It is often that our best intentions become totally wrecked.
It reminds me of this great line, in this great movie:
Sometimes the wreckage is astounding and beautiful. Two men, going to pray, couldn’t offer this lame many any money, but they could offer him a power that would fully restore his legs.
And sometimes the catastrophes and the beautiful things intersect.
One of the greatest questions of faith I have now — right now — is if our faith in God limits what God can do, or even what God will do. Does my faith stand at the intersection of my own wreckage, because if it does, then my every situation is mired in hopelessness. (Please pardon my honesty, but I felt it necessary to share that with you.)
I wonder if this passage answers that question. But even when I think I’m on the cusp of an acceptable answer, it slips through my fingers like sand. An overwhelming, chart-stopping faith often seems to be out of my reach.
My pursuit for an answer made me rewatch a particular scene in The X-Files, a scene that, at least, hinted such an answer is possible.
It was episode twenty-two of season three, called “Quagmire.” Fox Mulder and his partner Dana Scully searched for a hard-to-find lake monster. Scully, ever the scientific mind, questioned Mulder, “You really expect to find this thing, don’t you Mulder?”
Mulder replied to her condescending question with this line: “I know the difference between expectation and hope. Seek and ye shall find, Scully.”
Maybe it’s just that simple.
In Acts 3 we find the difference between expectation and hope, and what happens when there is faith — not that a healing can happen, but that a healing will happen. I’m challenged every time I read this this story. I encourage you to read it yourself, before you proceed with this post. And feel free to find the other posts from Acts in the menu.
Acts 3:1-26 (The Commentary)
Luke reported in Acts 2:43 that the apostles performed many wonders and miraculous signs. Of all those, Luke highlighted this one. There must be good reason.
Following the description of the community of believers that emerged from the words of Peter’s sermon, Peter and John went to the temple at the Jewish time of afternoon prayer as observant Jews. They went to the place Jesus had declared to soon be abolished. In fact, some scholars believe that the early believers may have even continued to participate in the Jewish sacrifices.
As Peter and John approached the temple gate, they noticed a lame man there, begging for alms. The lame man was at the entrance to the temple when it would be most crowded — at prayer time. He obviously couldn’t walk inside, but neither was he even allowed inside. His physical condition prohibited him from participating in the rituals of temple life.
We should probably recall, though, Jesus’ words, that people like this lame man were to be full participants in the kingdom, specifically because of his physical condition.
The lame man expected money from Peter and John — yes, expected — because he expected money from everyone. It was a common occurrence for those coming to pray to give alms, publicly, before they entered the temple area. Yet the two apostles had no money, because they shared everything with other disciples. So Peter, instead of giving him money, offered the lame man his fully restored health, restored “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
The man was healed immediately. In fact, Luke used seven verbs to describe the reaction of this man to his healing: jump, walk, walking, jumping, praising, walking, praising. This was (is?) the response of a person healed, and rescued, from the depths of shame and disease. And a viewing public noticed.
It seemed that Peter and John didn’t want the attention, and tried to move to another place in the temple, but while they walked, the now-healed man literally clung to Peter and John. All three of them were followed, and Peter, like he did earlier, needed to explain to the gathered crowd what they had just witnessed.¹
Peter then made a direct connection between the man’s healing and Jesus’ resurrection. Not one to hold back any punches, though, Peter then implicated the crowd for killing the Author of life, even though they had acted in ignorance.
Then Peter told the crowd that the power to heal the lame man came from “faith in the name of Jesus,” and “through the faith that comes through him.” Notice, though, that neither Peter, nor Luke, was clear whose faith was responsible for the healing – the lame man’s or Peter’s — the “him” doesn’t clearly refer to any particular person.
Remarkably, though, Peter called this crowd to repentance, not just from sin (what sin, if they acted in ignorance?), but to God. The crowd was living in an extended time of mercy, but Jesus would return from heaven, as the linchpin effort by God to restore all things.²
If they did not repent, though, they would be completely cut off from their own people. Notice that there is no mention of hell, or some eternal punishment.
So, a time of prayer, a lame man healed, a gathered crowd, and words of repentance, all very different occurrences from the original intention to come and pray. This entire moment at the temple, was electric. And it was just getting just getting started.
A Few Discussion Questions
- Do you know someone who has been healed, especially someone who has been healed miraculously? If you are using this in a group setting, share that with your group.
- Read Acts 3:1-10.
- Read Acts 2:43. Why is this description included in Acts?
- Of all the miracles, then, why is the healing of the lame man highlighted?
- Where were the apostles when this happened? Why were they there? If the Mosaic Law had been cancelled with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the temple rendered useless, why did Jesus’ disciples continue to go to the temple at the Jewish time of prayer?
- Why was the lame man there, again? Why didn’t the apostles have money?
- What was the physical response of the man who was healed, from Acts 3? Why did Luke make sure we knew this man’s specific actions?
- Is a physical response of our own spiritual or physical salvation a natural occurrence? Should it be? Every time we worship? Why or why not? (Read Acts 2:5-12 before you answer.)
- How do we celebrate our salvation, then? And how often? Does our celebration matter to others? Did this man’s salvation matter to others?
- Do we ever have the right to criticize, or question, the way someone celebrates their salvation? Why or why not?
- Read Acts 3:11-16.
- Peter’s speech was addressed to whom? Same crowd, or different, than Acts 2? Why does that matter?
- How did Peter describe Jesus? And how did he describe the crowd’s relationship to Jesus? Why?
- Whose faith was responsible for the lame man’s healing? Why didn’t Luke, or Peter, make this more specific?
- Do you need faith to be healed of something extraordinary? Is faith measurable? Explain.
- Is faith enough to be healed? Explain. (Read Luke 7:11-17 before you answer.)
- Read Acts 3:17-23.
- Why would these people need to repent, if they acted in ignorance for killing Jesus (v 17, 19)?
- Does God pardon ignorance? Why does your answer to that question matter?
- In v 21 we find that Jesus’ return would also prompt the restoration of everything. What does that mean?
- What was the penalty for not repenting (v 23)? What does that mean, anyway?
- Peter mentioned baptism in Acts 2, to that particular crowd, but didn’t mention that this crowd, in Acts 3, needed to be baptized? Why not?
- So, again, of all the miracles the apostles performed, why did Luke highlight this one?
- How important is Peter’s speech for us today?
- What’s the difference between expectation and hope?
Father, you desire to restore everything. All things. People. Creation. The lame. The broken. The outcast. The power of the resurrected Jesus, though, is the power that makes that restoration possible even now. Even in my broken life. Even in my broken relationships. Even for those I know who are sick. Even in my broken heart.
I pray for a faith, today, that is enough to believe in the miraculous. I pray for that now, God, that you help my unbelief. Lord Jesus, it is faith in your name that heals, and I need healing, now … healing from anxiety, from self-confidence, from pain, from disappointment. I am the lame man at the temple gates, begging for things that won’t satisfy. Father, I commit my healing to your hands, in the name of Jesus.
¹This second speech by Peter is a little different from the first one he gave. True, both speeches emphasized repentance and the release of sins, but there are some notable differences. For instance, after healing the lame man, Peter made no appeal for his listeners to have faith in Jesus’ name. Nor did he make an appeal for them to be baptized. In the first three chapters of Acts, Peter talked to two different crowds, and in both of his speeches, he gave both crowds two different “instructions” on “how” to repent — he mentioned baptism in the name of Jesus his first speech, but didn’t mention it at all in his second speech. Nor did Peter even mention the Holy Spirit after healing the lame man.