Get Up And Walk!
June 23, 1996
日本キリスト教団 大阪のぞみ教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Osaka Nozomi Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA. Translated July 19, 2009
1. After chapter two the situation in the church back then is simple; and yet it is described vividly. One specific event that took place in the first church is gone over from chapters three to four. We can see in each detailed description what it means to be a believer, what is being given to the church, and how the church was originally from the start. In light of the figure of the church back in those days, we must reconsider how we think about our own every day faith practice and ecclesiology.
2. First, please look at chapter three and verses one and following. "Peter and John went up to the temple at the time of the three o'clock prayers. Whereupon, a man lame in his feet from birth was carried in. To ask for alms to those entering the grounds of the temple, each day he had them put him near the gate to the temple, which was called 'The Beautiful Gate.' Upon seeing Peter and John about to enter onto the grounds, he asked them for alms."
3. In this scene enters a man with a congenital mobility impairment. According to chapter four and verse twenty-two, it appears he was over forty years old. The fact that he had borne an impairment since birth meant that in two areas he was put into a very harsh situation in society back then. First, as long as his feet were lame, it was impossible for him to take on a normal job. He had no guarantee of a living. As a result, he could not avoid making his living by begging. With that alone, I wonder how painful living was for him. And second, he had an even greater suffering. Being lame since birth, he was put under religious discrimination. Even by looking at The Gospel According To John, chapter nine, we get a good understanding of how deep rooted the idea of retributive justice, a karma like reward and punishment, was in the world of Judaism back in that day. In John's gospel, a man blind from birth enters the scene. The disciples, who were Jews, asked Jesus these questions, "Rabbi, who sinned, because this man was born blind? Was it him? Or, was it his parents?," (John 9:2). Questions like this are not rare. It was something anybody would have thought, if one were a Jew back then. Therefore, the lame footed man might have been assailed with cold words like that to some extent so far [in his life]. Folks considered him cursed by God. Perhaps even he himself thought that way, too. To him, the grace of God had nothing whatsoever to do with him.
4. This guy had someone "put him" at the side of "The Beautiful Gate" at the temple. If translated literally, this is the phrase of "they put." In the colloquial version it is translated as "the man who was put." It is expressed as if he were some kind of baggage, "he was carried," "he was put." With [the scripture's] calling it "The Beautiful Gate" it seems it was the gate by which one went through to go from the outer court of the temple to the inner court called "The Court Of The Women." It is said that it was a gate made in bronze and wrought with magnificent craftsmanship. It was a dazzling gate symbolical of the religion at that time. By nature, the temple was supposed to be where the splendor of God was revealed, and it was supposed to be [at] that gate. Indeed, religion was certainly there. But [also], in front of that gate, there was a person who had been "carried" and "put" like baggage. There was a man who had not experienced the grace of God, and he used to spend the day, every day, carried and placed like baggage. Here was a man who could never expect anything new, a man who could expect no more than the receiving of alms.
5. When I read this passage, my heart aches; because I still see even today in many places the same figure of this disabled man that we see here in this text. Of course the social conditions in Japan today and Jerusalem back then are different. We could possibly make the case that the economically poor are overwhelmingly fewer. But, if a person has lost his or her joy and hope for living, then we could make the case that he or she is by far different from this man's life. He was "carried" and "put." Of course, there was something he had to do: he had to beg. And I think each day he had an expectation that he would receive some measure of charity towards him. He may have also had a small [amount of] joy at his immediate needs being met. But, I doubt he had any hope greater than that. The same thing can be seen even in Japan today. There are numbers of folks who have a home life as if "carried" and "put" persons. There are also numbers of folks who go through work or school as if "carried" and "put" persons. There they are, helpless. Of course, there is something they are supposed to do. Each day, they may have a small expectation with it, an expectation for some small pleasure, maybe. But how many might there be living with a greater hope than that, with the great hope and joy that reaches out endlessly into the future?
6. He was able to survive each day. But, inside, he had no hope of the possibility of anything new happening in his life. He could only think of the future as a prolongation of the past. That's not far-fetched. -- Because he had no expectations towards God in his life. -- Because he never turned his eyes to the eternal one. It was useless. -- Because, as we've already seen, under the idea of reward and punishment, he was made into a cursed man. He must have thought about himself that way. He used to think that he himself and God's grace had no connection. It's the same way for a lot of people today. Whatever the situation might be, the sad thing is [people] think the grace of God is unrelated to them. -- Because as long as they feel that God is indifferent to them, people cannot have true hope. Without any expectancy towards God, how will they ever have the hope that turns to eternity? In the end, they will end up nowhere but in resignation, in giving up.
7. However, through the apostles Christ himself came into this man's world of resignation. We do see this truth in the encounter between this man and Peter and those with Peter.
8. Please look beginning at verses three on down. "He saw Peter and John about to enter the compound and begged them for alms. Peter along with John looked intently at him and said, 'Please look at us!' When the man fixed his eyes on the two, thinking that he would receive something from them, Peter said, 'I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!'," (3:3-6).
9. What he was looking for from Peter and John was "alms." He was not asking for any more than that. When Peter and John said, "Look at us!," he was thinking, "I'm probably going to get something from them." So, if thinking according to expected lines, then what Peter and John was supposed to do, as was asked of them, should have been the giving of alms. But they do not make a direct answer to his request [for alms]. Peter said the following. "I have neither silver nor gold." It was probably an answer that was way off from what the man was expecting. However, Peter's words do not end there. "I have neither silver nor gold, but I will give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk!" Then it says, he took him by the right hand and made him stand up.
10. What in the world did Peter do I wonder? I am repeating myself, but he does not directly give an answer to the man's request. They were asked for alms, but that's not what they did. No, they didn't give him alms, but they gave him the name of Jesus Christ instead. In the name of Jesus Christ [they] made him stand up and made him walk.
11. We must get a firm grasp on what this event, as recorded in this text, means. The man's feet were healed. It is very curious, but as a miracle is a sign of the kingdom of God, it is possible for this to happen under the authority and the power of Christ. Today, in churches all over the world, we can hear many reports about miracles like this one. Of course, it can happen even in this church. However, at this point in the text I would like to draw your attention to what Peter intended by his actions, what had taken place at the core level. So, the main thing is the situation as written in verses seven and following.
12. "Then, he took him by the right hand and made him stand up. Whereupon, all of a sudden, the man had firm feet and ankles, leaping up he stood and walked. Then as he was walking around and dancing, he praised God, and entered into the compound with both of them. All the public saw that he was walking around and praising God. They realized that it was the person who used to sit and beg for alms near 'The Beautiful Gate' at the temple, and they were so astonished they went wild at what had happened to his person," (verses seven through ten).
13. What is clearly being stressed here is [this] figure [of him] in which he "was praising God." While he was praising God he entered the temple grounds with the two men. This was not appropriate for the culture because [they] considered him cursed, [they] saw his life as a cursed life. The grace of God was not [supposed to be] in store for him. But, "the name of Jesus" was given to him. Through the name of Jesus his life was fundamentally changed. He was changed into a person who stands in the presence of God, turns his eyes to God, and praises God. He got to live within God's grace and was made into a person who lives with God. God himself entered into his life. The kingdom of God came to him.
14. If he was just happy about his feet getting healed, it would be pretty much on the same level as "receiving alms" and no more. As time passed the memory of the miracle would [slowly] fade. His life would have probably gone back to just being "carried" and "put," but in a different form. But, what Peter had given him was more than the miracle of healing. We must get a firm grasp on the fact that the event that happened here was much more than that. When we do, then we'll be able to see the figure which the church ought to be while placed in this passing world, and the figure which the believer ought to be.
15. In this sad and sorrowful world, in this world placed under the powers of sin and death, what is the church supposed to do!? Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold." He truly didn't. What about the church today? What about the believers living in Japan? I'd say we do "have silver and gold." There is no doubt in my mind that that by itself is not wrong. But, often times, those who [can] say "I have silver and gold" end up thinking that what silver and gold can do is it. It is important to respond to the immediate needs of people. I think if you can you should. But it is a big mistake to think you were able to accomplish the essential God-given objective, with only what silver and gold can accomplish. Ultimately, what the church should do, what it can do, is give "the name of Jesus Christ." When the name of Jesus Christ is given, then what happens is that what silver and gold cannot do there, only the name of Christ can do. Which is, the kingdom of God is brought in. Those who used to live as if their lives were accursed, those who used to live far apart from the grace of God, those who used to live just being "carried" and "put," those who used to not have any hope and joy for eternity, are re-made into persons who give praise to God, have expectancy and anticipation towards God, and live in eternal hope and joy. They are made into persons built all new, persons living with God forever.
16. Recently, I gave a talk for the youth of a church named "The Jesus Fellowship" which I encountered at the time I was visiting the United Kingdom in January. As I have mentioned previously, many of the youth used to be drug addicts, alcoholics, and chronic criminals in theft. But, they have been saved by Christ, they have received forgiveness of sins, they are set free from sin, they are filled with the Holy Spirit, and still now they are overflowing with joy, hope, and life, and they are proclaiming Christ. They truly do not have "silver or gold." But they do have "the name of Jesus Christ" for sure. These people were aware of the greatness of that truth. Therefore, they tell Christ to their friends, who [may still] be in the swamp of sin and have lost [their] hope and happiness. And they pray believing that where the name of Jesus Christ is told [to others] the Lord is alive and at work, and the rule of God's grace will be brought in.
17. What about us? How great has our reception been to the name of Christ being given? How great of a thing has the giving of the name of Jesus been for us? "I have no silver or gold on me." Being like that does not matter. Even if we don't have worldly powers, the church can be the church. As long as we are persons who can speak the message, "In the name of Jesus Christ stand up and walk!," the church will surely be alive.