Acts 4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – Peter and John before the Council
5 The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is
‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.’
12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
The background and context to this reading is the account of the healing of the lame man at the Temple Gate – the Gate Beautiful (Acts chapter 3).
Peter and John are confronted by a crippled man begging for money. Peter’s response is to say, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Peter reaches out his hand and lifts the man to his feet, whereby he is immediately healed.
An act of great beauty at the Beautiful gate, and the first recorded healing miracle in the Book of Acts. Following Peter’s discourse on Christ the Healer, both him and John are arrested, imprisoned, and brought before the religious leaders to account for their actions. This is where we pick up the story.
There are different ways of looking at, or reading this account as it is presented in scripture.
A generalised reading
Sadly we are all too familiar with beggars. And scandalously their numbers have increased on the streets of Liverpool, as they have on the streets of many of our towns and cities.
To beg is to ask for money. Whatever the rights and wrongs of giving money to beggars (and I am not wanting to pass judgement), money can only be a short-term solution. What people need – what we all need – is wholeness of life. It has been said that we are all beggars, and that the ministry of the Gospel is simply ‘one beggar telling another beggar where to find sustenance’.
Wholeness. What Peter does – in Jesus’ name – is to make the beggar more whole. Only Jesus can provide wholeness. Of Jesus, Peter declares,”There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 12). This doesn’t mean that we discount what other spiritual and moral teachers have to offer. We need to respect truth and wisdom wherever we find it, but, according the the New Testament, salvation – wholeness – is only to be found in Jesus Christ. In this story we see the beggar’s predicament addressed and its causes met – in Jesus’ name. What the beggar receives is a measure of wholeness.
For us as followers of Jesus, this has social and political implications. Recently Liverpool cathedral has combined with other churches to launch Micah Liverpool – ‘Micah Liverpool helps people out of poverty. Currently, the charity is working with those who are unemployed or need food or related assistance to tackle hunger in an emergency situation.’ Micah Liverpool is about addressing the causes of poverty, improving wellbeing, and bringing wholeness. This is an initiative we need to get behind at Christ Church, not least because Annette is one of the directors!
A specific reading
What is recounted in Acts 3 & 4 is an actual physical healing. I believe it happened just as it is recorded. A lame man walks. He leaps for joy – as you would expect.
Peter is only doing what Jesus did, what Jesus modelled and what He commanded His followers to do. That is to heal the sick…
“As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.” Jesus (Matthew 10: 7-8)
There is power in the name of Jesus for the healing of the sick.
The ministry of healing is a scary thing to contemplate, and thinking about it raises all kinds of questions. Does Jesus still heal today? Is it right to build up people’s hopes, only to have them dashed again when they’re not healed? Shouldn’t we leave it to the medical professionals?
I have the utmost respect for the medical profession. Medical professionals deserve our full support (as they do the full support of the government, which they’re not getting – but that’s another sermon). It is true that the healing ministry has been misused and abused, and that proper safeguards need to be in place.
It is also true that people are prayed for and not fully healed. Although, I don’t think that anyone can be prayed for in Jesus’ name without receiving a blessing – a touch of wholeness.
“When we prayed for no one, no one was healed. Now we pray for lots of people, not everyone’s healed, but some are. And when we pray for someone, even if they’re not healed, it’s usually a blessing.” John Wimber