July 2nd, 2015
We’re continuing in our series in Acts this Sunday by looking at chapter 3. It’s about a miraculous healing followed by sermonette from Peter–essentially paralleling the sequence of chapter 2. I’ve got two things for you in this week’s Backstory to orient you to the text.
We gather that Luke compiled Acts from a variety of sources from what he says in the introduction to his gospel account. Given Peter’s prominence among the disciples and in the early chapters of Acts, his testimony would’ve provided Luke with plenty to include.
Scholars acknowledge how Peter isn’t quite the scholar Paul was. He did pen two letters that found their way into the New Testament canon, but his attention to grammar (or lack thereof) doesn’t quite set him apart as a man who had a way with words.
That said, what if Peter had himself kept a journal? And what if he’d seen fit to record the experience he had with the lame man in the passage we’ll consider Sunday? That episode eventually landed him in jail for a brief time.
Several years ago I tried to imagine what Peter might’ve written from within that cell as he mused on what had happened earlier that day. You might read the first 10 verses of Acts 4 to orient yourself and then have a go at my imaginative retelling.
still dark outside
In a Jerusalem prison
John sleeps as I sit here in near darkness and stench. The torches provide barely enough light to write this. I don’t know why John put this papyrus and stylus in the fold of his tunic, but. . .With all that’s happened in these few years, I get the strange feeling that someone should be writing about these events. This prison does not frighten me; I do not have the feeling that our stay here will be long.
The Lord had mentioned the persecution that was to follow. Well, we encountered some of it today just after something tremendous happened.
John and I were on our way to pray in the Temple in the afternoon today. The extraordinary events of the last weeks.. .the three thousand who were baptized in His name recently. . .we felt the enormity of our task demanded that we be in prayer. Nearing the temple, we caught up with a handful of men carrying a lame man, whom we later learned had been that way since birth. His face was not unfamiliar to us. A few of us had stumbled over his legs before, usually while we were trying to keep up with our Lord while He was walking around the Temple. It seemed that we always saw him begging for money, there at the gate whose name did not fit the clients who lay at its doors.
Seeing that we were on our way to pray, he asked us for money. I cannot explain why, but I looked at John precisely at the same time he looked at me. . .and in that moment, we both knew God had something to do here. We paused, and then I asked that this man look at us. By that time, his friends had brought him to his usual spot at the gate. We had noticed he didn’t usually make eye contact with those he asked money from. But he fulfilled our request. He thought he was about to get his first contribution of the day. Instead, with a confidence and conviction I can compare only with the experience weeks earlier when God first poured out his spirit on us, I said to him. “I have no silver, no gold, but I will gladly give you what I do have. In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up!”
His expression froze–perhaps because he’d been taken for a fool before by mocking youth, or because he would not take hold of the measure of hope I’d thrown his way so that he wouldn’t be disappointed again. But I didn’t give him time to think about it. I quickly grabbed his right hand and raised him to his feet. Quicker than you can say “healed,” his ankles and legs found a stability and strength that he’d never felt before. Another man might have gingerly found his balance like a newborn deer; but this man leapt to his feet, as if this would be the only chance he’d ever have to experience the feeling of walking.
There were gasps from all directions. There was no hesitation in his step. He seemed ready to walk and unwilling to ever stop walking again. Tears streamed. He didn’t know where else to go, so he just followed us into the temple to give God Glory. John and I looked at each other; our glances both showed a thankfulness–and maybe a sense of shame that we were amazed that Jesus’ promise of us doing “greater things” was true. It didn’t take long for others to notice what had happened and remember: “wasn’t that the guy who used to. . .?” They were as amazed as the lame man had been. And for a while, the temple was a sea of true worshippers.
Sun’s beginning to peak through the cracks of these walls. Morning must be upon us. I don’t know why God has led us to this confinement, but I shall not worry. He has yet to lead us to a lasting dead-end. I hear footsteps, keys jingling. . . Guards must be approaching. . .that’s all for now. Will explain how we ended up here later.
We’ve underscored the importance of meditation in recent months. Depending on the kind of text you’re meditating upon, imagination plays an essential role in what meditation intends. We can’t grasp what courage it took for Peter to speak into a hostile crowd until we try to imagine what he might’ve felt like in the wake of being imprisoned for such. There are too many of our brethren who don’t have to imagine that kind of experience, but who are now replicating it. For us who remain at a comfortable distance from such hostility, and who might be prone to lose heart sooner than those who must find courage each day, imagination of what the flawed, frail, and only occasionally faith-filled people felt can help us to follow in their footsteps–at least on the days when faithfulness prevailed.
The other item I thought might help orient you to Sunday’s passage is a follow-up to something I alluded to right after I got back from this year’s General Assembly. One of the seminars I sat in on was led by Dr. Kelly Kapic who, as I said, spoke on how to walk by faith, hope, and love in the face of physical suffering.
Our text this Sunday speaks of a miraculous healing, and thereby acts both as testimony to God’s validation of that moment, and also as a metaphor for how the Kingdom spreads: it spreads by healing.
That Peter doesn’t line everyone up for a group healing right then and there indicates something (which we’ll get to in the sermon.) But it also suggests that just as Jesus said we’ll always have the poor with us, so, too, we’ll always have suffering–until He returns.
What then, until He returns? Dr. Kapic finds in the lesser known works of the Reformers a case for how faith is as much a corporate act as it is individual and personal–and especially when we suffer. Martin Luther was transparent about how his faith would falter in his frequent bouts of acute sickness. It was the prayers and presence of the church that in effect believed “for” him when he could not believe himself.
You can listen to the entirety of Dr. Kapic’s seminar by clicking below. It’s an hour worth your time. It will benefit CtK for us all to hear–and heed.
Community items of note:
- And in case you missed the prefacing comment at the top, we’re inviting all members and regular attendees of CtK to register with The City to stay in touch with each other and keep up to date on what’s happening in our community (in fact, there’s a lot coming down the pike in the coming weeks). To register, just click here. During Q&A last Sunday we had an introduction to The City led by our own Jonathan Raikes. If you have any questions about how to use it, feel free to contact him. For those of you who’ve already registered, or who are about to, please be patient with us as we familiarize ourselves with this tool. We’ll make some mistakes!
- If you haven’t already heard, JJ Fryar and Valerie Crawford are to be married July 11th, 2pm, at FBC (listed here on The City)! All of CtK is warmly invited to their nuptials. If you’re able to attend, please call Valerie to RSVP at (469) 660-8532.
- Next Sunday, July 12th, from 6-8p, at the home of Margaret Doria (2727 W. 12th, Dallas), we’ll gather as we always do on the 2nd Sunday of the month to pray together.
Finally, pray for
- your own heart as you come to the Table this Sunday
- JJ and Valerie on their impending nuptials
- our worship team members now in, or on their way to, Chiang Mai for the GCOMM Conference (Robin, Paul, Cathy, Kevin, & Julie)
- our ongoing search for a more permanent location for CtK
- Pastor Dee of Fairmeadows Baptist now finishing his 8th round of chemotherapy and awaiting surgery