Five hundred million dollars up in smoke; Forty one lives
senselessly snuffed out; A city smoldering; A nation questioning.
The images we saw on television this past week in the wake of the
Los Angeles riots have been indelibly imprinted on our collective memory.
never forget the Korean shopkeeper shaking his head in disbelief as
gang members broke into his shop and carried out his life’s work while
police stood by watching; Or the woman, cradling her fifteen-year-old
daughter in her arms after she had been struck down by a stray bullet
on Crenshaw Boulevard; Or the Hispanic drugstore manager with tears in
his eyes, telling his employees they no longer had a job; Or the truck
driver being pulled from his cab by six young men who proceeded to
grind his face into the pavement. It’s been a dark week.
I’m so glad
that on this Sunday we can come to God’s house and look into His Word
— because, for any dark time, His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a
light unto our path. How are we to deal with the sickness and the
sadness we see all around us?
I believe our text gives us the answer . . .
And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he
came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. And there he found
a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and
was sick of the palsy. And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ
maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
What intrigues me about this passage is this: The story is
incredibly similar to what had transpired a few years previously when
Jesus was at a pool called Bethesda. Lame people were lying all around
the pool, waiting for the stirring of the water, after which the first
one to take the plunge would be healed of his infirmity. There it was
that Jesus approached a man who had been lame for 38 years and said,
‘Rise and take up your bed,’ (John 5:8).
And here a few years later,
Peter used virtually the same phraseology when he said to the lame man
at Lydda, ‘Rise, make up your bed.’ ‘Rise’ — a command. ‘Take up your
bed’ — an exhortation. So too, the Lord comes to you and me and says,
‘Rise. I’m giving you victory today. I’m healing you of that lame sin
with which you’ve been involved. Now take up your bed, and don’t
expect or provide for any relapse whatsoever.’
‘Rise, take up your bed,’ said Jesus. ‘Rise, make up your bed,’
echoed Peter. And miracles happened.
After finding sickness in Lydda, Peter found sadness in Joppa . . .
Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by
interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and
almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she
was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an
upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the
disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men,
desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose
and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper
chamber: and all the widows stood by weeping, and shewing the coats
and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put
them all forth and kneeled down, and prayed: and turning him to the
body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw
Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and
when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. (Acts
Tabitha was dead and there was great sadness in the city. The
disciples called for Peter and when he arrived, he immediately put out
the mourners. Why? Some say it was because he needed the room. Others
say it was because if he prayed and nothing happened, he wouldn’t be
embarrassed. But I say it was because that’s what he had seen Jesus
do. You recall the story . . . Jesus was asked to come to the house of
Jairus to heal his daughter. But before He arrived, she died. When
Jesus said, ‘She’s not dead. She’s just sleeping,’ the mourners who
were gathered around the house, mocked Him to scorn.
Luke wrote that Jesus put all of the mockers out (Luke 8:54). Then
He went into the room of Jairus’ daughter, took her by the hand, and
said, ‘Talitha cumi,’ or ‘Little lamb, arise.’
‘Talitha cumi,’ said Jesus. ‘Tabitha cumi,’ echoed Peter. And
What does this have to do with the events of the past week? Plenty.
In this past week, no doubt you’ve been engaged in discussions about
the events that have taken place — the sickness, the sadness, the
death, the darkness, the destruction, the despair. And no doubt the
discussions have centered around these questions:
Why did this happen?
Why is there looting and robbing and killing and rabble-rousing?
There are those who say, ‘It’s indicative of the end times. Doesn’t
the Bible say that in the last days perilous times will come when men
will be lovers of themselves, boasters, disobedient, unthankful,
unholy, unloving, without self-control, despisers of good’ (II Timothy
3:1-3)? Others say, ‘I’m not sure it’s end-time prophecy. I suggest
it’s old-time prophecy. Haven’t you read Isaiah, Micah, or Amos? Don't
you recall what the prophets of God said in days of old — that if the
poor were forgotten, and if there was a lack of compassion, there
would be judgment throughout the land?’
So goes the debate among believers.
Who is to blame?
Some say it’s a jury in Simi Valley. Others say, ‘It’s youth. The
verdict in Simi Valley was merely their excuse to practice anarchy.
Didn’t you see the picture of the man breaking out of the store
carrying a TV and declaring, ‘Forget Rodney King. I’m king today’?
Others say, ‘It’s not the jury in Simi Valley and it’s not the kids
roving about in anarchy. It’s the fault of our prosperous white
society. The comfortably wealthy have seen the plight of the poor on
their TV screens and heard about it on their radios; but, like Cain,
they have chosen to shrug it off asking, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’
But I suggest we’re asking the wrong questions. We who name the
name of Jesus should not be asking, ‘Why?’ or ‘Who?’ but ‘What?’ ‘What
would Jesus do if He were here in the flesh today?’ You see, when
there is sadness or sickness in our society, our families, or in our
lives personally, I suggest to you the issue is not ‘Who is to blame?’
or, ‘Why did this happen?’ but,
What would Jesus do?
What would He do? Would He call Rush Limbaugh? Would He politicize
the event? Would He analyze the outcome?
‘How can we know what He
would do?’ you ask. ‘He never saw a city like Los Angeles’ Oh, really?
As He came down the mount called Olivet and rode towards the city of
Jerusalem, Jesus heard the people crying, ‘Hosanna!’ But He knew that
within a few hours their cry would change. Anarchy would sweep through
the city and a bloodthirsty mob would unjustly and unlawfully cry out,
‘We will not have this man rule over us. Crucify Him!’ So Jesus
stopped, and what did He do? He cried. Not for Himself — He cried for
the people. ‘0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered
thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her
wings,’ (Luke 13:34).
‘You're stretching the point, Jon,’ you say. ‘They weren’t looting
Jerusalem like they did Los Angeles. They weren’t rioting. They
weren’t violent.’ Tell that to Jesus as soldiers plucked His beard and
spat in His face. Tell that to Him as He hung on the cross, while at
His feet soldiers rolled dice for His garments. Did He give a
discourse on the ills of society? No. He said, ‘Father forgive them.
They don’t know what they’re doing.’ What about us?
We usually make our case, give our opinion, and justify our
When I get to heaven, I know I’m going to be absolutely stunned by
the prejudiced and flawed opinions I held which I was sure were so
right. No wonder Paul writes, ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly;
but then face to face: now I know in part: but then shall I know even
as I am known,’ (1 Corinthians 13:12).
So what are we to do in the
meantime? Philosophize? No. Analyze? No. In dealing with your boss,
your spouse, your neighbor, or your children the question is not ‘Who
is to blame?’ or ‘Why is this happening?’
The question always is:
‘What would Jesus do?’ ‘How do I know what Jesus would do?’ you ask.
The answer is very simple: Read your Bible. Put down the paper, turn
off the tube, and open Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — four accounts of
the actions, thoughts, and heart of Jesus. Found in the very beginning
of the New Testament, the Gospels are the Father saying, ‘Here is the
life of My Son. I’m repeating it four times so you won't miss it.’
What do the Gospels tell us Jesus did in dark days? According to
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as He overlooked Jerusalem, and as He
hung on the cross surrounded by people acting like animals, Jesus did
a singular thing: He prayed.
Compassionately and forgivingly, He
prayed. That is what you and I are called to do in dark days like
‘I’d rather discuss. I’d rather debate. I’d rather write
a letter to the editor.’ Pray. That’s what Jesus did. He didn’t
discuss the situation philosophically. He didn’t debate it
politically. He saw a city headed for anarchy. He hung on the Cross,
and was tortured brutally. Yet He did one thing singularly: He prayed.
If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves,
and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will
I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their
land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
‘If My people who are called by My name’ — That’s us ‘Will humble
themselves’ — Will quit theorizing, analyzing, and philosophizing ‘And
pray and seek My face and confess their sin’ — Will pray not about the
wicked ways of those in Los Angeles, but about the sin within themselves
‘Then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their
land.’ The promise of God practiced in the life of Jesus is so
incredibly simple. For whatever problem you face, whatever sickness or
sadness, darkness or death in your life — ask yourself a very simple
What would Jesus do?
I pray that, like Peter, we’ll be imitators of Jesus— knowing His
ways, hearing His heart, praying as He prayed.