Sunday’s sermon was on the healing story in Acts 3. You probably know it. Peter and John command in Jesus’ name that a man born lame stand up. He does. He dances. Everyone’s amazed because a lame person is standing up and dancing. Faith healings often have people abandoning wheelchairs or throwing crutches to dance around stage as part of their “thing.” I’ve always been skeptical.
I had never understood this story. It’s not just about a lame person walking or dancing or using Jesus’ name. It’s not about Charismatic Faith Healing shows at all.
Disabled people weren’t allowed in the Temple. Jews figured it was sin committed by the lame person’s father or grandfather… somewhere back there someone messed up. So the lame person was a visible symbol of sin; somehow it was the disabled person’s fault and the result of God’s justice. No prospects for a job either. That’s why they begged as people filed into the Temple at 3 pm for daily prayers.
Think about the last beggar you walked by: hardly anyone looked at them, right? They may have been making music or holding a sign or doing something to get people to look. In our Bible story, Peter and John stopped and looked. In fact they stared. And then they ordered the lame man to look at them. Eye contact. They saw each other.
Peter and John are the two who never could heal folks when they were with Jesus, nor did they understand why Jesus took them to visit sinners. Now they see a person who has been excluded; an outsider, believed to be responsible for his low estate. A sinner.
No, say Peter and John. They offer him a hand. Basically they invite him into the Community in Jesus’ name. Together they dance into the Temple. Not because he could throw down his crutches, but because he was no longer an excluded outsider. Remember that Jesus never chastises sinners. He eats with them and loves them and challenges them to sin no more. The only folks he chastises are those who pretend they are better than others or are without sin themselves.
Oh how different would the Church be if this part of Acts had been correctly understood? What if all the show-off Faith Healers had, instead, encouraged the Church to see excluded people, give them a hand, and dance together into Community?