Scripture Reading: Acts 3:1-10
Before this morning, did you know that there are miraculous healings in the Bible that Jesus didn’t do?
Today we read the story of Peter and John heading to the temple to pray one afternoon and they encounter a man who is described as being lame since he was born. Every day his friends would carry him to the temple so he could beg for money. This day was no different, because here he was at the temple gate looking for whatever Peter and John could spare.
It turns out they could spare a lot! Certainly much more than this man expected to receive!
It’s a really interesting encounter. Let’s read those few verses again.
Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 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.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. (Acts 3:4-8)
Isn’t that amazing? By calling on the name of Jesus Christ Peter healed that man.
Now, as you know I’ve been recovering from an injury. And over the last little while I’ve been working on getting active again. My calf has healed sufficiently that I can start doing some exercise again after a few weeks of doing very (and I mean very) little.
What I’ve discovered after a few weeks of sitting on the couch is that it doesn’t take long to get out of shape! I went to the pool the other day to get some laps in, and after swimming one length of the pool, nice and slow, I had to rest for about 5 minutes. I was that tired.
And this was after only a few weeks of inactivity!
Now in the book of Acts, we read that this man was lame since birth. He’s never walked. His legs wouldn’t be anything more than skin and bones. And yet we read, “immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
He was made strong, we’re told. Muscles he had never used were being used for walking and leaping. How many of you think you get get up and dance right now, let alone if you’ve never walked?
Not only did Peter heal this man of whatever it was that had him paralyzed, he also gave him the strength to walk. And what happens when people see him walking and recognize him? We are told they are filled with wonder and amazement. They can hardly believe it.
How did he do it? How did he manage to heal someone? Wasn’t that something only Jesus did?
Clearly not as we have heard this morning. Peter and John healed this man. But notice how they did it. What did Peter say? He said, “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.”
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
All Peter had to do was say the name. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ. His name alone can heal.
Now, does everyone get healed? No. Why not? I have no idea. We’ve prayed for people to be healed in this church, a few have experienced some healing, but most have not. Why does God heal a few and not all? I have no idea.
But, I would also say there is more to healing than just being able to walk again. Healing can happen in many different way. It could be a miraculous healing of someone suffering from cancer. But it could also be an emotional healing or the healing of a relationship. It could be the healing of the soul.
And in the end, that’s the most important; finding peace within ourselves. Because when we have peace within ourselves, then God can do far greater things than we could expect even from ourselves.
When we compare the disciples of the Gospel stories to what we see in the book of Acts, we see two very different types of people. If we simply had the stories of the Gospels and were to base our understanding of the disciples from those accounts, would we have expected them to do what we see Peter and John do? I don’t think so.
In the Gospels the disciples rarely seem to understand what Jesus is doing. They keep making mistakes, even looking foolish many times with the comments the make and the questions they ask. Often they look like a bunch of kids instead of what one might expect from the future builders of the church!
And here in the book of Acts, especially today, we see very different men. We don’t see them acting immature. Here they look confident, they look powerful, they really look like they know what they are doing?
What has changed?
Well, we skipped over that bit, again because of the liturgical season. We have just celebrated Easter, the risen Jesus Christ from the grave. Today we continue to celebrate the Easter season as we walk towards Pentecost.
In the Biblical story Pentecost has happened. We’ve skipped over that part of the story for now so that we will share it on the traditional celebration of Pentecost in a few weeks.
So what has changed for the disciples? Why are Peter and John so confident and sure of themselves, in what appears to be all of a sudden?
Several months have passed from what we read last month. The church has started to grow exponentially all because the disciples have been filled with the Holy Spirit. And now they are spreading the story of Jesus all across the region. But more than spread the story, they are able to perform miracles as well.
So have they changed? Oh yes, they sure have!
I was looking back at an old sermon I preached for Easter in 2012 a few days ago. In that sermon I recalled a conversation I had with a mother at the hockey rink. The conversation began with the mother asking me if it was true I was a minister. Someone had pointed me out to her if I remember correctly and mentioned it. So she asked which church, and I told her it was Carman, and where we were.
She then said, “That church is still open?”
She had no idea. She actually thought we were closed and vacant.
So let’s flash forward 4 years to today.
I don’t have those conversations any more. Why? Because people know we’re here now. People are well aware of this church. They’ve heard about us. My conversations with people in the community when it comes to the topic of Carman is very different. The people I talk to want to know about us.
Because they’ve heard about us from someone else.
Because we are different than we were 4 years ago.
I see it! Do you see it?
Think back a few years ago. Are we the same? Yes, a lot of the faces are the same as 4 years ago. But are we the same people?
I think we have changed a lot over the last 4 or 5 years. And I’m very happy to say it. I think the Holy Spirit is really making himself known to us, and we are better Christians, better followers of Jesus because of it.
It also helps that over the last 2 years we’ve been joined by some more wonderful people who also want to see more of God in the their lives, and boy are we very happy you have you with us.
So… why are we different?
We’re different because God is working here. God is doing something, we may not know just what it is yet, but God is doing stuff.
I sense it. I know there’s a number of you who also sense it.
We’re different because as a group of people who are worshipping God, we want more of Him. We seek Him. We want to know more about Him. And we want to be closer to Him.
The closer we get the more we change.
And people take notice.
People start asking questions.
Now, are they coming? No. At least not yet. Maybe someday they will come and check us out to see if what they are hearing is true. And maybe when they come they will see God here too, and want to join us in the journey of becoming closer to Him as well.
Does this mean that since we’ve changed over the last 5 years that we’re done? No, not at all.
Look at the disciples. Did they stop changing once they received the Holy Spirit? They continued changing. God continued to guide and shape their lives so that they would be even greater witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Now will there be a day when we will be healing people of their ailments here at Carman? Maybe, maybe not. We can’t rule it out because God will do what God wants to do.
I confess it would be really cool thing to be doing. But I’m not going to get my hopes up that high.
What I can see is that we will hopefully keep growing in our relationship with God. So when we do face a challenge like Peter and John, we will have the words to share which will cause someone who is struggling in their life to want to jump and dance and praise God too.
It will be Jesus who gives us those words through the Holy Spirit and we will be saying them boldly in his name. And we will share this Good News in the strong name of Jesus Christ.
So where do we go from here?
That’s a great question, and I wish I knew the answer.
But there’s a simple next step.
We go to Jesus.
We keep going to Jesus. We keep praying and asking that God will direct our lives, that He will direct our church, it’s board and all it’s committees. We ask God to direct me. We ask God to direct each and every one of us in each and every aspect of our lives.
We get as close to God as we dare, and then we get even closer.
I have a friend, well a few of them, who have personal space issues. That means, don’t expect a hug from them.
However, what has happened over the years as we have become closer friends, as we’ve shared some experiences together, as we’ve prayed and worshiped together, there are times when they will hug me. I count it a privilege when they do. Because it means I have become a trusted friend to them, and they are willing to let me into their lives in a way that’s closer than they will allow others.
We need to let God get that close. We need to trust God in such a way that we will let Him get closer to us than we would allow anyone else to get.
We need to move from saying, “God, You, the one out there, thanks for being out there doing the good stuff You do.”
We need to be willing to say, “God, get in here close. Come right on into my life. All that stuff I see you doing out there, do it in here. Right in my heart. I’m ready.”
If we are willing to say this, if we are willing to submit all things to God as the Lord of our life, the Lord of our heart, then things really change.
God will come in. God will speak to our heart and we will change. And we will start to really trust in Jesus and the power of his name.
I have a friend who had the opportunity to go to a healing seminar in Acapulco. She was unsure of the legitimacy of this conference, but she figured, “Hey, if it sucks, at least I’m in Acapulco!”
What she told me when she came back was like what we are hearing this morning from Peter and John.
There is power in the name of Jesus. She heard stories of people walking around and not asking for healing, but saying, “In the name of Jesus be healed.” and they would be healed. She has not yet had that experience, but she found great hope in the stories she heard.
When we speak boldly in the name of Jesus, we can never know what is going to happen. What we can expect is something good. It may not be physical healing. It may not mean a lame man will get up and walk. But it could mean Jesus does something in that person that will get them up and dancing for the Lord.
There is power in the name of Jesus.
And that power is what gives us the confidence to speak his name. It’s that power we experience when we submit to him as Lord of our life.
It’s that power other people see when they ask, “What’s this I’m hearing about Carman these days?”
God’s not done with us. He’s done a lot of great things over the last few years. But he’s not done yet.
May we continue to be moved by the power of the Holy Spirit and may God’s light continue to shine in our lives, in our church, and in our community.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
May we too, when we hear his name, may we get up and walk, praising the Lord as we go.
May we be moved by the power of his name, dance in his presence, and be bold enough to share the joy of knowing him with others we meet.
There is power in his name, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
May we know it, and may we share it.
Amen and amen!