April 25, 2021

"The Acts of the Apostles: Peter and John"

Scripture Reading: Acts 3:1-26

In Acts 3 we read about two of the apostles, Peter and John, and their encounter with a man who was crippled from birth. The man was a beggar and he did his begging at the temple. This was a good place for him to be because those who came there to worship would have considered it a favorable thing for them to give money to the needy. When the beggar asks Peter and John for some help they look straight at him. Peter then says, “Look at us! Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” With these words Peter then reaches out to take the man by the hand and we read, “Instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking, jumping, and praising God.” Luke describes this miracle in vivid detail. It’s amazing and all who saw it were filled with wonder at what happened!

Questions:
Who is the author of the book of Acts? What else did he write?
In the Introduction to this book (Acts 1:1-3) what was Jesus teaching the apostles about for a period of forty days?
Should we expect to be able to perform miracles, like the apostles, if we really believe in the Name of Jesus?
Miracles are not some “magic” that can be done by following a certain formula or using certain words. If the apostles had the ability to perform a miracle for every person and situation that called for one, there would not have been a sick person in first-century Jerusalem and beyond. However, not everyone was healed, were they? Why? Because the miracles are never really the point. Miracles are sign posts that point to a greater reality which Christ came to proclaim: the unfolding Kingdom of God. This is the point of the miracle in Acts 3.
Behind the miracle we see in Acts 3:1-10 is the Gospel of the Kingdom that is proclaimed in verses 11-23. (We need to hear both halves of Acts 3!) Immediately following the miracle, Peter preaches a Christ-centered sermon to explain it. In his sermon he uses the Old Testament Scriptures. The apostles of Jesus came to understand what so many people in the Church today seem to have forgotten: the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the story of the Christ who
was to come. The New Testament is the story of the Christ who has come.

Questions:
In Luke 7:20-23, what does Jesus say to John the baptizer? From which prophet is he saying these things? How does it connect with what we read in Acts 3?
How does Peter refer to God at the beginning of his sermon in Acts 3:13?
Peter says to the people they “disowned” Jesus. What does this really mean?
Peter’s proclamation of the gospel turns the attention of the crowd away from the person who was healed and away from the apostles through whom the miracle was given. This is about Jesus and the plan of God to bring salvation through him. It’s a bigger view of the gospel and Peter brings it all to the Kingdom vision in verse 21 where he says, “He (Jesus) must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” Forgiveness of sins, Spiritual Refreshment, and the Universal Restoration of all things – this is Peter’s Christ-centered, Kingdom focused sermon.

The Conclusion:
Miracles are never really the point – not in Jesus’s ministry nor in the ministry of the apostles. Always we are being drawn back to the Gospel. Where this Word is absent, there is no hope. Without the living and active Word of God the Church of Jesus Christ cannot survive. We will be a false community built upon a foundation of nothing in particular. Without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are merely a tweet in the cyber universe, a wisp of hope masquerading as social justice, or a good luck charm for those who are afraid of life after death (or the lack thereof).
What we need in the world today is a real gospel that comforts us in our sorrows and uncertainties and also give us real hope for New Life in a renewed world. God is making all things new and nothing can separate us from the love he has for us in Jesus Christ. The real miracle is always his life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. He is the Lord of the universe!