Acts 3: The Root Cause

Notes

  • (1) The phrasing seems to indicate that this was a regular part of Peter and John’s daily routine.
  • (2) A crippled man would find gainful employment difficult or even impossible to find, so begging for alms was often the only way for them to survive. Setting up outside the temple, especially around the hours of the daily sacrifices, would have been ideal. I wonder if there were any organized panhandling rings, like the one exposed by a TV news crew a couple of years ago in Des Moines.
  • (3) The man’s query for money indicates his paradigm. He was focused on the here and now, what he needed to survive. He didn’t have the luxury of worrying about spiritual things.
  • (4-7) Peter and John, being simple fishermen from out of town who were now hanging out as the leaders of this new sect, recognized that the man’s root problem wasn’t a lack of money, but rather the means to earn it. By healing his physical ailment, they enabled him to lead a normal life for the first time.
  • (8) Like so many people today, the cripple’s response indicates that he had never dreamed that he would actually be healed. Sure, he had undoubtedly heard the stories of Jesus healing the lame, but those were other people, in other places and another time. How many people live in the same condition! They know that they have a problem – financial, physical, spiritual, or even just a plainly broken life – and yet they never dream that they too could be healed! Oh, how we have subscribed to the notion that we are unimportant to God!
  • (9-10) There are two significant things happening here. Number one, this crippled beggar had just been given the best gift of his life, so he was definitely jumping up and down, dancing, and telling everyone about it. And number two, upon seeing the undeniable proof of this miracle, the people began asking questions, much as they had on the day of Pentecost. The miracles weren’t the point or focus of the faith. Rather, they were to lend credence to the gospel and highlight the impact of the faith.
  • (12-13) Once again, we see Peter starting his gospel presentation with the common frame of reference: this man who was just healed by the power of God to highlight the truth of Jesus Christ.
  • (14-15) Once again, Peter continues by highlighting the singular problem of sin and the reality of the resurrection.
  • (16) Whose faith was it that enabled this healing? The man’s? Almost assuredly not. Peter’s and John’s? It must be. We in the church must believe enough to do miracles, even for unbelievers, so that they might be convinced of the truth of the gospel.
  • (17-18) This time, Peter adds a little spin to the presentation, indicating the essential role of the crucifixion and resurrection in the redemption of mankind.
  • (19-21) As before, Peter presents the essence of the gospel: that we must repent. That is, we must recognize and lament our shortcomings and then leave them behind, resolving instead to pursue God so that we might claim the restoration and salvation which He offers through Jesus on earth and, ultimately, in heaven.
  • (22-25) And as before, Peter ties the entire gospel back into Scripture, demonstrating its consistency with the overall context of God’s word and will.
  • (26) Throughout Scripture, the importance of holiness had been expounded. Over and over again, the people had been exhorted to follow God wholeheartedly with obedience and purity. Peter and John pointed to Jesus as the missing puzzle piece in the whole thing. Always before, there had been the call, but the implementation had been exceedingly difficult. The point of the gospel message was that it was now viable to fulfill the Scriptural call to holiness by relying on Jesus to help turn from sin.

Application

Acts 3 demonstrates an essential fact of life for the church and individual believers. People have needs, and those needs have a hierarchy of priority. In other words, if someone is going to pay attention to the gospel message and consider a more eternal perspective, they must first be freed from having to worry about the incidental needs of the moment. In other words, if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, it’s difficult to concern oneself with the concept of repenting so that we can receive eternal life. We’re too busy worrying about right now to think about eternity!

Enter Peter and John. As they approach the temple on this particular day, their attention is drawn to this crippled man who is being set out to beg. When he asks them for some money, they faced the same dilemma that so many believers and churches face when it comes to this sort of situation: they didn’t have any. How could they minister to this man’s needs and open the door for him (and others) to receive the gospel?

The answer that Peter and John came up with was more than a little unorthodox. Rather than ignore the man and his need completely, they approached the cripple. Rather than reject him outright, they engaged the man. And rather than make a big deal of giving whatever bit of grocery money they had to buy supplies for dinner that night, they said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And immediately, the man was able to walk.

Peter and John stepped outside of the box to consider this man’s request and realized that his real need wasn’t money, but healing.

In my role as pastor, I often hear from people who have needs. Unfortunately, I often find myself in the same predicament as Peter and John. People call looking for money for groceries, gas, lodging, utility payments, rent, and more. Sometimes these requests are for just a few dollars, but often, the need is for hundreds, even thousands, of bucks. I simply don’t have access – either personally or through the church – to the kind of money or other resources that some people think they need. So I often feel compelled to not return a call or decline a request.

The challenge of Acts 3, for me, is to step outside of the box and consider these needs from a different angle. What is it that these people really need? A job? Maybe I keep track of places I see that are hiring. A method of transportation? Maybe I can help them with bus fare, joining a carpool or rideshare program, or even obtaining a bicycle. New clothes for an interview? What if we were to start a clothing closet specifically geared toward people looking for jobs (e.g., slacks, dress shirts, ties, and even suit/sport coats)?

It didn’t take Peter and John more than a couple of minutes and a little faith to meet this man’s root need so that they could share with him the gospel message. Why shouldn’t the church today be willing – and able – to give the same?

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