WHY DO YOU STARE AT US?
Rise Up And Walk
God, the Holy Spirit comes in power, and the church explodes in Jerusalem. The Christian community is filled with joy as they learn, pray, worship, and fellowship together. The church bears witness to the people through their love and care for one another. The people of God enjoy the favor of God and man as their numbers increase daily. The idyllic description of the church in Acts chapter two only lasted for a few days. Peter and John make their way to the temple at three o'clock, the hour of prayer. The arrival of these two apostles coincides with the arrival of a man who had been lame from birth. He was carried to his usual place at the beautiful gate by friends or family to beg alms from those who were entering the temple. Charity is considered a pillar of the Jewish faith by some Rabbis and the giving of alms was a way to practice kindness publicly. The temple is a strategic and natural place for this lame beggar to position himself for those who wished to practice their piety in public. The man sees Peter and John about to enter, and he asks to receive alms. Peter and John do not ignore this man who is regularly ignored and on the margins of society. The see the man, and evidently, the man looks away or turns his attention to others because Peter tells him to look at them. Peter explains to this lame beggar that he has no silver or gold, but that is not the man's greatest need anyway. Peter commands the man to rise up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Why does Peter say, "Jesus Christ of Nazareth?" Jesus was a common name possessed by many during this time, so it would not be specific enough. Christ is not a surname; it is a title for the anointed one of God, the Messiah. Nazareth is to underscore the identity Jesus by including his hometown. Peter does not wait for the man to respond nor does he beg the Lord to intervene on this man's behalf, he takes the man by the right hand and raised him up. Thomas Walker puts it this way, "The power was Christ’s, but the hand was Peter’s." Peter's words and actions were the evidence of faith and love. Luke, the doctor, notes that the lame man's feet and ankles were made strong immediately. There was no need for months of physical therapy because there is power in the name of Jesus and his healing is complete. The man leaps to his feet, stands, enters the temple, and then begins to jump about praising God. The people see this man raising a ruckus, recognize him as the one who sat at the gate begging for alms and assemble to understand this miracle.
You Killed The Author Of Life
The man clings to Peter and John as the people gather around them at Solomon's Portico. Peter sees the opportunity to preach to the crowd before him. Peter will not rob God of his glory declaring that it was not their power or piety that resulted in this man's healing. Peter identifies himself with the covenant people of God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob glorified his servant Jesus. He recounts the people's denial of Jesus, pointing to their irrational decision to choose a murderer for release instead of Jesus. Peter squarely blames the people for killing Jesus, the author of life, but explains that he had risen, and the apostles themselves were witnesses to this reality. Peter reiterates that the power for the healing of this man had come from faith in Jesus. Peter speaks to the people as his brothers acknowledging that they acted in ignorance because they did not realize who Jesus was and that all of this had taken place according to the foreknowledge and plan of God himself. The ignorance of the people does not clear them of guilt so he calls them to repentance that their sin may be blotted out. The people of God enjoy forgiveness and refreshment, but Jesus will remain in heaven until the time for restoring all things. Peter gives a brief historical overview of the way that the scriptures had pointed to this all along connecting prophecies from Moses, Samuel, and those who came after. This was God's covenant promise going all the way back to the patriarch Abraham. Peter points to the reality that God sent Jesus to them first for blessing and to turn them away from their wickedness.
Things To Consider:
- What can be learned from Peter and John by their regular gathering at the temple?
- What does Peter and John's response teach us about serving those on the margins of society?
- What does this passage teach us about values?
- What do you have besides financial resources to give to those in need?
- Why are acts of kindness and social justice not enough?
- Does God heal today? If so, how? If not, why?
- How do we rob God of his glory?
- How do we choose others instead of Jesus?
- Peter did not give the people a pass on their sin and called them to repentance. How should we address sin in the lives of others?
- Why does Peter keep referring to the scripture?
- How does the promise of restoration in light of God's plan offer us comfort?