Have you ever receive something unexpected from a stranger? What was your feeling when you receive the special gift or item? I remember as a young man many years ago when I visit Parklea Markets in greater western Sydney. I walk through the corridor of shops selling gadgets, clothing, food and toys, and suddenly, one of the shop owners called me and say to me, “Jesus loves you, brother!” And as I turned around, I saw a Middle Eastern guy with pictures with Bible verses on them. He said again, “Jesus loves you!” So I replied to him, “Yes, Jesus loves me. He had saved me from my sins a long time ago, and he is my King and Saviour. God bless you too, brother.” Then out of my surprise, with a great smile on his friends, the shopkeeper offered me his bible verses pictures on the table, “Choose whatever you want here, my friend; it is free for you today!” And I said, “Why not? Thank you so much!” and I chose a picture of Uluru, that is, the Ayers Rock at Central Australia. With the Bible verse John 12:32 on it. If you visit my house, you will still see this gift from this unknown friend sitting on the shelf next to the TV in my lounge room.
It is a good feeling to receive an unexpected gift with thankfulness. And in today’s passage, a lame man who had spent his whole life sitting outside the Temple Court has also received a marvellous, unexpected gift from Apostle Peter in the name of Jesus. What’s more, by God’s grace, this man has received forgiveness of sin and repented through our Lord Jesus Christ. God is good, and he is the same as he was 2000 years ago. By God grace, he has a gift for you too. But before we look at how the passage apply to us, first, let us begin with the story 2000 years ago, from the Book of Acts, chapter 3:
1) Peter made the lame walk in the name of Jesus
After the Day of Pentecost, many believers had received the Holy Spirit from God the Father as Jesus has promised. One Day, when the Apostles Peter and John went to the Temple at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, during the time of prayer. They saw a lame man who can’t walk from birth, begging outside the temple courts. In Jewish tradition, a disabled person or a person with leprosy cannot enter God’s Temple in Jerusalem. Nor can they find jobs in the ancient world. There are no Centrelink or government payments for disable people. So all the lame man can do in his life was sit outside the gate, in this story, at the beautiful gate to beg people, waiting for people with good hearts to give him coins to survive. When he saw Peter and John enter the Temple, he asked them for money.
Peter looked at him and said, “Look at us!”, so he looked, then in verse 6, the unexpected thing happened, the Scripture recorded, “6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.” Our God is powerful and merciful, he can do anything, and just like Jesus, who could heal the sick, the lame could walk, the blind could see, now his power was unleashed from his Apostles as well. Peter said to the lame,” In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” He pronounces over the beggar the name of Jesus, so he released the power of Jesus. And the lame man immediately jumped to his feet, walking and jumping in the Temple court, praising God. First time ever in his life, he could enter the Temple as a complete person. As in fulfilment of Prophet Isaiah’s words, referring to the Day of the Lord’s coming, “Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35:6) The lame can leap and jump like a deer, symbolise the Messiah had come to earth. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that the lame man could be healed. Jesus was famous in his ministry on earth because of his healing. The Lord used this healing miracle by the power of Christ through Peter to draw the attention of many in the Temple court.
2) The source of ministry centre on Christ
Once the crowd’s attention is on Peter, Peter seized the moment to bring out Jesus, by whom the disabled person was healed. In verse 12, “12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.”
Like we can see from Peter’s speech, all Christian ministries and gospel messages centre on Jesus. God’s work did not begin with Jesus’ earthly life. The gospel rest in the history of Israel, so Peter began there. As a Jew speaking to the Jews, he invoked the respected name of their ancestors: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Peter had no interest in abstract theology, nor did he bother to develop an elaborate introduction in his speech of the gospel. In his recollection of the crucifixion event, the good people of Jerusalem, those who regularly worshipped at the Temple, disowned “the Holy and Righteous One” and chose a murderer – that is, Barabbas instead. The one who was afraid on the night of Jesus’ trials before the crucifixion, now filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaim Christ’s name boldly in front of the people who disowned Jesus. Peter’s accusations to the Jews are direct: “You handed Jesus over; you disowned him; you asked that a murderer be released; you killed the author of life.” Peter left no doubt about the blame for the death of Jesus, God’s messianic servant. All this was certainly a stunning revelation from God to people who had acted in ignorance in Christ’s crucifixion. But what the Jews didn’t know, just like many non-believers who haven’t heard of the gospel who don’t know, is what Jesus was doing on the Cross is, in fact, fulfilling the prophecy from prophet Isaiah about the Suffering Servant, “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness— 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.” (Isaiah 52:13-15)
Prophet Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be raised the lifted up and highly exalted, not only about his body being physically raised and lifted up on the Cross in his crucifixion, it is also referring to Jesus will be raised from the dead. As Peter proclaimed in front of the Jews in verse 15, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.”
Jesus’ life was taken away because of these people at the Temple, he died for the sins of men, but God has raised him up to life again. This is the centre of the gospel message, direct to the point. It is the message of hope, and as we proclaim Jesus in front of non-believers, we have to bring up the key of salvation, hitting the target of the gospel message. That Jesus has died for our sins, and by God’s grace and power, he was raised to life again. So that whoever believes in the name of Jesus of Nazareth will have eternal life. Peter and all the apostles were witnesses of this. To the apostles, Jesus’ resurrection is a fact. And the meaning of the resurrection is permanent. They saw the resurrected Christ. They touched resurrected Christ. Jesus is real. His resurrection is real. His gospel message is a fact in human history. And we, as the children of God, we are the disciples of Jesus Christ. We have to continue witnessing Jesus in front of our friends, family and neighbours. Just like Peter and all the saints of the early church. Jesus commands us to bring the gospel message to the world. And this central focus of the gospel of the forgiveness of sins comes from the very event of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Without the gospel, we come to church in vain.
To every evangelical bible believing church, effective Christian ministry proclaims faith in the name of Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, in the will of the Father. How was the lame healed? How is all this possible? It is because of Jesus’ holy name and the faith that comes through him. This healed beggar need not understand all the biblical knowledge of the resurrection, the ascension, or any other Christian theology. His response to Peter’s command and outstretched right hand demonstrated his faith which God has placed in his heart. And he was healed in the name of Jesus. No other name in heaven, on earth or under the earth that God has given. But in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, he was healed from the crippled legs that caused his suffering throughout his life. Jesus is powerful. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had prophesied that the Messiah would suffer throughout the centuries, and Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy to bring forgiveness of sins.
3) By God’s grace, repentance brings forgiveness through Christ
So what is our response as listeners of Peter’s words? Just like the Jews would listen to his speech at the Temple 2000 years ago. Respond to God’s Word. Repent from our sins. Look at verse 19, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”
The only appropriate response to listening to the gospel is to repent from our sins, turn back to God so that your sins may be wiped out. Being a Christian doesn’t mean being a good person; we are sinners, but we are justified sinners, and our sins washed clean because we turn back to God through believing and responding to the gospel of Christ. So we are forgiven of our transgresses. Jesus is alive, he has ascended, and he will return. We are all waiting for the times of refreshing in verse 19 and 21. It will be the time for God to restore everything, raising up his eternal kingdom in the heavens and on earth.
Meanwhile, Jesus will remain in heaven until the promised restoration. Peter reminded his fellow Jews that the hope of Israel’s restoration should not be forgotten, and it could only be fulfilled in Jesus.
Peter recalled Moses’ words about God would raise up a prophet like him from Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.” What Peter did is to convince the Jews who know the Old Testament well in the Temple that Jesus is the one like Moses. Jesus’ identification as God’s Servant is the continuity of the Law. Belief in Jesus does not destroy faith in the Old Testament from Moses. Instead, it is the continuity and fulfilment of the Old Testament law. Jesus is the prophet of whom Moses spoke was, and through Jesus’ power, the lame beggar has been healed.
Moreover, God has promised and made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 22:18, that ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.” Through this offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus Christ, God has blessed the whole earth so that whoever believes in the wonderful name of Jesus will be saved. God sent Jesus first to the Jews to bless them by turning each of them from wicked ways.
As Jesus prophesied earlier in chapter 1 before his ascension, that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”, Peter has begun his ministry and setting up Christ’s church by being his witness in Jerusalem. And like Peter, I would like everyone in this church also to take this home today and be witnesses of Christ in your life. The Christian message begins and ends in the name and person of Jesus Christ, God’s righteous Servant. And God’s work in the world gives his people, that is, all of you, the opportunity to minister and proclaim his message. It is not only the preacher’s job to be the witness of Jesus. But all of us, every one of us, has to do it as faithful witnesses of Christ to everyone we meet in life, until Christ’s return. So don’t be afraid to speak boldly in the name of Jesus. Be ready for any opportunity for ministry that God may put in your path. And submit to Christ, make Jesus known to the world.
Let us give thanks to God for today’s message from the Book of Acts.
- How would you and your church respond to a beggar on the steps of your church?
- What do you have besides financial resources that you could give to witness Jesus in your life? (time, energy, skills)
- What is true repentance?