Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.…
I. THE ANTECEDENTS OF THE CURE. Peter and John were going up in company to the temple at the evening hour of prayer. Here we see:
1. The fellowship of different orders of minds in Christ. None more diverse in character and temperament than the impulsive Peter and the contemplative John.
2. Prayer one of the bonds of this fellowship, as expressed in the beautiful hymn, "How blest the tie that binds!"
3. An example of the profit of set times and seasons for worship. (See on the three times of daily prayer - the third, sixth, and ninth hours - Daniel 6:10 and Psalm 55:18.) And the good also of a fixed place of prayer. The temple, the synagogue, the Church, or the meeting-house; each has its hallowed and happy associations. How greatly devotion is helped by the imagination, and the imagination how dependent upon association, must be obvious to all.
4. The path of true devotion is often found to be the path that leads to useful service to others.
II. THE SUFFERER. Lame from his birth, deprived of that power of independent activity in which so much of the enjoyment of life consists, he is the type of a deeply pitiable class. To have health is so great a blessing, because it carries with it that of command over one's powers, and therefore freedom and independence. He was helplessly dependent - borne by others. Such sufferings remind us of the presence of moral evil, which can neither be explained nor explained away. But there are compensations. The lame man had friends. Seldom does such misery fail to stir up pity and enlist help. Outward evils are ever balanced in the Divine wisdom by inward good. We never know the kindness of man to man till sickness and sorrow reveal it. They carried him to one of the splendid gateways of the temple, that he might be in the way of the charitable droppings of alms from those that went in. The religious duty of almsgiving was preached up by the rabbis incessantly and in the strongest way - even to excess, as we may see from Lightfoot and other authors. One noted saying was that God suffered the poor to exist that rich men might earn heaven. Our theological and our practical views of the subject have changed. But at least we have a good example here: we should exert ourselves to place the sufferer within reach of help. The great problem of true charity is to bring the supply and the need into practice. If the intention be loving and good, something better often comes of it than is hoped for, as in this case. The sufferer, intent upon the minor boon, receives the higher blessing. So does a living Divine purpose shape our actions to nobler ends than we designed.
III. THE CURE. There is human means with Divine agency.
1. The human means. The apostles fix their eyes earnestly upon the sufferer. Thus his attention is aroused; his thoughts are collected; he is brought into a concentration of thought and feeling. It is not to the wandering mind that God reveals either his thought or his power. The eyes must be lifted up to the quarter whence help comes. He who is conscious of bearing God's message to the souls of men may cry, "Look on me; listen to me!" Faith is not passive; it is an energy, expressed by looking, listening, coming, doing. Thus only can the electric chain be completed; the healer and the healed be brought into vital contact. Directions must be complied with as the first condition of physical healing and of spiritual salvation. The best gift we have for our fellow-men is the gift of the head and heart. This is lasting; others perish in the using. We cannot lose the memory nor the blessing of good words. If we have no money to give in alms, we may make our fellow-man rich from our heart. Intelligence and sympathy are what all men want, and none are thankless for. We reap ingratitude where we have not really shown our heart. The best spiritual gifts recognize the worth of the recipient. Let us treat men as our equals - beings possessed of will. There are possibilities before them; let us reckon upon them and believe in them, thus inspiring them in their weakness with such healthy belief.
2. The Divine power in the human means. We cannot command our fellow-men except in the name of some authority which both he and we are subject to. He who can rest his appeals upon the firm words, "By order," or "In the name of the queen," or the like, has a might over wavering wills. Really to govern means first to have obeyed. The "Name" here signified a vast reality. "Jesus Christ of Nazareth!" It is the symbol of all power in heaven and earth; supreme, unrivalled, purely loving and beneficent. As ministers of Christ, we are servants of the Almighty, channels of charity, agents of a kingdom that must prevail. This power will be felt both by words and deeds. The tones of Peter's voice thrilled; his bidding awoke the slumbering power of volition; finally his hand, joined with that of the sufferer, completed the union of the Divine agency to save with the sufferer's will to be saved. The weak feet and joints became firm; the whilom prostrate one leaped up and stood; from this proceeded to walk; finally went with the healers into the temple, exultingly to render praise to God. The thankful heart is the best sacrifice we can offer to God. Without it, the best crown of the blessing he designs to confer is not attained. If men see our state changed, but not our heart, God is defrauded of his glory and his due in us. The joy of the comforted heart is the best proof of the love of the Comforter. He means our freedom and our joy; what if we disappoint his thought, so that it flowers not and bears no fruit?
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CURE.
1. Popular observation. They identified the man. They compared his present and past condition. Comparison is the foundation of our knowledge of truth.
2. Popular reasoning. They argued that the change could proceed only from one cause, and that Divine. The quality of changes points to the quality of the cause. Extend this reasoning, and the best, as the most popular, argument for Christianity is this: the changes produced by it in man's condition prove it to be of origin Divine.
3. Popular amazement and ecstasy. Such are the words of the historian. Wonder is the reflection of the unusual and the unexpected in the mind. And this passes into ecstasy or transport when through the sensuous the supersensual, when through the natural the supernatural, appears. If all the course of life were common and familiar, God would be forgotten. Were wonders incessantly repeated they would become no longer wonders, and their power were lost. God shows his hand now and again that the spell of custom may be broken; hides it that we may reflect on what we have seen. Mingled fear and joy ever attend Divine revelations; fear in the thought of our utter dependence, joy in the thought that in that very dependence lies our hope and our deliverance. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.