Time, Trust, Touch
James C. Denison
This week I came across some actual newspaper ads which caught my eye:
Dinner Special—Turkey $2.35; Chicken or Beef $2.25; Children $2.00.
For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.
Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home.
We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.
Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.
Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover.
Now that I have my AARP card, I may need to look into that.
Speaking of ads, I learned the other day that atheists in Great Britain have been buying advertisements on city buses. The ads read: “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying And Enjoy Your Life.” If there is probably no God, I’m going to start worrying even more. You know the reasons: the global economy is in crisis; global climate change is in the news every day; the conflict in Afghanistan is deteriorating; people are worried about the election and its aftermath. Closer to home, teachers at DISD are being laid off, companies are downsizing, retailers are worried about Christmas sales, real estate isn’t moving.
On a day like today, you and I could use some good news. That’s why I’m glad we have come to Acts 3 in our fall sermon series on early Christianity and the power of God. This text is in the Bible for your sake and mine. We need to learn this story today, so it can be your story this week.
The formula which changed the world
Our story begins as one of the most routine events in all of Scripture.
Peter and John are on their way to the temple at the hour of prayer, 3:00 in the afternoon. Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that by this time the Jews had moved their third sacrifice of the day to this hour.
This is the third time that day the Jews had gone to observe the sacrifice, to perform the ritual, to watch this rite. Up the same stairs, through the same gate, to watch the same routine, again and again and again. All routine. It’s like your typical Sunday morning. You get up at the same time, drive the same streets, park in the same place, sit in the same pew—you hope. All routine.
Even the beggar is routine. He’s been here over forty years, according to Acts 4:22. Then and now hurting and physically-challenged people gathered at the doors of religious places for help. For forty years they’ve seen him, heard him, walked by him. Routine.
But today something is different. Our text says that Peter “looked straight at him.” The Greek word means to stare with intense purpose. It’s the same word used when the disciples stared at Jesus ascending to heaven; the word used when Stephen stared at Christ in heaven as he was being stoned to death. To fix your gaze with intense purpose.
The others saw; Peter looked. The others heard; Peter listened. The others rushed by; Peter and John stopped. The others ignored; these followers of Jesus cared. They had a heart for the one. They made time for the one.
Now, it does no good for us to find the one if we can’t help when we do. So Peter says, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6). Very simply put, we are called to find the one and share the name.
The “name” of Jesus means his presence, his power, his help. Peter and John don’t trust their money, or their wisdom, or their programs, or their strength. This man needs what they cannot give—he needs the power of God. And so they share the name of Jesus. They trust the power of Jesus. Now finally they are ready to touch the hurt: “Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up” (v. 7).
The Jews thought that anyone like this man, handicapped from birth, was being punished for sin. Remember the disciples’ question about the blind man of John 9, “Who sinned, that this man was born blind?” You don’t touch someone like this. Toss him a quarter, pity him, but don’t touch him lest you become contaminated and unclean.
But Peter touches him. In fact, the Greek says that Peter “seized him.” He stoops down and picks this man up. And when he does, the man is healed. He walks, leaps, praises God, and all Jerusalem runs to see. But only when Peter touches the hurt.
Here’s the formula which changed the world: Time, trust, and touch. Time for a hurting person; trust that God can heal him; touch that shares God’s grace where it is needed most.
Watch Jesus heal the leper, cleanse the demoniac, and raise Lazarus—it’s the same formula. Watch him win Nicodemus and Zacchaeus, restore Peter and call Paul. Watch Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, and Peter with Cornelius. It’s always the same pattern—time for the one, trust in God’s power, touch for the hurt.
The formula which still changes the world
Have you noticed that the lame man is never named in the story? Here’s why: He’s you. And the person sitting next to you this morning. And me. Our church doors are your “gate called Beautiful.” What God did for that man, he wants to do for you today.
But in a day like ours, that’s sometimes hard to believe, isn’t it? I can hear the atheists in England now—if there’s a God, how can he possibly have time enough for every one of us, every moment of every day? How can he really hear your prayer in English, and a Chinese believer’s prayer in Mandarin, and a Cuban believer’s prayer in Spanish, all at the same time? How can he have time for the two billion people on this planet, much less for you?