The first time I remember ever visiting a hospital emergency room was the day I broke my arm in two places. A friend of our family had just gifted a large, sturdy, incredibly heavy bicycle to our family...and this was the animal I used to learn how to ride a two-wheeler. Of course, a sturdy bike had its advantages. Even as a small kid I instinctively knew that gravity and the weight of my new bike were my greatest "friends" that would help me navigate down the gentle slope in our backyard without falling. Ah, but when I got to our blacktop driveway (recently paved and 4 inches higher than the ground I rode on) gravity and the weight of my new bike were now allied against me. I began to wobble when I hit the lip of the driveway. And as I teetered over, the bone in my arm, now caught between the driveway and the frame of the bike, simply snapped. What remains most vivid about that emergency room visit was meeting the doctor. He looked me in the eye, and taking the hand of my broken arm (as if about to shake it) he quickly and silently tugged on my arm to set the broken bone straight. It hurt...but only for a second. It was the beginning of a healing process that continued with a plaster cast, a boring summer of no water sports, and that incredible feeling when the heavy cast was removed and my arm emerged from the cast healed and feeling as light as a helium balloon. The healing process began with pain...but in the hands of an expert healer, I was blessed to find recovery and restoration.
If physical healing does not usually occur without the pain of a straightened bone, the taste of bitter medicine, or the ache of muscles tested by physical therapy, the healing of the human heart and spirit also does not occur without pain. Sometimes we bring that pain on ourselves by the bad choices we make or the influence of the company we choose to keep. At other times we find ourselves burdened by circumstances outside of our control. Our text for today displays both conditions. A lame man outside the gate of the temple suffers the pain of poverty because of a disability he had done nothing to deserve. People gathered around the first witnesses of the resurrection receive the painful truth that they have collaborated to crucify an innocent man (even though they did so out of ignorance). But the pain of either indigence or guilt is not where this text ends. Faith in the name of Jesus, the Great Physician, despite the pain, brings new hope and the forgiveness of sins. If physical healing begins with some measure of pain or discomfort, the same might be said of soul restoration, too.
The healing work of Jesus is for all in need of a Doctor. During this season of the year that bears the title "Easter," we of course give thanks for and look forward to the day that our bodies, in the hands of the Healer, will at last experience complete and total wholeness. But the truly Good News is that no matter what diagnosis our earthly doctors give us right here and now, no matter what measure of physical or emotional pain we might be dealing with today...the prognosis for all who place themselves in the hands of the Great Physician is sure. In Jesus, our sins are forgiven. In Jesus, even bone-crushing guilt is taken away. In Jesus, death has lost its sting. In Jesus, our souls are healed. Life may still, at times, be painful. But it will never, ever, be the same.
Let's live life this week as people in the hands of the expert Healer.
Sermon Outline Answers: 1. Witnesses; 2. Glorification; 3. Wounds, bind up; 4. Testimony