pm – The Traditional Time of Prayer
It says of Peter and John that they were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer — the ninth hour. The language used here to say “going up” indicates a habitual occurrence, so this was something Peter and John did every single day. It’s significant that they continued to practice at least a part of the Jewish rituals.
Strategically, this was the perfect time for this event too, because when Peter preached moments from now, more than 5,000 heard him! Many more than that were present. Either God moved on their heart to go when it would be the most crowded, or their evangelistic zeal made them go.
Meet a Man, Lame from Birth, Begging at the Gate Beautiful
Not a day in this beggar’s life was spent walking about like a normal person. He has never had the privilege of using his legs as others have. He has always been this way. It’s also important to note that someone carried this man up two very steep hills at great effort on a daily basis. We don’t know who these friends were, but they were highly invested in caring for this man in the best manner they could.
The ‘Beautiful’ Gate: Prestigious and Busy
The location of the man at the Beautiful Gate is strategic as well. According to the records of Josephus, this was a gate that was built at the reconstruction of the temple by Herod. The recently completed gate was made of bronze and overlaid with gold and silver.
Since it was the only gate where the women and children were allowed to enter, it was very busy. This gate also symbolized wealth and status. It was a great place for a Jew to make a show of his devotion to God. Wealthy Jews could be imposed upon by those less fortunate to give some of their money.
Since alms giving was common, the lame beggar knew he could expect something. This beggar or those helping him had likely determined that the man could make the most money in this location.
Peter: Look at Me!
How many times have you perhaps been at an intersection where there is a beggar present? If you are like me in that situation, you have read the stories of those who take advantage of people’s good graces, so you just simply avoid eye contact. Sometimes, if the Lord lays it on your heart and the person appears sincere, you may give them something now and then.
But Peter and John told the beggar — look at me. Not only did they make eye contact, but they engaged the man. I can just imagine that his heart maybe skipped a beat.
Many walked by there every day. Many may have even put something into his container that he had. But probably no one really gave him the time of day. They were more interested in looking a certain way than in truly making an impact in this man’s life.
Do We See the Hurting Around Us?
In our own lives, how many times a week does a similar scene play itself out? I’m not necessarily talking about coming in contact with beggars, but just people in general. It could be people who are hurting, or they are alone.
We should never be the reason that someone thinks of Christians as being just as hateful as the rest of everyone else that they meet during the day.
The Beggar waits expectantly…
After Peter and John ask for the man’s attention, he fixes his gaze upon them —watching and waiting for what will happen. This man had done this for years. He had a routine, a way of asking, and a way of thanking people for their generosity, and he probably had figured out just how to ask and answer to get the most money from people. Likely, he was an old pro at this process. But he had not met anyone like Peter and John yet.
The Sign: No Silver or Gold, but…
Peter says something to him that is probably one of the more famous sayings in all of scripture.
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:6
I can just imagine that this lame man’s attitude went, in almost an instant, from expectation to disappointment to unbelievable joy. He probably realized that he was not going to get what he asked for, but then he realized, the very next moment, that he was getting much more than he could ever have imagined!
The verse says he leaped up, and his ankles were made strong. He experienced a full and complete healing in that moment. A person lame from birth would not be able to leap in a moment unless something drastic had happened.
Four Qualities of a True Miracle
There are four aspects of this healing which are beneficial for us to pay attention to.
First, of all the miracle was unexpected. The beggar had to wonder, in the moment after Peter said that he had no money, what they could possibly give him that would be more valuable than their money.
Second, the miracle was done in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. When Peter says, “in the name of Jesus”, he means by virtue of Jesus’ character, his authority and his power.
Third, the act was instantaneous. This points not only to the power of God but also to the authenticity of the act. The fact that the healing is instant validates Jesus as the Messiah.
There are three significant things that came out of this miracle recorded here.
For one thing, the miracle caused Joy. The lame man was running and leaping and giving praise to God.
Another significant impact was that it caused praise and worship. The man’s gratitude just overflowed from him, and ours should too! When God really gets a hold of your life, you will have church.
But even more importantly, it was a testimony to the people. When these people saw this man of whom they knew of his condition, they couldn’t possibly deny what God had done among them. It pointed to the truth of Peter’s message.
So What? What Have We Learned?
We’ve spent a lot of time today in telling this story and exploring the nuances of it to gain from it. But what have we gained? What do we know now that we didn’t when we started?
One, The Bible is Inerrant – It Tells the Truth
The signs and miracles in the story today are offered as compelling proof to us to testify to the truth of God’s word. These are not just stories. They require a response on our part. Some will respond in faith believing that these things are true. And they will in turn base their lives on the truth of God’s word. Others will reject that notion.
One of the first things to go out the window when a person rejects the inerrancy of scripture is to disallow the miracles of the Bible. Rather than throw everything out, some people simply pick and choose the things they will accept from the Bible — the rest they dismiss.
But the Bible was never meant to be a buffet line where we choose some things to believe and pass over others. It is presented as a seamless whole. The entire thing must be accepted or rejected. Either the Bible is inerrant and sufficient on which to base our lives, or it is not. There is no middle ground.
Two, Our Response to Miracles Should Be the Same
The second take away from this story would be that the proper response from us today should be just like the man in the story–Praise and worship. Joy. If we are unmoved by these events, we need to make sure that we are in the faith. Because these things should cause a similar astonishment in us. These miracles really happened. They are historical events.
Our pulse should always quicken when there are those among us who come to faith.We should always be moved by God moving in our midst. There is a joyfulness that should never disappear from us. We should come to this place on a Sunday morning ready to have church!
What a Savior! Look what Jesus has done in our own lives! He has done more than just heal us, he has brought us from death to life again! You can take that to the bank.
Three, God is Glorified Regardless of the Results
Third and finally, we have learned that God is glorified in both those he heals and those he doesn’t. Those among us who are sick and afflicted may experience healing of our diseases and infirmities, or we may not. But in our healing, or the lack of it, God is working. He is never idle in our lives, and he never takes a day off. There is nothing that he is missing out on.
We can trust him in both our times of healing and in our sickness that whatever happens — we are in his hands. Without question, we can rest fully in the sovereign providential care of the One who cares more about us than we can even know.
In Conclusion, We Can Still Depend on God Today
Many times through her history, the church has come to depend more on man and his abilities than on the power of God. When we place our faith in men, then men are going to let you down. But God will never fail us. He will always do what is right. We can trust him in the absence of any human being to place our trust in.
If you need healing today, either in body or soul, call out to Him, and he will answer you. Just like the lame beggar at the gate beautiful, raise your hands to him in expectation of receiving something from Him, and you will not be disappointed.
He will heal your soul, your body, or your situation, or he will give you the grace to bear up under the load.
Posted by Koinonia Church on Sunday, September 9, 2018