The Lift That Lasts
Peter and John were on their way to the temple, not to sacrifice, but to pray. I am not surprised that a wonderful thing happened that day. You are always on the highroad to a blessing when you are on your way to the house of God.
At the Beautiful Gate lay a man lame from his birth. Therefore, first of all in this story, we have a lameness. This man symbolizes a crippled world at the door of the church. Were there ever more cripples than nowcrippled bodies, crippled minds, crippled lives, crippled homes? Two world wars have filled the earth with a crop of them. They fill our hospitals. They walk our streets. You do not always see the limp, for it may be a lameness of mind or heart. We live in a crippled world, groaning and travailing in pain. We are all cripples. Sorrow has done it. Sickness has done it. Sin has done it. Satan has done it.
This generation of lame men lies at the door of the church. Not that they go to church, for they don't, but they are our responsibility and their need is our challenge. Remember the father who brought his demonized boy to the disciples that they might cast out the demon, and they could not. But Jesus said, ''Bring him to me.'' The disciples may fail, churches may fail,
but He does not fail. It was for a crippled world that He came and died. At the outset of His earthly ministry He read from Isaiah and announced His mission, to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. The Broken-hearted, the Bound, the Blind, the Bruisedit is the same lame world at the Beautiful Gate that He came to deliver. When John the Baptist inquired from prison, ''Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?'' our Lord replied that He was running on schedule: the blind were seeing, the lame walking, the lepers were being cleansed, the deaf were hearing, the dead were being raised, and the poor were hearing the Gospel.
Has He ever ceased? According to the very first verse of the Acts, the Gospel of Luke is an account of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach. He is still at it. The Book of Acts is not the Acts of the Apostles but the Acts of Jesus. He is still ministering to the lameness at the gate.
But He works today through us. Here Peter and John are His agents. They said to the lame man, ''Look on us.'' ''And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.'' They called attention to themselves as the representatives of Christ. Everytime we ring a church bell, every time the minister stands in the pulpit, we are saying to the world, ''Look on us, we have something for you.'' God pity them if we have nothing, if they be a hollow farce instead of a holy force!
Peter said, ''Silver and gold have I none; but such
as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.'' Not money but miracles! Thomas Aquinas was being shown the glories of the Vatican. ''No longer does the church say, ''Silver and gold have I none.' '' said the Pope. ''Neither can she say, 'Rise up and walk,' '' replied Aquinas. The lame man looked, ''expecting to receive something.'' Millions today never go to church. Thousands go and are disappointed. Like the man in the parable, we have nothing to set before them, no bread for our friends who have come to us in their journey. Suppose you are invited to dinner. The host sets the table, spreads the silver, seats the guests, returns thanks, but serves no food! That is a perfect description of many church services. We invite the lame world to ''look on us,'' and they give heed, expecting to receive something, but we have nothing to give.
Peter and John did not disappoint this man. After the look came a lift. Peter took him by the right hand and lifted him up. I hasten to add that with the lift came life, ''and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.'' We are all in the uplift business these days. The church is in it. But much of it drops the cripple right back into his misery and lameness and sin. I am not interested in the uplift business. I'm interested in the New Life business! A lot of our uplifting these days is mostly ''soap'' and ''soup'' but very little ''salvation.'' Many churches that once had life now give only a lift. And it is being found out. This world needs more than a temporary lift such as it seeks from a cigarette or a drink. It needs life, a lift that lasts. There are churches where one might go for twenty-five years and never learn how to be saved. There is a
momentary stimulus in a clever sermonette, like a shot in the arm. There may even be a temporary reformation. But our Lord told us of the house, empty, swept and garnished, where the demon returned with seven more evil spirits more wicked than himself. That is what happens when there is a lift without life.
Peter and John lifted in the name of Christ: ''In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.'' If they had merely lifted the lame man to drop him again he would have been more crippled than ever. Peter and John gave the credit to Another: ''And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong.'' There is no power in the name ''Baptist'' or ''Methodist'' or ''Presbyterian.'' There is no power in the name of a famous preacher. There is no power in the name of your church, though it may be as big as the Pentagon. There is only one name with life in it. ''In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.'' We sing ''He lifted Me,'' 'Love Lifted Me.'' His is the lift that lasts, because there is life in it. ''Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.'' ''He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free.'' His name through faith in His name makes the cripple strong.
There was not only a lift in this story, there was a leap. ''And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.'' Sometimes I have stood in a very dignified Sunday morning service while the congregation sang rather unconsciously:
Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
I have wondered what would happen if some brother took the admonition seriously and actually leaped. I am sure there would be an exodus of scandalized saints. I am not advocating rolling in the hay and foaming at the mouth. I am just as afraid of that as you are. But if we have no leap in our feet these days we should have it in our hearts. We have lost the leap in our churches today. Is it because we do not have the life?
They had the leap in Bible days. David danced before the ark. He wrote, ''He maketh my feet as hind's feet.'' So said Habakkuk. Little children leap for joy. ''But we have grown up.'' It doesn't seem so at a football game or a political rally. ''But we must be dignified.'' Some dear souls think themselves dignified, when, really, they are petrified.
We have lost our leap and it worries church leaders. An Episcopal bishop calls for more ''religious fanaticism.'' A Methodist bishop pleads for a return to ''the emotionalism that made Methodism famous.'' A Baptist leader speaks of another denomination that is going places today because, for one reason, ''they are not afraid to shed tears.'' MacLaren speaks of those who are always advocating sober standards of feeling in matters of religion by which they mean what our Lord described in far less polite language as being neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. We need not go to extremes. The remedy for lethargy is not epilepsy. But if the heart is full of life it will have a leap!
This shouting cripple stirred up quite a commotion. He got the preachers into trouble. All Jerusalem was in an uproar. Peter and John were forbidden to
preach. The church held a prayer-meeting that ended in an earthquake. And it was all because of a lameness that looked and a life that liftedand when the lame looked and was lifted, he leaped. That sort of thing always shakes Jerusalem. What moves the hearts of men is not conventions and committee meetings and pink teas of the Uplift Club, but cripples who have looked and been lifted and who leap because they have life.
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