Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes — No. 23
THE CONSEQUENCES OF COMPASSION
When Peter looked with compassion on the lame beggar at the gate Beautiful, I doubt that he considered anything beyond the man’s need and his own desire to help him. But God can take the smallest act of compassion and do wonderful things. When Peter acted in the name of Christ, Christ took over and wonderful things began to happen. The man was completely healed, of course, but this was only the beginning. We begin to see the wisdom of God’s providence at work when we read the ninth and tenth verses of Acts 3. “And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.”
All these amazed people gathered to see and to hear the explanation of the wonderful thing that had happened. God used it as a great opportunity for Peter to preach the message of the kingdom. It was indeed a great opportunity for more reasons than one. The lame beggar had sat there at that one place for years. They all knew him. This was not a matter of some strange account of some wonderful deed away off somewhere. The people were excited because this miracle had been wrought on familiar material. Peter understood the nature of their interest and he made full use of it. He specifically calls their attention to it; “This man, whom ye see and know.” He was aware of the fact that the mysterious is always impressive when it touches the most familiar.
The Mysterious is Always Most Impressive When it Touches the Most Familiar
I can remember waking from a deep slumber years ago when I was a boy. The moonlight was coming through my window and touching everything with a soft glow. I had seen the moon many times and I knew it was very far away and hid many secrets yet unknown to man. But I had never been so impressed by it before. It was the fact that this mysterious moonlight was reflecting on my own familiar white shirt which I had thrown across a chair that lent it a new splendor. The old familiar objects of my own bedroom took on a new significance touched by that moonlight and the moonlight itself had a new meaning to me by its contact with the things I knew so well. Again I can remember a very well known preacher visiting in my home when I was a very small boy. I had heard him preach many times and to be perfectly honest I usually went to sleep. I was too young to understand him and so he had never “rung my bell.” I knew he had a big reputation and was considered to be a very great man. But this didn’t alter the fact that his pulpit seemed a thousand miles removed from my small interests, and when he preached I either went to sleep or suffered in bored, squirming, and resentful silence. To pass him at the door of the church and receive an occasional careless pat on the head was as close a contact as I had ever had with him. Then one evening he visited in my home. Suddenly everything about him changed for me. The great man far removed in the pulpit was one thing. But this was altogether different. There he was in my father’s armchair, sitting by our own dear fireplace, and obviously enjoying an offering from my mother’s kitchen. From that day on he was a great man to me too. It made all the difference when I saw him in a familiar framework.
The Commonplace Has the Sacred Ability to Answer to the Touch of God
So it was with those men of Jerusalem centuries ago. It was limbs they knew that were made strong. It was a familiar face out of which this new radiance shone. Now there is a principle here that I consider vital. That is why I have spent so much time with the point. Just as the healing of this man they knew impressed them more than would have a thousand healings of people they had never known, so does the conversion of a neighbor or friend impress people whenever it occurs. They may see hundreds moved in a big revival on television and not be nearly so touched as to see the change in the life of one man who is well known to them. I think there are two reasons for this. They are impressed by the fact that the grace of Eternal God could stoop to one so commonplace as this intimate acquaintance of theirs. Again they are impressed by the fact that the commonplace has shown the sacred ability to answer to the touch of God.
Do You See the Importance of Your Work With One Unconverted Soul?
Do you see then what awful importance your work with one unconverted soul may have? If you can win him who knows what consequences his conversion may have upon others? Do you further see the vital significance of the way you demonstrate the effect of Christ in your life before your friends and neighbors? They probably believe that there may be some real Christians somewhere. But have you given them the far more impressive testimony of a real Christian next door to them? You can probably do more for your intimate acquaintances than the greatest preacher alive today. When they hear from the pulpit what Christ can do for a human soul they will not find it hard to believe if they have actually seen Christ doing it in your life. Let there be no mistake. The Christian army is not so very different in this respect from any other army. We need a few generals to plan and direct strategy. We need more ranking officers to lead and encourage the army. But the war will finally be won or lost by the privates out there on the field. So we need great elders and deacons and preachers, but more than anything else we need a host of simple, everyday Christians out there rubbing shoulders with the world and bearing constant testimony to the great and wonderful truth that Christ does make a difference in the lives of men.
Perhaps I have digressed a bit from the story of Simon Peter but I believe it is a digression that Peter himself would approve. At any rate we are now ready for Peter’s explanation of the miracle. In explaining just how it was done, Peter touched on one of the most profound questions in all religion. He brought into sharp focus the oft debated question of God’s part and man’s part in bringing about the will of God. Space forbids that we venture into that question here, but in our next chapter we shall consider the great truth introduced in Acts 3:16 and the fact that salvation in any sense always depends upon two things.