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Walking and Leaping and Praising God

Preached: June 30, 2013
Scripture: Excerpts from Acts 3-5

This sermon is from a series preached between June 30-August 25, 2013 based on excerpts from the Book of Acts using the translation from
The Dust Off Their Feet by Brian McLaren

We are embarking on a sermon series from the Book of Acts – a missional account of how Jesus continued his work – through the work of Holy Spirit in the Apostles and the growing numbers of followers of The Way.  This was the term used for followers of Jesus. It was too early in this new movement to call them Christians.  That wouldn’t occur until half way through the Book of Acts.

At the time of Pentecost a few weeks ago, we encountered Acts chapter 2, with the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church.

The early believers were mostly Jews and still kept the pattern of Jewish traditional worship: They were in process of developing a new style of worship, and have not separated from traditional Judaism.  And so we meet up with Peter and John who were on their way to the temple at the 9th hour to observe a regular time of prayer.  This would be at 3 pm. since Jews counted the hours from sunrise. At the 9th hour the daily temple crowds would be at their peak with devout Jews coming to pray.

As they were heading toward the temple, a lame man was being carried to “the temple gate called “Beautiful”.  It may be that he had staked out his territory at this particular gate for some time.  It was a good place to catch devout worshippers who might be moved to compassion.

As he nears the temple he notices Peter & John about to go in, and he calls out asking for alms.  Verse 3-5 says that Peter and John looked at the man. I imagine most people avoided eye contact while dropping a few coins at his feet without really seeing him. As they gaze at the lame man, Peter instructs him to: “Look at us.”  They said that they had no silver or gold, but they would give what they had.  Immediately Peter commanded the man to stand up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ.  With help from Peter, he stood up, he leapt, and he didn’t stop leaping.  Now some people may have dealt with such a miracle with great dignity and composure.  But this man had been in a hopeless condition. Helpless, broken. needing to be healed.  And when he is healed – he cannot stop praising God. The beggar hangs on to Peter and John! He doesn’t want to lose these men, now that he has been healed.  His response created such a spectacle a crowd gathered.  As the crowd continued to grow around an outer corridor of the temple called “Solomon’s Porch”, Peter took the opportunity to preach to the crowd.

The elders, priests, Sadducees, scribes, and the high priest’s family were outraged that Peter and John had said that Jesus Christ of Nazareth had healed the man and that Jesus had physically risen from the dead – and not only that, they proclaimed that there was no other salvation by which humans may be saved except through Jesus. So they grabbed Peter and John and through them in prison and in the morning demanded an explanation from them, but they said the same thing again: Jesus saved and healed the man, and there is no salvation except through Jesus Alone.

The leaders of the temple were confused and angered: where did these men get such boldness in their lack of fear to stand before the leaders of the temple?  But what could the temple leaders do? The crowd had seen the lame man healed – it was a public miracle of  someone who was well-known  – they could not deny the miracle happened. The people were in the courtyard praising God for the miracle.  So they thought, “Let’s threaten them: We’ll let you go, but don’t ever preach or teach in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth again – or else!”

But Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” All I can say is that we don’t have a choice – we have seen and heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and we can’t keep quiet!

And the temple leaders threatened them again: “You must stop preaching and teaching in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth – or else.”  That was the best they could do to threaten them and they let Peter and John go. Peter and John went to their friends and told them what had happened, and they joined together in prayer.

Verse 31 closes by saying: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

Following the prayer, and feeling the encouragement of the Holy Spirit around them, this early movement of The Way, was growing and flourishing.   The text describes the transformation which has taken hold within the life of the community of Jesus’ followers. The thousands of new converts who had joined The Way coupled with the early followers of Jesus were united in one mind and mission for the Kingdom.  The text describes two themes of the newly transformed community, missional “unity” and holding all possessions in common  so that no one had need.

It seems that the early church understood God to be in the process of fulfilling the promise to restore all things and to establish a kingdom of peace and freedom where there would be no need.

The very early Christian movement shifts from the Pentecost Spirit of bringing 3000 converts in, to focusing on the healing of one individual, back to 5000 new believers.   We are being reminded that our mission starts with the individual.  God may bless us with a crowd every now and then, but at the core are individual people.