Summary: 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.
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.