This Sunday's message began with a talk about "perspective" and how that affects how we interpret things. AMEN! I think that the major issue I have with our pastor's sermons is exactly that, a matter of perspective, our perspective on the importance, meaning, and place of the gospel. Not the facts of the gospel, but the living out of the gospel in the life of a believer. I say this in part, because the living out of the gospel perspective is very obviously missing in this week's message.
The text this week is Acts 3:1-10. So let's begin there. A miracle takes place in this text. A man that is crippled from birth is healed. That is an amazing event. I find it hard to believe that such an event took place only to teach some kind of a moral lesson or to encourage some type of behavior modification, that is so not Jesus. I believe that this event occurred to facilitate a gospel message.
In this event, we have a man who was crippled from birth, a man who probably had no family, a man whose existence was reduced to being left to beg all day. I dread to think of what his existence at night must have been. He also was a man who the Jewish community would have supposed to have been steeped in sin, either his own or that of his parents. And this from birth! So what change was given to him was probably done in a very condescending manner. He was an outcast, crippled, alone, and rejected.
So up walk Peter and John. Peter says, "Look at me." Most people would probably avert their eyes not just because they did not want to give because of who this man was and what he represented to them. I wonder if part of what he expected them to give him was a little "what for." I wonder how many times someone threw him a bit of change but also gave him another two cents worth as well. You know, that Pharisaical "I sure am glad that God didn't make me like you."
But Peter was not your typical Jew. He was a Jew who had been with Jesus. And although he had no silver or gold, he possessed something much greater, a love for and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter is about to create a spectacle, but not a spectacle to draw attention to himself, but one that ultimately draws attention to Christ. Peter is about to, through Christ, free this man from such a great bondage that it is hard for me to fathom. Peter does not just say "stand up and walk, but he tells him to do it "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth." He wanted to make sure that this man and everyone else within hearing knew that what was about to happen was the result of what Jesus was doing, and not himself. It was Jesus who would set this man free from his bondage, and not Peter, John, or even the crippled beggar himself. That is good news, that is the gospel.
It is not about the man's action over apathy. It is not about his choosing faith over fear. It is not even about a choice to give glory to God. Not that those are not all good things, but without a connection to the gospel and a sincere love for God, they are nothing. (I Cor. 13:1-3) It is about Christ, through Peter, choosing to bring glory to His name through the changed life of a man who had been crippled since birth. Anything more than the total sufficiency of Christ robs the gospel of its power. Anything that depends on me only weighs me down and will ultimately hinder my faith.
Peter understood this. Perhaps my greatest disappointment is that this is where the sermon ends for the preacher. Next week we move on to Chapter 4 of Acts. But what about the rest of chapter 3? Peter uses this event as a springboard to present a gospel message in verses 11-26. Not a message about how to handle your money, or how to behave better, but a message of what God has done for us in Christ!