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Monday, July 05, 2010

Ye Men of Israel, Why Marvel ye at this?

Peter and John Heal the Beggar at the Gate Beautiful

The First Healing Following Pentecost

That day of Pentecost was like no other day in history. Men were gathered from the fours corners of the world as the Book of Acts records, and they heard and saw things hard to be understood. The Holy Spirit, by the promise and covenant of God through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, had come to indwelling living men: they spoke in the 16 languages of the men around them, all proclaiming the glory of God. Over 3000 were saved that day.

Immediately following the great works of Pentecost, the Gospel begins to go out in power. The apostles and disciples had seen healings and miracles before, and had even been a part of them, when Jesus was present in the flesh, but Pentecost marked the point of empowerment of the apostles and other believers like never before. The Church was booming and growing, " and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47

At the ninth hour Peter and John appraoch and begin to enter the temple, the hour being the hour of prayer. Seated at the gate of the Temple, at the Gate Beautiful (for it led into God's House), a beggar sat, asking alms of anyone who entered the temple. When Peter and John walked by, they were no exception, and he begged alms of them.

The man was looking for a small benevolence to sustain life. In the first century, just as in some places today, there was no government subsistence, so those who were lame or ill or otherwise unable to work, with or without families, were set in places of busy traffic to beg alms of those passing by. The gate to the temple was a most advantageous spot to hopefully benefit from worshippers walking it.

The beggar had been lame since birth, described as 'since his mother's womb' so the condition was all he had ever known. Hoping for a small pittance though, he was about to receive more than he could have ever expected: he was about to be made whole.

The Healing of the Lame Beggar

As Peter and John, walk by, the apostle with the keys to the Kingdom, and the beloved disciple who would one day on Patmos see visions of Heaven and things to come, the beggar asked an alms.

Peter, with John, 'fasten their eyes' on him, and very simply say:

Look on Us.

The beggar indeed looks upon Peter and John, hoping no doubt to receive a small coin or so, but Peter answers in a way the beggar could not have anticipated:

"Then Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk." Acts 3:6

Now, if things had been different, if these two men had not been both men of faith and endued with the power of the Holy Spirit, the 'earnest of redemption', then their command to 'rise up and walk' would have even been cruel or certainly insane, but the apostles make clear a few things here:

1. Money was not what the Beggar needed most, he needed Jesus, and healing.
2. Silver and Gold are nothing compared to the riches of the Kingdom of God.
3. We are healed, and this man was healed, by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth

The mode of healing was hardly complex, the apostle commands the man to rise up and walk, and

...he took him by the right hand and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. Acts 3:7

As with almost all the healings in the New Testament and Old, the healing was immediate, precipitated by a command of no more than to "Look on us", by the two apostles. This was not trickery or the modern con artistry of some modern faith healers: this was the healing and making whole of a man who who "from his mother's womb" had to be carried to the gate daily to beg, for he could do no work.

Praise in Israel

The sheer joy of being released from the bondage of being lame since birth, would certainly cause joy in any, and several healings are met with this reaction. The cry though "rise up and walk" (Acts 3: 6) in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, stirs the spirit of the man, who had only asked for alms. He immediately leaps and enters into the temple, praising God:

And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God: 10 And they knew it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him Acts 3:8-10

Praise and Israel are no strangers: it is the place in the spirit of the believer and the Spirit of Israel, where God communes with man. In Psalms it is noted that

Psa 22:3 But thou [art] holy, [O thou] that inhabitest the praises of Israel.

The name 'Judah' and 'Jew' mean 'praise'. The Jewish people in the course of God's history, are the 'glory bearers' of the Lord: they exhibit to the rest of the world the glory of God, through their nature, existence and perseverance, through the Word of God and prophets of God which they have borne, and through the presence of God which though at times has been diminished, has never departed. It was to the Jews, the Children of Israel that the line of Messiah and Savior descends, it was through the Jews that our modern system of Justice descends, the Law or Torah was given to the Jews in the desert, the land of Canaan was theirs by a promise or covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Praise causes Israel, (and the rest of us, learning from Israel) to draw near to God, for it is a primary 'office' of the believer. Just as the name of the Lord is Holy, so is praise: it is worship and facilitates the work of God. Countless stories have been told in which praising the Lord saved an endangered person from the horror confronting them. Praise is the habitation of the Jews and Israel, and gentile believers, when all are in God's order. It does not surprise one then when upon a touch of healing by the hand of God through the apostles Peter and John, that the immediate response is joy, and a desire to praise and worship. The man at the Gate Beautiful walks with the apostles into the Temple at the 9th hour of worship.

Astonishment and amazement are the reactions of the crowd who see the healing, "they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him." Acts 3:10
Peter in Acts 3:12 notes that the people marvel at the healing. The lame man holds on to Peter and John walking into the temple, as the people rush onto Solomon's Porch to see the healing of the man back to a whole state. Solomon's Porch is only mentioned a few times, but significantly, this is where Jesus had declared himself the light of the world in John 9 by healing a man born blind since birth. It is also though the place where following that sign of Messiahship which had to be fulfilled for Israel to believe (in Isaiah), that Jesus clearly declares that He is indeed the Messiah, in more than one way, right after noting that he is the door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd:

Jhn 10:24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
Jhn 10:25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.

He is even accused there of being insane and blaspheming God because He makes himself out to be the Son of God, a name for Messiah:

Jhn 10:30 I and [my] Father are one. Jhn 10:31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
Jhn 10:32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
Jhn 10:33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

Time vindicates all, and if there was any doubt that earlier day on Solomon's Porch, where the Temple was once dedicated, it becomes clear that the glory of the Messiah is still at work, as a man lame since birth leaps in praise and worship at the Spirit of God making him whole. Peter and John indeed point back to the Messiah on the Porch, when they gently rebuke Israel for thinking the healing could have ever emanated from them:

And when Peter waw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? Acts 3:12

They also tie Jesus of Nazareth to the God of Israel and His work, not that of some mere faith healer:

The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.Acts 3:13

The second major sermon following Pentecost follows, as Peter and John explain that the love God has for Israel in this healing by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is not quite through, as a greater healing is still to occur: the healing from unbelief. In order to accomplish that purpose though, the reason for the crippling of Israel (and all people since) in unbelief and fear is made clear

But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. 16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. Acts 3: 14-16

They point to God fulfilling the prophecies of Messiah through Jesus (Acts 3:18). They call for repentance. (Acts 3:19) with a promise of sins being blotted out, and a time of refreshing from the Lord. What is the refreshing: Jesus sent through the Holy Spirit of God.

Acts 3:20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which "God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

Note that the purpose of the prophets in Israel's history was not only to warn and guide Israel, nor only to rebuke of sin and judgment, but to tell of the coming of their King, Yshua HaMeschiach, Jesus, the Messiah. "By the mouth of ALL his holy prophets since the world began" shows clearly that more than any other reason, the coming of Messiah was their primary purpose, and the sermon on the Messiah, takes root on the porch of dedication, where Messiah clearly reveals himself, contrary to the opinion of modern unbelieving theology. The times of Pentecost are noted in Acts 3:24 as being prophesied since the time of Samuel, who both foreshadowed and spoke of the wheat harvest when the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to the 'great stone of Abel' (I Samuel 6:18) the commemoration of the first righteous sacrifice.

"Ye are the children of the Prophets", the apostles tell astonished Israel. The "children of the covenant" (Acts 3:25) and they remind Israel that the healing of Israel and causing them to stand
(Eze 37:3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.)

is a great act of covenant. He reminds them who they are, greatly beloved of the Father

...And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Acts 3:25

The primacy of Israel as the glory of God is also noted

"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

When the first fruits of the harvest of Pentecost come in, they are at the Gate Beautiful, the way in to worship and praise, to be met by the knowledge and presence of Messiah. This healing was the door to preaching the crucified, the declaration that all Messianic prophecies had been fulfilled to the children of the prophets. A book from 1909 called "The Gate Beautiful" notes the story that when Charles Kingsley died (author of "Water Babies), he spoke the words, "How beautiful God is!". Isn't this the perfect declaration for the story of Israel, healed and made whole, with the vail lifted to repent and see her Savior for the first time.

Praise the Lord.

till next time, ekbest
2. 84.