This is based on something I wrote back in February 2005, while taking a New Testament Class at the Austin LDS Institute of Religion, after I had read Acts 3:1-8.
I find the story of the lame man healed by Peter and John at the temple gate to be a beautiful metaphor for repentance and the other ways in which the Savior changes our lives.
Just like this man, we each are “lame from birth” (Acts 3:2). Call it what you will — our sinful nature, the natural man, or even more simply this veil of forgetfulness and the separation from God we experience here in our mortal lives. Each of us, like this man, are beckoned to look to, and listen to, our prophets and other church leaders. Because, ultimately is it not his voice that is calling us (see Mosiah 26:21, Mosiah 5:12, D & C 18:33-36) because “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D & C 1:38).
Importantly, at this time, this man was ready to receive something into his life that he could not provide for himself. In this expectation, he looked to the apostles. He was humble. He could not overcome his current situation on his own. He was much like the poor of the Zoramites, who looked to Alma to know how to worship since they were cast out of their synagogues because of their poverty. Alma saw that they were “in a preparation to hear the word.” (Alma 32:6) But, remember, one does not have to be compelled by being in a situation as this man or the Zoramites to receive this gift (see Alma 32:16).
Now, with the man looking to our Savior (because he was looking at our Savior’s servants), he is invited to do something that only the name and power of Christ can do and give: “rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Only Christ has power to bid us rise up and walk out of our condition of being “lame from birth”; only he can deliver us from this weak state (Mosiah 23:23).
“Arise and walk!” Isn’t that essentially His invitation to us (3 Nephi 9:13)? When Christ invited the Nephites to gain a personal testimony of his atonement and resurrection, didn’t he say “arise and come forth” (3 Nephi 11:14)? He also said nearly the same to the people of Alma, beckoning for them to arise, walk, and receiving strength to bear their burdens (Mosiah 24:13-15).
It is obvious that the man lame from birth heeded this command. But, the man did receive more than the command to rise up and walk. Peter extended his hand and lifted him up — it was then that his bones and feet received the needed strength. Think of Nephi’s faith in the ability to keep the commandments (1 Nephi 3:7). The man was commanded to rise and Peter’s outstretched hand was the way for the command to be heeded. It is true, our Savior sometimes sends help that is not mortal (see 2 Kings 6:16-17, D & C 84:88); but often this help is sent through another mortal. Can we not look at the example of Peter and help those who are need (See D & C 81:5)?
It was after he exercised faith (he listened, he heeded the Lord’s command, and then took Peter’s hand) that he received his blessing, his strength.
He arose! He leaped! He walked! A miracle had been performed. A man once lame could now leap and walk! So must we also arise and walk. We must reach out to the help the Savior offers to us. We find when we do this, we receive strength and ability. He does for us what we could not do; lives are changed, sins are forgiven, hearts softened. We awoke. We abandoned sin. We have place for God in our hearts (2 Nephi 4:28).
Now this change had taken place, where did Christ’s servants lead the man? To the temple. We follow our leaders. Repentance and change of heart comes through the power of Christ. We have risen, we are walking his path. Now, let us enter the temple. Let us enter into the covenants to be had there. Let us follow the Savior (through his servants) to the temple.
Once there, once in those covenants, what do we do? Do as the man did. Continue in those things our Savior’s power provided. We “leap”. We “walk”. We retain a remission of our sins (Mosiah 4:11-12, Alma 5:26).
Also, very importantly, we praise and thank God for what he has done. This is what Nephi did (2 Nephi4:20,30). This is the way we receive blessings, “with a thankful heart in all things” (D & C 62:7). We can then “stand as a witness” (Mosiah 24:14) for his great blessings and power.
Indeed, let us “rise up and walk!”
Postscript: This story also has special meaning to me. The way this man is described as his feet and ankle bones receiving strength sounds like it could be a description of one of the conditions I was born with, valgus of the ankles. I was 22 months old, and not yet walking. My parents finally convinced the doctors that something was wrong. After performing x-rays, they discovered I had this condition. I was fitted for braces (AFOs or “ankle foot orthosis”). The doctors told my Mom to put me down so I could walk. She wasn’t sure I could, because I had not yet walked. She sat me down. I didn’t walk. My first steps were running across the room.
The Savior’s grace is like those first braces that enabled me to run and the braces I continue to wear today. It enables you to run. I am grateful for the Savior’s grace.