Based on: Acts 3:12-20
When you see someone sick or suffering have you ever thought, “If only I could put my hand on that person and say something like ‘In the name of Jesus may this sickness leave you’ and then the person would be whole again. If only God would work a miracle through me!” Have you ever thought something like that? I have.
But it doesn’t work that way, does it. I don’t have that gift. I don’t think any of you have that gift. If you are disappointed because of that, if you think you are missing out, then let me remind you that you have been given a much greater gift. God has given you the privilege and even the command to perform a far greater miracle. Through us God performs the miracle of faith. He has given us the means to do it.
Peter and John were simply going to the temple to pray. There they saw a man who, from birth, could not walk. He had friends who carried him everywhere. This man asked Peter and John for money. That’s how he made his living. Instead of money Peter said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” and he took the man by the hand and lifted him up. The man was instantly healed. Not only was he able to walk, but he went into the temple with the two apostles, literally jumping for joy.
People noticed. They knew this man could not walk. They saw him at the temple gates, begging day after day. Now he was walking and jumping! They started to come over, to crowd around this man and the two apostles and to stare in amazement. What would go through your mind if a crowd formed around you? Would you think as Peter thought – “What a great opportunity to tell people about Jesus”?
That is exactly what Peter did. He told the crowd that they had sinned against God – “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Then he told them about the resurrection of Jesus and said, “repent . . . so that your sins may be wiped out.” Luke, the doctor, who wrote the book of Acts, tells us that many people believed the Gospel message after this.
As we look at this account it is very easy to look at the man who was made to walk and say, “Isn’t that amazing” and we would miss the greater miracle. The greater miracle is that the dead souls of many were brought to life as Peter spoke those words. That is the real miracle. God says we are his enemies – we hate God and oppose him in every way that we can. For God to turn us around so that we call him Father and trust him as Savior – that is a miracle.
Of course we cannot discount the healing of the man’s legs. It was certainly a miracle. But think about why God chose to work those kinds of miracles for a time. The apostles were sharing the message of salvation and the miracles confirmed that they were speaking for God. Luke records later in the book of Acts, “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time [in Iconium], speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3). Paul also told the Corinthians that those “signs and wonders” were what marked him as an Apostle (2 Cor 12:12).
Those miracles were used by God to confirm the message spoken by the early church until that message was written down. If you read the writings of the early church – the writings of Christians after the New Testament was written – you will notice that these kinds of miracles stop happening very quickly after the apostles die.
Now, does God still perform miracles? I believe that he does, but he does not promise and we should not expect that he would give us the gift of being able to heal others. What about modern faith healers? We will talk about them in a few minutes, but for now let us focus on the miracle God does work through us.
“But pastor” you might be thinking, “to heal someone miraculously would be so much more exciting than to tell them about Jesus.” Do you think Peter was thinking that way? After Pentecost Peter lived to tell others about Jesus. Making the man walk was just the means to get to the end he desired. He just couldn’t wait to say, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” There is the good news through which the Holy Spirit works the miracle of faith.
God has given us the privilege of being the ones through whom the Gospel comes to others and the ones through whom He works the miracle of faith. Yet, we consider this to be no miracle at all or we take this privilege lightly so that we aren’t very amazed when this miracle happens among us. If we do not consider Christ’s death and resurrection worth talking about then are we any better than those to whom Peter said, “you disowned [Christ].” We also need to hear, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” By the blood of Christ our sins are wiped out.
We have opportunities to tell others about Jesus just as Peter did, certainly not for the same reason and probably not to the same size crowd, but we do have opportunities – friends who see the way we live our lives and mention it or family members who see us handle troubles and ask how we do it.
When the opportunities come we have a wonderful example in what Peter said. First, give God the credit for any good that is in you. Then give a simple presentation of law and gospel.
Notice how direct Peter is in telling the people how they sinned – “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life.” You also need to tell people about their sin – “God demands perfection. He calls hatred murder and he says lust is adultery. We have failed to live up to God’s standards and so we deserve his punishment.”
Then share the Gospel. Just as Peter talked of “times of refreshing” you can also talk about the comfort of knowing that God will not punish you because Jesus took your punishment for you. You are a child of God.
This is Peter’s message. It is the message of all the apostles. It is the fundamental message of all of Holy Scripture and it is the tool God uses to perform the miracle of faith. And this is how you can know if someone is speaking for God – if their message agrees with what Peter says here. If someone claims to be able to heal someone and yet their message does not point out sin and God’s punishment for sin or does not point to Jesus as the one who was punished for your sin, then they are not from God even if they say a lot of other things about Jesus.
You, however, have the truth. You have the words of God and those words make miracles happen. They worked the miracle of faith in you, and as you tell others about your Savior you will see the miracle in others.