The text in front of us is the beginning of an episode in the early church that takes up nearly two entire chapters of the book of Acts.
The first thing Luke describes is the healing of the lame man (3:1 – 10). The second thing Luke describes is Peter’s sermon in the temple as he explains what happened to the lame man and why it happened (3:11 – 26). The third thing Luke describes is how the leaders of the Jews arrested Peter and John and attempted to coerce and intimidate them from preaching in the name of Jesus (4:1 – 22). The fourth thing Luke describes is how the early church responded to the threats of their enemies by holding a prayer meeting (4:23 – 31). Look at the text with me…
1Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6But 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!” 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entering the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
The point of this entire section is obvious: The spread of the gospel – the message of Jesus Christ crucified for our sin, risen in victory over Satan, Sin, and Death, returning as the reigning King of kings and Lord of lords – the spread of this message, by the power of the Holy spirit, cannot be stopped! There is nothing that can stop the transforming, power of the message of the gospel!
The message of the gospel could be summed up by saying that God specializes in fixing what is broken in our lives in some of the most unexpected and miraculous ways. Speaking of brokenness, look at the lame man in verses 1 – 2 of our text…
#1: THE LAME MAN (VV. 1 – 2)
Luke tells us in verse 1 that “Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer” which was “the ninth hour” or the same hour when Jesus cried out “It is finished” from the cross (John 19:30).2 One thing we can be sure of here is that Luke wants us to remember that the early church was extremely devoted to prayer; not only are Peter and John headed to the temple in this passage but the entire section (3:1 – 4:31) is bracketed by prayer meetings. Prayer is the activity that fuels the preaching of the gospel.
Just as Peter and John begin to enter the temple Luke tells us in verse 2 that “a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple”. There are a few things to note here about the lame man.
First of all, the man had been lame since he was born, and he was now over 40 years old (4:22). This man has suffered in his brokenness for over 40 years.
Secondly, this man was fully dependent on his friends and family to the extent that they carried him to church every day. He was absolutely helpless.
Thirdly, his caretakers placed him in the doorway of the temple that was known as the Beautiful Gate. The Beautiful Gate was a massive bronze covered doorway that made silver and gold look cheap. The broken lame man lying in the ornate doorway of the temple was an image of extreme poverty and brokenness against the backdrop of extreme wealth.3
Lastly, this man was not only lame and poor, but he was also a social outcast who would never make it past those beautiful temple doors because of the social restrictions that had been in place for thousands of years (Lev. 21:17 – 20).4
Needless to say, this lame beggar was in a helpless, hopeless, lonely, and incredibly broken situation. This had been his predicament for over 40 years. Long ago he had stopped dreaming of the day when he would be able to walk. All he could do was fight for his survival and beg for money even though money would not fix his problems. This leads us to the beggar’s big ask!
#2: THE BEGGAR’S BIG ASK (VV. 3 – 5)
In verses 3 – 5, the lame man sees “Peter and John about to go into the temple, [and] he asked to receive alms” and both Peter and John looked at him and they say, “Look at us” and then Luke tells us that “he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them”. Notice what the beggar did not ask for. He did not ask to learn about God, he did not ask for help in drawing nearer to God and he certainly did not ask for God to heal him. The beggar asked for money and when Peter and John asked him to look at them, he looked at them expecting to get some money.
The expectation of the beggar’s big ask reveals more of his hopelessness. He did not expect or hope to encounter God at the temple. He did not expect or hope to learn about God at the temple. He certainly did not expect or hope to be healed by God at the temple. The beggar’s only hope was to get enough money to survive another miserable day, begging at the temple gates. This was his only expectation until God did the unexpected in a powerfully miraculous way.
#3: THE UNEXPECTED MIRACLE (VV. 6 – 8)
As the lame beggar locked eyes with Peter and John fully expecting a financial donation, Peter opened his mouth in verses 6 – 8 and he 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!” And then Luke tells us that Peter took hold of the lame beggar “by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk”. This moment had to have been breathtaking as God did the unexpected in a miraculous way! Have you ever experienced God doing something unexpected in your life?
I think it is worth noticing that Luke, the good doctor that he was, used medical terms in the original language to describe how the lame beggar’s “feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk” (v. 7 – 8). More literally, Luke says that what was once out of place or dislocated suddenly came together and was made whole or complete.5 God has just fixed the seemingly unfixable. Something that had been broken for over 40 years in this lame beggar was now made whole. In an instant he not only was completely healed but he was able to walk. He did not have to spend months of physical therapy learning to walk. He walked and leaped into the air immediately.
Can you imagine how you would respond if you witnessed or experienced God doing an unexpected miracle in your life or in someone else’s life? How do you respond when God shows up and fixes the seemingly unfixable? Notice how not only the healed man but also the crowd responds to this unexpected miracle.
#4: RESPONDING TO UNEXPECTED MIRACLES (VV. 8 – 10)
In verses 8 – 10 Luke tells us that the newly healed man entered the temple with Peter and John “walking and leaping and praising God” and that when “all the people saw him walking and praising God” they “recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”.
The response to God unexpectedly fixing the seemingly unfixable brokenness in this lame beggar’s life was wonder, amazement, and praises to God. The man who had never been in the temple was now in the temple walking, leaping, and praising God with pure joy. The crowd gathered in the temple were filled with wonder and amazement because the broken man was now fixed and in miraculous way.
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION…
In conclusion, when I read accounts of miraculous things like this in the Bible, I wonder why God chose to do them. I know that God did not heal everyone in need of healing in the crowd; this is obvious even in the ministry of Jesus when he was physically on the earth, and it is true even in his ministry through the Spirit empowered church in the book of Acts. So, why did God choose to heal this man in such an unexpected way?
As we will see in the next chunk of text, Peter explains that this was done by faith in the name of Jesus and that the intended goal of this miracle was repentance, refreshment, and full restoration to God from the penalty, power, and presence of sin (3:16 – 21). This unexpected miraculous work of God – where God unexpectedly fixed the seemingly unfixable – was meant to turn people to Jesus for salvation. The disciples did not start a healing and deliverance ministry and they did not try to market some weird growth scheme for the church. Every time the Spirit did something miraculous, they saw it as an opportunity to preach repentance from sin and salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus at the cross and the empty tomb.
As I said at the beginning of this message, I think this entire section in chapters 3 – 4 is meant to teach us that the spread of the gospel – the message of Jesus Christ crucified for our sin, risen in victory over Satan, Sin, and Death, returning as the reigning King of kings and Lord of lords – the spread of this message, by the power of the Holy spirit, cannot be stopped! There is no power in all of creation that can stop the miraculous, saving, transforming, healing, power of the message of Jesus! God specializes in showing up in the most unexpected ways and fixing the seemingly unfixable broken things in our lives.
If God can heal a man who had been unable to walk for over 40 years since birth, then nothing can stop him from saving you from whatever depths of sin you find yourself in today. Nothing can stop God from fixing what seems to be unfixable in your life. Your cold heart, your pride, your unbelief, your marriage, your friendships, your hurts, hang-ups, and habits, nothing can stop God from radically changing your life by the power of the gospel.
I do not know what things you are struggling with today. I do not know what is stopping you from believing or sharing the gospel. I do not know if you have settled for merely surviving one tough day to the next. I do not know what the burning issue is that has plagued your life since you were born. I do not know what cripples you day in and day out.
I do know this, there is no amount of money or possessions that will fix what cripples you. There is no new social status that will fix what cripples you. There is no new marital status that will fix what cripples you. No new friend crowd, no new hobby, no drug, no drink, and no new exercise plan will ever satisfy what cripples you deep down inside.
Only Jesus can heal what cripples you. The Scriptures are clear that it is by Jesus’ stripes that we can be healed from what is spiritually and physically broken in us (Isa. 53:5) and it is only by the work of Jesus at the cross and the empty tomb that we can have the future hope of full salvation and restoration in heaven where there will be no more tears, no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, and no more sin (Isa. 35:5 – 6; Rev. 21:4).
The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be stopped. The only requirement for God to show up and do the seemingly impossible in our lives is that we come to him in prayer like desperate beggars in need of his unexpected miraculous help. – Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 R. Kent Hughes, Acts: The Church Afire, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1996), 53.
3 Ibid., 54.
4 Derek W. H. Thomas, Acts, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2011), 69.
5 R. Kent Hughes, Acts: The Church Afire, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1996), 54 – 45.