by Roger McCay
6 October 2019
Sermon Passage: Acts 9:32-43
Link to Audio Version
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis writes:
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
The Lord calls us to do many things as we follow him. Every believer has a calling, and we follow Jesus in harmony with the rest of the body of Christ. Sometimes our calls are difficult. Sometimes they require great courage to overcome. As a result, we can come up with all sorts of reasons as to why we “cannot” do what the Lord has made clear to us is his will, but that “cannot” is really a “will not.” So, we tend to let “barriers that are not barriers” for the Lord keep us from obeying the Lord.
I say this inclusively, as this, among other things, is at the core of disobedience, and we all sin. And, a perceived “barrier that is not a barrier” is really just an excuse. For when the Lord commands us, he provides the means for our obedience. 1 Cor. 10:13: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Phil. 2:13: “It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
In my studies of Acts 9, what has jumped out at me is that a bunch of broken people are called to arise, and from a secular standpoint, there was no-way they ever could. Peter was a hard-case, Aeneas was paralyzed, and Tabitha was dead. But they were all told to arise. And they each did. So, a point is made. The Lord is going to accomplish his mission. Broken people are a part of his plan. And he doesn’t let a person’s brokenness get in the way.
The first case in this passage is Peter. Here he is following in the Lord’s footsteps proclaiming the Word and doing great deeds.
Yet, remember back. Here, in Acts, Peter is shown as a tireless, faithful apostle, facing down the Sanhedrin, boldly proclaiming Christ, backing up the message with miracles, travelling from town to town proclaiming Christ, teaching the Word, and pastoring believers. But, remember Peter’s journey. There was a process of sanctification as the Lord worked on him to get him to this point. Peter had come a long way: a modest background as a fisherman (Mark 1:16); arguing with Jesus over Jesus’ mission, who then called Peter Satan (Mark 8:33); displaying extreme overconfidence (pride) by saying he would never deny Jesus and would die for him even if everyone else left him (Mark 14:31); acting in a rash violence by cutting off that guy’s ear (John 18); then denying Jesus three times (Mark 14:66-72).
Despite all this, the Lord was patient. He worked in Peter’s life, forgiving him, empowering him with the Holy Spirit, and bringing him to the point we see him now. Peter was not a great apostle because of something intrinsically great. He was a humbled apostle doing great things because the Lord of all creation was working in him and through him.
Luke makes a point of this in a couple of ways here. First, Peter’s words and actions point to Jesus as the power behind the miracles. Second, Peter’s words and actions are almost identical to Jesus’ in similar situations. Acts 9:34: “And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose.” Similarly, in Luke 5:24-25: “Jesus said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose.” In both cases a paralyzed man was told: “Rise, take care of your bed.” And each man complied, by rising. Also, in both cases, Jesus was the one who healed.
Then, in Acts 9:38, some disciples came the 12 miles from Joppa to Lydda to fetch Peter because a wonderful Christian lady full of good works and charity had died. They came to get Peter in the hope he could do something about it, as Peter was an apostle of Jesus. And what did Peter do? Verse 39: “So Peter rose and went with them.”