Sermon for Sunday Evening, July 25th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Act 3:1-26 ESV] 1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name–by faith in his name–has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
The miracle of making the lame walk was performed by Saint Peter outside of the temple near the gate beautiful, some time in the years soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He performed the miracle by the power of Jesus Christ and in the name of Jesus Christ.
And you might be led to ask the question, Why are we not able to work miracles in Jesus’ name today? Is it because our faith is too weak? If that were the case, then the faith of all living today must be considered too weak, for there are no longer miracles being performed in such a fashion. We must look further for the answer.
We have to consider the purpose of miracles in the Scriptures. Miracles always attest to a new revelation from God. Let me say that again “miracles always attest to a new revelation from God.” They prove that the message of the prophet, of the apostle, of the messiah is indeed a message from God.
When the name of Christ is invoked, it is to call upon the name one higher and greater than us. In our world we see examples of someone invoking a power high than themselves. A child says to his sibling, “mom or dad told me to do this.” An employee says to his coworker, “the boss sent me.” When something is not in our authority directly, we have to explain upon whose authority we are acting.
We invoke the name of someone or something higher than us. But there is none higher than God. So when the apostles invoke the name of the Lord, they can invoke no one higher, no one more powerful. And when the apostle invoke the name of the Lord, they are invoking someone who IS capable of the miracle that they themselves cannot perform.
Jesus had promised these miracles. Jesus had told his apostles, in Luke Gospel’s (which, as you recall is Luke’s Book One, while Acts is Luke’s Book Two), Jesus had said there that his apostles will be “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:40) And in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus says of those who believe in his name that they will be accompanied by signs, by miracles, including the healing of the sick. (Mark 16:18) So Jesus’ prophecy is now being fulfilled in the apostles.
I. Miracles and the Apostles
We know, of course, that Jesus can do miracles. But you might wonder about his apostles? There is a great difference between the Lord and men. Only Jesus can perform miracles of his own accord, of his own power. The Apostles, on the other hand, must rely upon Christ. They can only perform a miracle in the name of Christ. It is by his power—Jesus Christ—that the miracles of the Apostles are performed.
The are weak, but He is strong. And they are poor, while all the riches of knowledge are found in Jesus Christ.
So when the Apostles come upon this lame man who depends on the financial donations of others, they exclaim to him, “Silver and Gold I do not have.”
The Apostle’s lived not by vast wealth, but by faith. We should do the same. Do not gear your life around the pursuit of wealth. Do not get wrapped up in what you and what you don’t have, as far as physical possessions or financial instruments and accounts.
Silver and Gold have I none. You can imagine the lame man thinking “Ok, move along then.” But then something happens. A miracle.
Peter says “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And the man gets up. A man who had never walked before. This makes the miracle all the more profound. It is one thing to heal up from an injury. It is another to go from never walking to then walking.
And the lame man was not a newcomer to the place. He was a fixture in the city. He would have been known to all. He was not some imposter pretending to be healed for the benefit of Peter and John. He had been unable to walk from birth.
But Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
He invoked the name above every name. And there is none greater. Certainly this is a better gift than silver or gold. The man is healed by the power of God.
We should look at the response.
The response is as follows:
1. First, we hear that “immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.” Immediately, not over time. And we wish we had doctors like this. I’m a bit cynical when it comes to the medical establishment. The old joke is “God does the work, the doctor gets the bill.” And often that is the case that healing takes time and you could heal up perfectly fine without writing a check to a doctor. Rarely does a doctor heal “immediately.” And certainly never does he heal immediately such a condition as we find in the reading in Acts.
2. Then also, in response, the man jumped for joy (or leaped) then clung to Peter and John, not wanting them to depart. The man who could not even walk is now jumping! Of course, he should be clinging to the Word of God which the apostles will give, and not to the apostles themselves. But perhaps he is clinging to stay near to then hear what they will say. Maybe he knows that miracles in the Old Testament accompanied new revelation from God.
3. The people are in awe.
Then, third, in response to the miracle we find that the people are in awe. Not just the lame man who was healed, but the people are in awe.
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?
This is not an opportunity to bring glory to Peter or John, but to God.
The miracle was done in the name of Jesus Christ.
The miracle has given opportunity for them to hear Peter out, to hear the Gospel. This is the purpose of the miracle, to attest to the words to be spoken.
So listen to him! What does Peter then say? What is to be heard?
II. Miracles and the Prophets
Peter gives a sermon. It is, in fact, Peter second sermon in Acts.
And, for one, he speaks of the prophets of old. They too spoke of the Christ to come! And they too had miracles done by them in the name of the Lord in order to attest to the words they spoke.
Peter repeats the prophecy of Moses who said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.” Moses is speaking of Jesus. And so Peter in effect is saying, “don’t be surprised by what you have seen and what you are seeing.”
And it is not just Moses, for “Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days” when in the offspring of Abraham, “all the families of earth shall be blessed.”
All of the prophets foretell of Christ. And it is in His name that Peter performs a miracle. Do not be surprised, for the power of Christ was foretold. And the message of Christ was foretold. The message of the Gospel.
III. Miracles and Christ
That is Peter’s ultimate point – he is not focused on the prophets, but he and the prophets are focused on the good new of Jesus Christ.
First he gives some of the bad news. Peter says that the people “killed the Author of life.” The Author of Life is Jesus Christ, none other than God himself.
But there is good news. Even though the people killed Jesus, Peter still says “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.” There is hope even for those who killed Jesus Christ himself.
And if THAT sin can be forgiven, then surely YOUR sin can also be forgiven.
That is the true miracle, the greater work of God, that in Christ sin is forgiven and there is healing—not of our physical bodies—but of the relationship between God and us, his people.
This is the beginning of “the time for restoring all the things which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”
God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by the turning away from wickedness and to eternal life.
All miracles then direct us to this point. The almighty God has spoken. He has spoken in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. Let us always and forever listen to His words. Amen.