The Second Easter Sermon: A Gate Called Beautiful
A crippled man had taken up residence at a gate called Beautiful. Friends carried this man to the same place to beg for money nearly every day. He was born unable to walk which prevented him from seeking other employment; he survived from the charity of others. The gate called Beautiful was not an ordinary gate, it allowed access into the temple courts where Jews went to pray. Several times a day people would file in and out and the crippled man would collect donations. The man was a fixture of the gate: always present, ever lame. Until one day two men passed through the gate who had no money to give. Peter and John were students of Jesus, a controversial figure of their time. Their teacher had fell victim to the cruelest of capitol punishments: crucifixion. Jesus was killed alongside two common criminals. His crime was blasphemy: proclaiming to be the Son of God and King of the Jews. Religious leaders hated Jesus because many believed in his unorthodox teaching. Their repeated attempts to outsmart the carpenter from Nazareth had failed. His ideas were radical and they didn't know how to handle his sudden popularity. They lied, bribed, and manipulated Roman law to trap Jesus and their plan had worked - to an extent.
Religious leaders hated Jesus and had him killed.
From his position on the ground the invalid had asked for money. He was surprised when two men looked at him; not at his useless legs, his dusty mat, or his outstretched hand, but at him. Perhaps these men would take interest in his plight, perhaps they would give him a generous gift. But the words of the first man quickly deflated the beggars hopes. "I don't have any silver or gold to give you," he said, "but I will give you what I do have." Peter continued, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."
Walk? Jesus Christ?
Jesus had died during a horrible earthquake. The tremors seemed to shake the sun from the sky and the world grew dark in the middle of the day. Many graves were damaged and horrified citizens shared stories of dead people walking around amid the confusion. Some rumored that the inner courts of the temple had been damaged. Everyone had been terrified. The lame man remembered it all very clearly because he had been sitting in that very place when it happened over a month ago. How could this Jesus help him? But then he remembered the other things that the people had been talking about. Jesus, they said, had come back to life.
Peter grabbed the mans hand and pulled him up. The crippled feet and ankles became strong and the man was amazed. He was standing and walking; the man at a gate called beautiful had been healed! He followed Peter and John into the temple and couldn't resist running and jumping. He shouted praise to God and began to draw a crowd. A sudden realization swept over the people there, this is the lame beggar from outside the gate. Peter noticed the amazement of the onlookers while others came running to see what the commotion was about. The lame man returned to Peter amid the excitement and held onto his arm. Peter shouted to everyone,
“Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see."
The rumors about Jesus were true and this man stood as evidence.
Peter continued to teach the crowd in the middle of the temple court. He explained many things about Jesus and how he fulfilled ancient prophesies. But not everyone in the audience appreciated the words of these radicals. Priests, accompanied by temple guards, arrested Peter and John and threw them in jail. They were accosted by religious leaders on the following day. Their defense was that the Holy Spirit had given them power to tell others about Jesus and that, "it was by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed." More than five thousand people came to believe the good news of Jesus in a matter of hours. The men preached about the resurrection and power of Jesus Christ and it all happened at a gate called Beautiful.
The Second Easter Sermon: from Acts chapters 3 and 4.