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An ILC Chapel Talk

“He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” — Acts 3:8

In Jesus’ Name:

We have been looking among the many people gathered here in chapel for various names found in the book of Acts. We looked for Ananias, Tychicus, even Elamites. In chapter three there are a number of familiar names: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel. But I am not looking for them today. I am looking for the “he” and “them” mentioned in our verse. “Them” is Peter and John, very familiar names in Western Society. The “he” is given no other name than this: a certain man, crippled from birth.

Peter and John were a couple of Jesus’ disciples who did not always see eye-to-eye. Perhaps it was a difference in personality. John, for all of his being a “son of thunder,” often seems mild compared to blustering Peter. Whatever the reason, when Jesus was telling Peter about how some day he would die in a manner that no one would choose, Peter turns and sees John there and blurts out, “What about him?” Have you ever heard anything like it? — “You’re giving me a D+? What about him?” — “We have to read two chapters? What about them? It isn’t fair!” — There were times when that was Peter and John, not to mention all the other disciples who argued about who was the greatest.

But what a difference the Spirit makes! Now Peter and John are going up to the Temple together. He had brought them together in Christ, just as He has brought us together, many of us who would not “naturally” get along. We saw some of that last time also with the Elamites.

When Peter and John arrived at the Temple Gate, the one called Beautiful, they saw a not-so-beautiful sight. It was the Cripple. He was carried to that spot every day to beg from the people going to worship. The Cripple probably could have gotten his doctorate in podiatry, for he knew feet and ankles well even though he couldn’t use his own. But feet and ankles were what he saw going into the Temple day after day. Peter and John were looking right at him, and he was asking them for a handout, but Peter still had to bring his gaze up to the level of their faces by saying: “Look at us!”

He looked up, expecting gold or silver, but Peter had something better. He had the name of Jesus Christ, and the Name which caused Peter’s and John’s knees to bend together before Him now also caused ankles crippled from birth to spring up strong.

And that brings us to our verse: “He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.”

It was a miracle that ankles weak for so many years should suddenly be strong. It was a miracle that the Cripple could walk at once. Babies have to learn to walk, and people who have been invalids for a long time often have to learn to walk all over again.

But the most amazing thing is not the ability to leap–even to spike a volleyball or dunk a basketball. The most amazing thing is that this former Cripple went with Peter and John into the temple courts, praising God. Well, of course he did! Wouldn’t anyone rescued from such dire straits go into the temple to praise God? Not necessarily! Nine out of ten lepers would not! They would not even return to One who was greater than the Temple!

So let us view this scene with appreciation for the One whose kind Word calls, gathers, enlightens, and strengthens us. We could be experts on what a Christian is; we could know just what a Christian should do in every situation; but by our own strength, we doctors of Christianity could only use our knowledge to criticize others, and like the Cripple would still not be able to do the good thing ourselves. If it depended on our own strength, when we looked to Him, it would be for some material comfort, silver and gold, something for our pain, and not for the heart of the matter. As Luther put it: “With might of ours can nothing be done,” or at the end of his life: [Wir sind bettler. Das ist wahr] “We are truly beggars!”

But God, who is rich in mercy, has given us the name of Jesus, not only telling us about Him, but putting His name upon us in our baptism, and in many a benediction: His life, His death, His resurrection, all for us. And whether we are walking and leaping and praising God, or rolling a wheelchair and praising God, or on our deathbed and praising God, it is God who gives us not only our physical strength, but who also works the trust in our hearts to enter His presence with thanksgiving. Amen.

–Prof. Paul Schaller