Saturday, October 22, 2011

How beautiful are your feet?

"He jumped to his feet and began to walk"
Acts 3:8

Acts 3 contains one of my favorite healings in the New Testament.  There are so many different instances of healing, by both Jesus and His disciples, and a variety of methods of healing.  Sometimes it just took a word, sometimes a touch.  Once Jesus even made a paste of mud, and used that to heal a blind man.

In this case, it was Peter and John doing the healing, of a man who had been lame from birth.  Every day the man was carried to the Beautiful Gate of the temple, to beg for food or money.  When Peter and John arrived at the temple one day, he saw them and asked for money.   Verse 4 is one of the parts of this passage that intrigues me, for it says "Peter looked straight at him, as did John.  Then Peter said, 'Look at us!'  So the man gave them his attention."

I'm puzzled by this.  If the man was hoping for money, why wasn't he looking at them?  Or was that disrespectful?  Were the lower-class supposed to keep their eyes downcast?

At any rate, the man gave them his attention, hoping to get some money from them.  But instead, Peter said, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."  Then he took him by the right hand and helped him up.  See the interesting detail in this passage?   Why the right hand?  Does it matter?  But I love that it's there.  And in verse 7, "instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong."  Okay now this fascinates me.  Because every time there's a healing, we are left to wonder exactly what changed in the person.  When a blind man regained his sight, was it full sight immediately?  Isn't that really bright?  Or were things blurry first, or could they see only shadows for a minute or so?  We have no idea.  When the lepers were healed, did their sores fade slowly?  Or were they fully there until they were suddenly fully gone?  We don't know.  But here we know this much:  in an instant, the man's feet and ankles were different than they'd ever been.  There was strength where there had been weakness, when Peter spoke the name of Jesus.  And the man walked and jumped and praised God, and entered the temple courts with Peter and John.  Everyone who saw him was filled with wonder and amazement, but certainly no more so than the healed beggar himself!   When Peter saw how astonished the people were, he used the opportunity to tell them about Jesus, and about the spiritual healing that they ~ and we ~ are in need of.

But then, here come the Sadducees.  Peter and John were arrested and taken to jail, along with the beggar, who apparently was still with them as they preached.  And I'm picturing these guys in jail, and wondering about this poor man who had just been healed.  Peter and John had spent the past couple years of their lives with a Man who had no fear of earthly authority.  They were like misbehaving frat boys sitting in the dean's office yet again.  But the man they healed, what was he thinking?  I wonder if he was frightened, wondering how the best thing that ever happened to him could have landed him in jail.   Or was he defiant ~ a believer now ~ willing to undergo whatever might come as he embarked on a new life of following the resurrected Messiah?

But while they were being summarily thrown in jail, something wonderful was happening.  "Many who heard the message believed."  Please notice, though, that verse 4 (of chapter 4) doesn't say that "many who saw the lame man be healed, believed."  No, it says "many who heard the message believed."

My friends ~ others need to hear the message.  Being kind, doing good things, is not enough.  You might have heard the line, "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words."  I'm sorry, but I think we sometimes use this as an excuse to avoid doing something that we're not comfortable doing.  There are times when words cannot be spoken, and yes, our actions should reflect our faith, but the gospel cannot be preached without words.  Love can be shown, and good can be done, but our actions give us the opportunity to be heard.  These people were listening to Peter and John because the healing of the lame man had gotten their attention.  And don't miss this fact:  these people are standing in the crowd, watching three men being arrested, and thinking to themselves, "I want to be like them!  What those men are doing has gotten them into trouble with the authorities.  I think I'll join them!"  Now that was a good message!

Do the good deed.  And speak the words.  God will take care of the rest.

~ "How are they to call upon Him 
in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in Him 
of whom they have heard?
And how are they to hear 
without someone preaching?
How beautiful on the mountains 
are the feet of those who bring good news!" ~
Romans 10:14, Isaiah 52:7

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