We’ve all given a lot of thought during this past year to sickness and disease. Whether for our own or the health of others, concern has not been too far from our thoughts. We are certainly not the first people to deal with such matters. In Acts 3, we are introduced to a man who had been lame from birth. What happened between this man and the apostles provides a number of lessons for us to ponder.
Doing Good. It may not always be evident, but there are people who care and who are willing to help others. This man was at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple every day. He obviously did not get there on his own – others carried him and then carried him home at the end of the day. They almost go unnoticed, and truly, that kind of service often does. We should be encouraged when we see people about us who are willing to offer assistance to those who need it.
Of course, we should never be motivated by a desire to be recognized when we do good for others. Galatians 6:10 says that we should look for opportunities to do good because it is right. But that does not mean that it goes unnoticed. Listen to Hebrews 6:10 – “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Never forget that whenever we do good, God takes notice.
Importance of Friendship. This passage also enlightens us of the importance of friendship. Following his healing, the formerly lame man made a deliberate choice to be with the apostles. Notice, he “entered with them (the apostles)” (v. 8), he “held Peter and John” (v. 11), and then, before the hostile Jewish council, he was “standing with” the apostles (4:14). This was not a popular place to be. The apostles were threatened (4:17), beaten (5:40), and in Acts 7, Stephen was stoned to death for his faith. Why would he make such a decision? It’s like going from the frying pan into the fire! But it begins to make sense when we realize that he chose to stand with the apostles because of who they stood with.
It was Jesus by whom he had been healed (3:6). Jesus was the central point of Peter’s sermon following the miraculous healing (3:12-26). It was Jesus whom they confessed before the Jewish council (note esp. 4:10-12). Now notice what the Jewish council realized – “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” This man chose to stand with the apostles because the apostles stood with Jesus.
When we talk about the importance of friendship, we must realize that first and foremost, we must be a friend of Jesus. That changes everything else. Jesus said, “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:12). In the face of such a statement, we must understand what kind of friend Jesus is – and the next verse puts that in the proper perspective. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (v. 13). Our friendship with Jesus is based on the fact that he died for us. Surely, we should respond by living for him. And when our friendships with each other are based on our mutual relationship with Jesus, it truly is meaningful.
The Evidence is Clear. This man who for years had begged daily at the Beautiful Gate had been healed. He was lame – now he can walk. Everybody knew it. He realized it. The people in the city of Jerusalem knew it (3:10). Even the Jewish leaders knew it. In fact, listen to them – “What shall we do to these men? For that a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it” (4:16). But instead of admitting that they had been wrong, they tried to silence the apostles (v. 17). Gamaliel, a respected doctor of the law, gave advice to the Jewish council that should be noted, particularly his words in v. 39 – “But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
Rejecting the word of God will never bring about good. It certainly did not for the Jewish nation in the time of the apostles and it will not in our day either. When Paul wrote to Timothy about the character needed for one to be a faithful servant of God, he used an interesting phrase about those who reject the truth – “in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (2 Timothy 2:24-26, esp. v. 25). One who “opposes” the truth is in reality opposing himself. God has given his people the task of helping that person realize who the real enemy is.
The Difference A Day Makes. We know very little about the day described in this passage. We are told it was the “9th hour of the day” (Acts 3:1) which is 3 p.m. as we reckon time. Was the day sunny or cloudy? Was it hot or cold? How many people had passed by the lame man? Did he receive many alms? We do not know any of this, but what we do know, at the end of this day, for the first time in his life, he could walk! Jesus Christ of Nazareth made that difference in his life. And what Jesus was able to do for him physically, he is able to do for each one of us spiritually. As Peter preached that day, “Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26). And as he boldly stated to the Jewish council the following morning, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God was glorified by the formerly lame man (Acts 3:8). May he be glorified by our lives each day.