Walking and Leaping and Praising God
Luke 7:18-30; Isaiah 35:1-10; Acts 3:1-19
We've read a fair bit, dear friends, in order to get the context. We had this morning the impression of being made to leap. In Acts, we read, "And leaping up he stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God." The name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean comes first, before the leaping: "in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean rise up and walk." His feet and ankle bones were made strong first. But then, "leaping up he stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God." He walked, leaped, and praised God. The power of the Spirit is involved in that! The Lord Jesus had saved this man and the Holy Spirit had worked in him as well.
It would be normal for a person who believes on the Lord Jesus to receive the Holy Spirit. We read of some who had been baptised to the baptism of John, and were asked, "Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye had believed?" And they reply, "We did not even hear if the Holy Spirit was come" (Acts 19:1-3). But when Peter preached to Cornelius and his household, the Holy Spirit "fell upon all those who were hearing the word" (Acts 10:44).
Well, I was impressed by the way God works in this lame man: "a certain man who was lame from his mother's womb was being carried, whom they placed every day at the gate of the temple called Beautiful." This man could not walk on his own two feet. He could not enter into the temple and have part in the service of God. He was placed at the gate of the temple "to ask alms of those who were going into the temple." Such practical help was available at the temple gate. So Peter and John were going up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, and as they were about to enter into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter, looking steadfastly upon him with John, said, "Look on us." He was looking for the same kinds of things that he was accustomed to receiving daily: alms — silver and gold. But Peter says, "Silver and gold I have not; but what I have, this give I to thee. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean rise up and walk."
So what do each of us have? Are we conscious of Jesus Christ the Nazarean — the One who was slain by Israel — dwelling in us, and of the power that His name is able to effect in persons? To the men of Israel Peter says later, "The originator of life ye slew, whom God raised from among the dead, whereof we are witnesses." Peter had this glorious impression of Jesus the Nazarean. Nathanael had said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nazareth was a town in Galilee, and the Pharisees had said, "No prophet arises out of Galilee!" They opposed Jesus and had nothing good to say about the place from which He came, but Peter had this to say: "what I have, this give I to thee: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarean rise up and walk."
Well, John the Baptist had received an impression that Jesus was the Son of God. In John 1:34, he had said, "I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God", but here in Luke 7, John was in prison. He had been imprisoned by Herod and he drops from his distinct impression that Jesus "is the Son of God." He drops from the sureness of his witness and he says, "Art thou he that is coming, or are we to wait for another?" Circumstances had come into John the Baptist's life; prison conditions had come in and they shook him, shook him in his faith and his sureness as to the truth of the Lord's person: "Art thou he that is coming, or are we to wait for another?"
But the Lord gives him a wonderful answer which would establish him in his faith. In the short space of an hour, Jesus "healed many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and to many blind he granted sight." In one hour, Jesus did all of those things to many persons! And it was to confirm John's faith in the Person. "And Jesus answering said to them, Go, bring back word to John of what ye have seen and heard." These two witnesses here, two of John's disciples, saw and heard these things that Jesus did in one hour, and the Lord tells them to "bring back word to John of what ye have seen and heard: that blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, poor are evangelised; and blessed is whosoever shall not be offended in me."
This was perhaps the most concentrated period of the Lord's working among men, when all these features of the Lord as the Saviour and Healer were evident: "Blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed" — persons were healed and sin was dealt with! "Dead are raised" — resurrection! "Poor are evangelised" — the preaching of the glad tidings! What a wonderful hour this was! And it was to confirm John in his belief in the Lord Jesus: "I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God." Think of these two disciples going back and telling John in prison of what they had seen and heard! How their testimony would confirm John in his heart that Jesus is the Son of God!
John had had a distinct place in ministry, in preparing the Lord's way: baptising the people and preparing in the desert a highway for the Lord. And the Lord highly valued him. "The messengers of John having departed, he began to speak to the crowds concerning John." In verses 26 to 28, Jesus gives His assessment of John the Baptist: "Yea, I say to you, and what is more excellent than a prophet. This is he concerning whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee; for I say unto you, Among them that are born of women a greater prophet is no one than John the baptist." The Lord Jesus has a real place in His affections for John the Baptist, and no doubt this concentrated hour of the Lord's service among men, witnessed by John's disciples, was meant to confirm John the Baptist in his trying conditions in prison, oppressed by Herod. Indeed, John was about to be beheaded and slain by Herod.
Well, in verse 28 we read that believers in the present time are greater than John the Baptist: "but he who is a little one in the kingdom of God is greater than he." Do we appreciate the Lord's assessment of each one of us? "He who is a little one in the kingdom of God is greater than he!" That applies to the least of us! It applies to each one of us in this dispensation who has believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and who is indwelt by the Spirit of God. John belongs to another dispensation. He is the friend of the Bridegroom, who rejoices in heart because of the voice of the Bridegroom, but we have part in the bride of Christ. We have part in this dispensation in which a glorified Christ is our object!
John had part in the day when Jesus was here in flesh and blood, and he was a friend of the Lord Jesus. But the believer now has a greater portion in the assembly. I wonder how much we value our part, simply as a little one, in the kingdom of God. Do we appreciate the greatness of the glad tidings of God's grace in the dispensation in which we have part?
Well, I read in Isaiah 35, which follows chapter 34(!), and these two chapters are all of a piece. Chapter 34 brings in God's judgment of the nations and how those who oppress His people are dealt with, but this chapter is one of rich blessing. We read verses 5 and 6 this morning. Verse 5 bears on what we read in Luke's gospel as to the Lord's service when He was here: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf be unstopped." Verses 6 and 7 bear on the time in which we are now: "Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and torrents in the desert. The mirage shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water." These verses suggest the activities of the Holy Spirit — as a "springing up" fountain of water! This chapter literally bears on the future, millennial period, but I believe it also applies in our own day. In the glad tidings, the Lord Jesus has come to open the eyes of the blind, to unstop the ears of the deaf, to cause the lame man to leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing. As our eyes are opened and as our ears are unstopped, we'll see what the Lord Jesus is doing amongst His people. We'll see how the Holy Spirit is reviving affections for divine Persons among the saints, causing waters to break out and torrents in the desert.
So it says, "a highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called, The way of holiness: the unclean shall not pass through it; but it shall be for these." That brings in the importance of sanctification, of separation from evil: "The unclean shall not pass through it; but it shall be for these. Those that go this way — even fools, — shall not err therein." This testing scripture shows there is practical salvation for those who go in this way.
Then "the redeemed shall walk there" brings in the truth of the glad tidings. The Lord Jesus Himself is our Redeemer. Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25). The redeemed are not lamely sitting by the Beautiful gate of the temple; they are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
"And the ransomed of Jehovah shall return, and come to Zion with singing; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads." Well, Zion was the city of David. It is where Christ is in the affections of His people. It refers to what is inward — to the Lord Jesus in our hearts' affections.
David speaks much in his Psalms about his appreciation of Zion. Think of Jesus coming to the disciples in John 20, where the doors were shut through fear of the Jews! It was a setting where their hearts were guarded — protected from the influence of what was without, what was opposed. We read in verses 19 and 20, "Jesus came and stood in the midst and says to them, Peace be to you. And having said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced therefore, having seen the Lord."
That is a very precious, inward setting which corresponds to Zion in our chapter here. The disciples rejoicing corresponds to this: "everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy." This joy is not caused by mere circumstances; the incoming of "Jesus himself" brings joy to their hearts.
So, dear friends, it is surely glad tidings that the Lord is opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, and making the lame to walk. They are physical features, as spoken of in Luke's gospel, but they are moral features in us at the present time. The Lord Jesus is able to save us and to deal with all these moral features of lameness, blindness, deafness, leprosy, and dumbness in us. He is able to bring salvation and healing in view of God having a response in fulness of joy and in the power of the Spirit from His people. For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman
Walking And Leaping And Praising God