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Peter’s ministry follows in the footsteps of Christ’s which explains its powerful effectiveness.  Are you walking in those same steps?  It is truly the secret to a powerful life which will be eternally significant.  Look at the text with me and look for the fingerprints of Jesus on this passage even as they are present on every page of the book of Acts. 

 

One of the most striking impressions we gain from these early chapters of Acts is the way the Gospel totally transforms individuals and communities.  It is not just minds which are transformed but health, lifestyles, homes, and people groups. 

 

James Russell Lowell once wrote: “Show me a place on the face of the earth ten miles square where a man may provide for his children in decency and comfort, where age is venerated, where womanhood is protected, where human life is held in due regard, and I will show you a place where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has gone before and laid the foundation.”

 

The fact is the Good News of Christ helps people in every way.  Man-centered ideologies and psychologies encourage people to stay in the misery of their addictions to self.  But the command to trust Jesus Christ alone and walk in his ways, though offensive at first, restores rationality, provides dignity, renews purpose, and fulfills.

 

Truly, Jesus Christ is an attractive Savior when people broken on the wheels of life look at him honestly.  He is a Savior who has compassion on the weak and on the outcast.  And Peter’s ministry teaches us that our calling is to imitate that attractiveness of the Savior.

I. Compassion on the Weak (32-35)

The first attribute that makes Christ an attractive Savior is his compassion on the weak.  Now you say, “You are confused.  Peter, not Jesus, is the focus of this passage.”  I know Peter is the one Luke is describing, but Luke carefully crafts the language so that we do not miss that Peter is imitating Jesus’ ministry, or better, Jesus continues his earthly ministry through Peter.  It is this same Apostle who teaches us in his Epistle that Jesus left us an example that we might “follow in his steps” (1 Pt. 2:21).  We are called to continue the earthly ministry of Jesus in such a way that others see him to be the attractive Savior he is.

A. Body (32,33)

Christ is attractive as a Savior because he has compassion on our weak bodies.  For too many evangelicals, Christianity is purely a religion for the mind.  We spend most of our evangelistic energy just trying to get people to think differently, when we serve a Savior who cares for the whole person. 

 

Do you not hear the footsteps of Jesus when you read that Peter “traveled about the country” and “found” a paralytic whom he called by name (cm. Mk. 2:11).  Peter was by now an esteemed leader of the Church but he walked to where people were in need and like his Savior dignified them by calling their names.  No one else would have cared for Aeneas.  He was useless to the work force, a drain on society, and unwelcomed in the Jewish worship service.

 

He had been crippled and thus unable to work for eight years.  Surely he had lost all sense of self-worth and had taken on the pitiful moniker “in-valid.”  But Jesus through Peter found him.  Jesus knew his name and Peter learned it.  He called him by name because he recognized him as a person regardless of the condition of his body.  No incapacity could discount his value because he was made in the very image of God.  Peter announced the fact that it was Jesus Christ who “heals” him.  That is, it was Jesus who was the active force in bringing Peter to him and new life to his atrophied muscles.

 

Now what significance does this have for you today?  You too may come to Jesus for physical healing.  The Bible clearly commands anyone who is sick to call on the elders to pray and holds out the absolute promise of healing, sometimes in this life but certainly in the world to come (James 5).

 

This also has implications for the way we minister to our city. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The worship services we host each week, the Bible studies and Midweek activities we orchestrate, and the many other things we do within the walls of this church are good. However, if we are to reach our city, we must do those things which they count as good, and they do not yet see the things we do within the walls of this church as good. They do, however, view things like cleaning up a school, working to eradicate cyclical poverty, teaching a child to read, and mentoring a new mother as good. We must imitate Jesus’ ministry by seeking to restore the whole person. He does not always save people the same way. Some people, myself included, must be healed of their illness and then be convinced of their sin. This kind of evangelism not only changes the way people think, it changes the way they exist.

 

In Augusta, we imitated Memphis’ Christ Community Health Services. Our church was in an area where many lived in poverty and we wanted them to have access to the same health care that we did. So several doctors, administrators, and donors collaborated to start Christ Community Health Clinic. People gave of their time, money, and talents and ended up building perhaps the nicest health care facility of all of Augusta where people can receive care according to their means and have a doctor who they know and who knows them by name. There are now at least eleven physicians and they serve close to 20,000 patients annually. These are the types of things that non-believers count as good.

 

One such person is Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is no supporter of evangelical Christians, referring to them as “blowhard scolds” who are known more for what they are against than what they are for. However, due to his observing some evangelicals who do works of good in some of the hardest places in the world, Kristof had this to say in a 2011 article for the New York Times:

 

Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

 

I’m not particularly religious myself, but I stand in awe of those I’ve seen risking their lives in this way — and it sickens me to see that faith mocked at New York cocktail parties.[1]

 

B. Occupation (34,35)

The gospel is good news for the whole of life. The gospel is not just for your spirit, your mind, or forgiveness of your sins, it is the promise of healing for your whole body, soul, and spirit.

We see this played out in the healing of Aeneas. Peter is following in the footsteps of Jesus by finding those who are weak in body, names them, dignifies them, and heals them. It's a picture of what is coming in the kingdom. While the healings of Jesus weren't permanent of course, they were his way of saying this is what is going to be true in my kingdom. Everything that Jesus did on earth was anticipatory of what is going to be true in the kingdom at its fulfillment. There will be no lack of food. There will be a constant supply of water. There will be good wine. There will be healed relationships. No one will ever die again. And there will be no disease. This kingdom was brought into the world by Jesus and continues to be brought into the world, giving us foretastes of the kingdom that is to come. As we experience in this life, even though we know it's not permanent, we know it's a testimony to God's goodness. 

 

There is also one other thing that Jesus does for Aeneas. Jesus has compassion on both the weak and the outcast. Aeneas was both. He was an outsider. He was an invalid, because he couldn't work, make a contribution, or walk. Notice what Peter says to Aeneas at the end of this passage: "And Peter said to him, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.' And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord." What was Peter saying to Aeneas when he told him to arise and make his bed. Actually, there is no "bed" in the original text. It just says, "'Aeneas...rise and [spread]." It could mean spread out your mat or pick up your mat and take it with you. This would be equally a miracle; he never could have done that before. It's also similar language to spreading a meal, however. Peter says, in effect, "Aeneas, stand up and make a meal for yourself." We may tend to think that would be rude; Peter should have made a meal for him. However, Aeneas never could have done this before, but because he has been healed, he is able to do it. He is dignified with a task. 

This is what Jesus does, occupationally speaking, by our world. He first of all gives us a task. He dignifies us with jobs. It's our calling in imitating Jesus to dignify other with jobs. As we have power, influence, or ability, we must make jobs for other people. We must employ them, yes, but we must also provide tasks in our homes for our children, for your friends, and for those who have special needs. We dignify them with tasks. That is, we don't recruit them just to be in the labor pool. We dignify them with tasks, because when we do work, we are imitating the creative one who made us. We are imitating God himself. 

 

My wife is an occupational therapist, as is Julie Meyers a member of the church I pastored in Augusta as well as Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis. The definition of occupational therapy is this: "mental and physical therapy by means of creative activity to restore confidence." It is a discipline created after World War II for those who had appendages or lost the ability to do ordinary work or take care of themselves. Occupational therapists helped them regain their confidence. It's a very Jesus-like thing to do. 

 

Jesus also honors all work. We need a better theology of work. At least in our American culture, we tend to have this idea that there is important work and then less important work. It's only a relevantly recent phenomenon that we've begun to think this way. God, however, has a very simple theology of work: all work is glorifying to him. [1] (an exception could be added here that all work that does not break God's written and moral law by its nature). He says in Proverbs 28, for instance, if you have land, don't chase "worthless pursuits." You are not to sit around saying, "what kind of important work can I do?" Simply do the work that is front of you, because it's all glorifying to God. He tells us in Ecclesiastes 3 to enjoy the work that we've been given. He says in Ecclesiastes 9 to do it with all of your might. He says in Ephesians 4:25 we ought to do something with our hands so that we have something to share. Even if you never do anything more than that, it is glorifying to God to do something to earn a basic living and to have something to share. Colossians 3:23 says, "whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." This is the Bible's theology of work. When you stand at the judgment day before Christ, he's not going to ask for your job and differentiate based on the value we give it, he will simply ask if we glorified him in our work. 

 

Those of us who are leaders are responsible to dignify all tasks. If you have a leadership responsibility and other people report to you, whether in your family or an organization, it is your responsibility to tell those under your care how their work figures in to the bigger mission, thus dignifying them. That was one of the major problems with the sanitation workers crisis. It wasn't only that they were being underpaid (though they were); they were demeaned in their work. They should have been told that Memphis could not function without them. If it were not for them and their work, Memphis would be overtaken by vermin and disease. No one could make a profit. The city couldn't run without them. Someone should have been telling them that. It is our responsibility to tell those for whom we have oversight responsibilities how their work is imperative to the mission. This is what the Lord says to us when he tells us that he is building his church through us. 

 

Peter says all of this, effectively, to Aeneas when he healed him. Therefore, he didn't just heal his body. He healed his self-esteem and welcomed him into his place of purpose in the world. 

 

 

[1] Nicholas Kristof, “Evangelicals without Blowhards,” The New York Times, July 30, 2011.