Summary: God gives us more than we ask for. Respectable-looking people may not be as righteous as they think. God reaches out to sinners through fellow sinners.
Do you know what it’s like to be lame? No, I don’t mean do your jokes fall flat from time to time, or do you think a night out with your spouse means a trip to the grocery store together. What I mean is do you know what it’s like to have feet and legs that don’t work? I do. I was born that way. I’m the guy you heard about in the first Scripture lesson this morning - the beggar the Apostle Peter healed at the temple gates. Listen to my experience, and learn some important lessons from a lame man.
It’s not fun being unable to walk. I see that at least nowadays the lame have chairs with wheels that can help them get around. In my day, however, the lame had to be carried everywhere. If I wanted to go outside for a breath of fresh air, someone had to carry me. When I wanted to come inside and eat, someone had to carry me. When I needed to use the washroom, someone had to carry me. That wasn’t so bad when I was a little child, but when I became a teenager I was heavier and harder to carry around. I also felt embarrassed to be so dependent on others.
Because of my inability to walk, I couldn’t work so I begged for a living. Thankfully I lived in Jerusalem where there were a lot of people willing to throw a few coins my way, especially when I sat outside the temple gates. Well it was there that my life changed one afternoon. Two of Jesus’ disciples, Peter and John were entering the temple to worship. As always I bowed my head and held out my hand hoping for some spare change as they walked by. But Peter said in a strong voice that cut through the afternoon din: “Look at me!” I did look at him thinking he had a full handful of change he wanted to give me. But Peter wasn’t even holding out his hand to me. Did he not have any money, I thought? Did he want to give me some food instead that was still in his pocket? I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Peter went on to say with a twinkle in his eye: “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I have I will give you. In the name of Jesus, I say to you, get up and walk!”
I couldn’t explain how at the time, but I believed Peter was telling the truth, and that this wasn’t some lame joke. I believed that when I tried, I would be able to stand on my feet although I had never done that before and I was about as old as your pastor. So with my arms, I pushed myself up onto my knees, and then put one foot forward, and stood up. It was that easy - as if I had been doing that my whole life! Not only was I able to stand, I could walk, and could even jump! Before I knew it I was running around, jumping and laughing, praising God for what he had done. Can you picture it, a grown man galloping around in a public square? When’s the last time you’ve seen an adult jumping and running around one of your big stores? Has your pastor ever jumped up and clicked his heels together like this while preaching? It would be a funny sight!
Here’s the first lesson from a lame man: God loves to give us more than we ask for. I had asked for a few coins from Peter and John. That’s all I thought I would get out of them. But through those men, God gave me something much better; he gave me the ability to walk! But that’s not all, as Peter made clear when he spoke to the crowd that gathered, God also had given me the faith to believe Peter’s words that when I got up, I would be able to walk!
It doesn’t look like any of you are lame, but have you ever asked God for healing? Has he said yes to that prayer? Maybe not. Maybe your migraines keep coming back. Maybe your back is always sore, and your arm doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. But did you know that God has already given you something so much better than physical healing? He’s given you spiritual healing. I can explain better what I mean if I keep telling you what happened after I was able to get up and walk.
With all my jumping around and hollering, people came running from all corners of the temple to see what was going on. It was the busiest time of the day there, just at the time of the afternoon sacrifice. People stared in wonder trying to figure out how Peter had been able to heal me. But Peter set them straight. He told them clearly that the healing power had come from Jesus. The same Jesus, Peter added, that they, the people gathered there and the rest of Jerusalem, had disowned before Pilate. The same Jesus they had rejected in favor of Barabbas, a convicted murderer. The same Jesus whom God had sent as the promised Messiah. I thought for sure that Peter was going to cause a riot when he went as far as saying to the crowd: “You killed the author of life!” Those words stunned the crowd. They stood there without moving as if they had suddenly become lame.