Series: Next Things: Acts 1,2,4 - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 2, 2002
Over the past few Sundays we’ve been looking at the events that followed Jesus’ resurrection - looking at how God desires to work in and through us - through the Church. This morning we’re coming to the last of these studies.
This past week - as a response to yet another terrorist attack - the Israeli Army - with about 40 tanks - reentered the West Bank town of Nablus. In the last 20 months over 1,800 Palestinians have died - over 20,000 have been wounded. Over 500 Israeli’s have been killed by terrorists.
Today, on the border between Pakistan and India - in the Kashmir region - not far from where the war on terrorism is being fought in Afghanistan - Pakistan and India have 2,000,000 plus troops and a number of nuclear weapons pointed at each other. If the shooting starts millions may die.
Then - this past week - in an effort to get itself off the US Terrorist State list - Libya offered to pay 2.7 billion dollars to the families of the 270 victims of the 1988 midair bombing of Pan Am flight 103.
These situations are the tip of the iceberg. In all these situations there is no forgiveness - no grace - no love - no possibility of true healing. What we’re looking at this morning is the unique message of God’s healing that He desires to share with others through us.
Please turn with me to Acts 4 - starting at verse 7. As you’re turning let me share the context of these verse.
One day - about 7 weeks after Jesus’ resurrection - Peter and John were going up to the Temple - in Jerusalem - to pray. As they reach the gate of the Temple - about to go in - a man - who’s been crippled from birth - begins to beg them for money.
We’ve experienced this. Someone asking us for money with a sign that says something like, “Need Help - God Bless You” Somehow there’s a psychological message that if we’re really God loving people we’ll give them something and God will bless us. If we don’t give then we’re a horrible unChristian person.
The same motivation was true for this beggar. He has his spot staked out at the Temple gate - and every day He would go there and give the Temple goers an opportunity to be additionally blessed by God through their giving.
In response to the beggar’s request for money - Peter stops and looks at him. The crippled beggar looks expectantly at Peter thinking he’s going to get money. Instead he hears something absolutely astonishing. Peter says to this crippled beggar, “I have no money, but I will give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk.”
Then Peter takes this forty year old beggar - who’s been crippled since birth - takes him by his right hand - and helps him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles become strong - he jumps up - stands on his feet - and goes into the Temple where he’s running around, jumping up and down and praising God. The people in the Temple - who’ve regularly passed this man at the gate - probably on occasion had given him money - are absolutely amazed at what’s happened.
Peter - then explains to the crowd that the power of this miracle came from God - who also raised Jesus from the dead. Its a tremendous opportunity to share the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ.
During all this commotion - the Sadducees - this sect of religious leaders - arrive with Temple guards. Angry that Peter and John are speaking of Jesus and His resurrection the Sadducees have Peter and John arrested. The next day the Sadduces bring Peter and John in front of the High Priest Annas for trial.
Acts 4:7: When they - the religious leaders - when they had placed them - Peter and John - in the center - for this trial - they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” - in other words - “Confess - what kind of trick did you use to make this man walk?”
Verse 8: Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for the benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead - by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He - Jesus - is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
In thinking through this healing - how this applies to us and God using us to share His Gospel with others - there are two thoughts of application that I’d like to share.
First, we need to accept God’s healing.
There’s a Jewish tradition which says that during the building of the Temple, a large rock was quarried out and shaped by the stone masons, and sent up to the construction site. But the builders couldn’t find a place to put it. It didn’t seem to fit in any of the blueprints they were working from - so they left it on the side. It sat there for some time.
Then, as it seemed to be in the way - people kept stumbling over it - someone pushed it over the edge and it rolled down into the Kidron valley and was lost in the bushes. When the time came to put in the cornerstone - the large square rock that held everything else in place - they sent word down to the quarry for the cornerstone to be sent up.
The quarry men sent back word that it had already been sent up a long time ago. They looked around for it. No one could find it. Then somebody remembered the large rock that had been pushed over the edge. Down they went to the Kidron valley and found it in the bushes. With great effort they raised it again and brought it to the top and fitted it into place. It fit perfectly - the cornerstone of the Temple.
This is what Peter means. God had designed that Jesus Christ the Nazarene would be the one and only cornerstone of His salvation - His offer of forgiveness - of healing the deepest wound and need of our lives - the need to be made right in our relationship with God.
Its so easy for us to stumble over Jesus Christ.
This verse bothers a lot of people - even in the Church: “....there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Its pure arrogance they say. What about all the good people in the world? What about the various religions of the world and the set of moral truths they proclaim. They’re like Christians - they love their neighbors - they do works of goodness and compassion. There are a number of non-Christians - by the way they’ve lived their lives - they’ve put Christianity to shame.
The issue is not universal moral truth or goodness. The issue is salvation. Doing good works - or religious piety - being morally upright - will not produce salvation. We need to be saved from the judgement of God because of our own personal inherent rebellion against God. We need to be saved from our sin - our guilt - before God.
The name of a person describes his character - his reputation - his accomplishment. It’s the summary of who that person is. Paul writes in Philippians 2: “For this reason also - because of Jesus’ work of salvation on the cross - for this reason God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:9) The name testifies of Jesus - His work of salvation.
No other religion - no church - no priest - no pastor - no acts of spirituality - no sacraments - or any deeds that we might do can be the means of our salvation. Our only hope of salvation is to trust in Jesus as our Savior.
Many stumble - not out of ignorance of the facts - they believe what God has done. They stumble because acceptance is matter of our heart not our mind - opening our hearts to God.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection - Jesus Christ’s or any one elses. That’s why they were Sadduces - “Sad you see”. They didn’t believe in resurrection. Some rejected the idea of life after death. They argued that God wasn’t concerned with men’s good or bad deeds. They were a group of wealthy aristocratic families that controlled what happened in the Temple and resisted anything that conflicted with what they thought was they way God did things. They had Peter and John arrested rather than accept what they - 7 weeks earlier - had seen with their own eyes - the resurrection Jesus from the dead.
I once read about an instant cake mix that was a disaster for the company that manufactured it. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell. Until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. Apparently people thought it was too easy.
So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.
Its so hard for us to accept God’s gracious offer of salvation because God has made it so easy for us. Somehow intellectually we agree that its true. We see it as reality. But, practically - deep in our hearts - we struggle to accept what He’s done.
Too often we hear people say, “I’m just not spiritual enough.” or “I just don’t feel like I measure up.” Maybe you’ve felt this way. We have a spiritual inferiority thing going - guilt. Its hard for us to really believe that once we’ve trusted Jesus as their Savior we’re really justified before God.
Too often we allow others to judge us and hold us to standards of perfection and righteousness and works and service and giving and on and on - that God never intended for us. Even coming to church - can become an experience of guilt and an obligation and not joy. Ultimately - the only opinion that matters is God’s. God who freely justifies us and works healing in our hearts.
The Greek word for salvation - that Peter uses here - “soteria” is closely related to the idea of healing. Peter says to the court, “The God who healed this man and made him well - or saved him - is the same God who is willing to save you. As He healed - as He saved this man - He’ll do the same for you - and the whole nation of Israel - if you will put your faith in the resurrected Jesus.”
So many of us are like that man - crippled spiritually - needing healing - and to trust God for that healing - and to get up - and go on and praise Him and live in the joy of His salvation. God offers us healing - healing of our relationship with Him. We need to accept His offer.
The second though of application is that those who are healed must be committed to God’s ministry of healing others.
In the last 3 years Jihad attacks by radical Muslims - attacks against Christians in Indonesia have claimed as many as 10,000 lives - Christian martyrs. 240 plus churches have been destroyed.
Johannes Mantahari was living in a small village on Halmaher Island. One morning - at 3:00 a.m. - he was woken up and told that a large mob of Jihad troops were heading for his village. Johannes tried to run but was caught. Five soldiers pinned him down - 10 surrounded him - five held samurai swords. Johannes was asked if he wanted to become a Muslim. He refused.
Using the Samurai swords the soldiers sliced into his shoulder and forearm. They ripped a gaping slice into the back of his neck - nearly severing his head from his body. They slashed his back and legs. They covered his body with banana leaves and tried to incinerate him. But, the leaves were too green to burn. All the time they were doing this they kept telling Johannes to convert to Islam or die. Finally, assuming that Johannes had died - they left him where he was laying.
Bleeding profusely - with his last breaths of life - Johannes cried out to God for help. The story of how Johannes survived for 8 days amid corpses and fleeing through the jungle - finally being discovered by his brother-in-law - the story is miraculous. Johannes speaks of how Jesus was with him and helped him in the jungle.
Today, at the age of 20 - his body covered with scars - Johannes says he forgives his attackers as, “our Father in heaven forgives us.” He takes seriously the command of Jesus in Matthew 6:15, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Today, Johannes is studying to become an evangelist. He says that the Lord has spared his life so that he may lead many Muslims to Christ. (1)
Peter and John were thrown in Prison for sharing their faith in Jesus. Soon afterwards God allowed a great persecution to scatter the believers - to push them outward - carrying the Gospel with them. The healed - committed - whatever the cost - to carry the Gospel to others.
Through persecution God has carried Christian Armenians to just about every location on earth. Armenians who speak Turkish - Arabic - Russian - Chinese - languages of peoples and nations that are closed to the Gospel - desperate to hear that God offers healing for their souls. We may have great resources - or may be like Peter - no money - but the message is important. Its not an accident - random chance - that we’re where we are. God has given us the abilities and resources we have.
Maybe that commitment is extreme. Here in this
congregation there are Peters. There are Johns. We don’t
always see them out in front. But - praise God - they’re
here. Examples for us. Sharing the Gospel with others -
in their communities - through missions - sharing God’s
offer of salvation. In this world which is unforgiving -
ungracious - unloving - without hope - stumbling - as
those who know His healing may we be as committed to
share Him with others.