Beggars at the Temple gates

Beggars at the Temple gates April 23, 2015

The reading for last Sunday at our church was about the lame beggar at the Temple gate who was healed by Peter (Acts 3:1-21).  You should see what our pastor did with that passage, showing how we are in the position of the beggar and how we too receive God’s grace at a different kind of Temple gate.

From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 3 Sermon:

We don’t know much about this man. We don’t know his name or the names of his parents. All we know is that he had been born lame (Acts 3:2) and had been unable to walk for over forty years (Acts 4:22). And that everyday some kind people carried him to a gate of the Temple so he could beg. So he could, with every person going into or coming out of the Temple, lower his eyes and raise his hands and beg for mercy. That was his life. . . .

Until one day, Peter and John approached his gate. The lame man did as he did for everyone, but instead of filling his hands, Peter filled his ears and said: I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk (Acts 3:6)! And he did. And from that moment he clung to Peter and John, as the first reading today began. He would not let them go, those who had given him not just healed legs, but a new life.

And soon a crowd gathered, for the man was causing quite a scene. For he was not only walking, but, we are told, he was leaping about and praising God (Acts 3:9). This was not proper Temple behaviour and etiquette, and so people were running to see who or what was causing such a commotion. And so with a great crowd of people now gathered around him, Peter preached. Just as he had preached to the lame man, so he preached to the crowd. They hadn’t done this amazing thing, Jesus did. Yes, that Jesus! Of Nazareth. The same Jesus they had rejected and traded for a murderer, the same Jesus they had crucified and thought was dead, the same Jesus whose grave was empty because – their leaders were telling them – His body had been stolen to perpetuate His hoax – guess what? That Jesus was alive, risen from the dead, and still doing powerful things, like making men lame from birth walk. A dead Jesus couldn’t do that. Peter and John were witnesses of His resurrection, and now these people were witnesses of His living power.

Now, we’re not told, but I’ll bet you could just about hear a pin drop at that moment . . . because of the lumps in their stomachs and throats. They had Him crucified and now He’s back? What’s He going to do to them? What will be His revenge on them? For that’s what people do; that’s what they were used to. An eye for an eye. But that’s when Peter tells them: no revenge. He has come back to forgive. You! Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Or in other words: Jesus was raised, Jesus raised this man, and He wants to raise you too. . . .

That Jesus is not dead, but alive and well, and continuing His life giving work. Only now through men, through words, through Sacraments. But the same mercy, the same forgiveness, and same new life. He will ascend, but the work will go on, when they are clothed with power from on high.

And it has, and it is! For the gate of the Temple is now here, at this font, where perhaps your parents or friends brought you to receive the mercy and forgiveness and new life of Jesus.

The gate of the Temple is now here, at this pulpit, where your ears are filled with the preaching of the living Jesus and all that He has done for you. That by His Word and Spirit your minds be opened and all the sin and junk and wrong thinking be cleaned out and you instead be filled with His Word and truth.

The gate of the Temple is now here, before this altar, where you come with your eyes cast down to the ground in repentance and your hands lifted up for mercy, to receive from Him what you need the most – and given in those wonderful words: I forgive you all your sins.

And the gate of the Temple is now here, at this table, where the risen and living Jesus gives you His own Body and Blood, the new food of the new life that starts now and never ends.

And thus just like that lame man, you have been raised to a new life. He was over forty years old when it happened to him – for some of you it may have been forty days, forty hours, or even forty minutes after your birth; for others maybe more than forty years. But no matter how old or young, it is the same Jesus, the same power of His resurrection, His same mercy and forgiveness given to us sinful beggars, that we may have – and live – a new life.

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