The In-Between Years - Part 18
Series: The In-Between Years
September 13, 2020
The In-Between Years — Part 18
Last week we began looking at the miracle of the lame beggar’s healing in Acts chapter 3. It’s one of my favorite stories in all of Scripture. The church had not long been born and, as Peter and John were making their way to the temple for afternoon prayers, they came across a fellow who had been crippled since birth begging for alms.
They didn’t have money, but they did have the ability to call on Jesus to heal him. And that’s exactly what happened. After 40 years of suffering a terrible handicap, he is able to not just stand, not just walk, but leap around the temple praising God.
I enjoyed sharing with you a few of the many reasons Luke included this account, my favorite being how it points to the return of Jesus and the coming kingdom of God literally set up on a redeemed, physical earth where suffering, pain, and tears are no more. Where not only will no one ever know what a handicap is, no one will have to beg for alms ever again.
As we continue with what happened, we note a very similar situation to Pentecost. A miracle attracts the crowds, and Peter takes the opportunity to preach the gospel. Today we’ll look at that message.
I am going to warn you now it’s so full of things Luke wants us to see, we will be all over the place. I dare you to keep up!
Before we get started, there’s something you need to keep at the forefront of your mind: we are in the Jerusalem phase of the threefold gospel movement prescribed by Jesus in Acts 1:8…
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)
So at this time the entire church is made up of Jews living in Jerusalem; that’s the whole of their ministry field. Let’s pick back up with Acts 3:11…
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. Acts 3:11 (ESV)
I love the picture Luke paints here. The healed man is so moved by the kindness of Peter and John, so overcome with joy at the gift of healing, he clings to them. This means they rejoiced with him. We tend to make the apostles and even Jesus very stoic.
As word spread through the massive temple complex about the lame man lame no more, people began running to Solomon’s portico. A ancient portico was a roof supported by columns at regular intervals. Verse 12…
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. Acts 3:12–16 (ESV)
Overall, in this first part of his sermon, Peter makes sure they know it’s through faith in Jesus this miracle has been performed. But there’s so much more to glean here, just in verse 13 alone. We don’t see it because we read it with Gentile, or non-Jewish, eyes. But everyone in the sound of Peter’s voice that day would have made major connections with what he said. Look again at verse 13…
13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, STOP… Acts 3:13 (ESV)
“The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” That way of referring to God was super specific. Peter is unmistakably quoting something from the OT Scriptures. Everyone there would have known what it was. It’s from Exodus 3…
1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1–6 (ESV)
The story of the burning bush where Moses meets “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” is the beginning of a much bigger narrative, one that runs central to the Jewish faith. It’s the story of Israel’s deliverance from and exodus out of Egypt. That was the mightiest work God did among his people.
Luke hints at the Exodus all throughout his gospel. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for forty days (Luke 4). The Israelites were tempted in wilderness following the Exodus for forty years.
Jesus was transfigured before Peter James and John on the mountain in Luke 9. Moses and Elijah…
31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:31 (ESV)
The Greek word departure is translated from is exodus. Why does Luke do this? Why does Peter begin his message connecting Jesus with the “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” burning bush encounter, and the Exodus? Because they saw an unmistakable link between the exodus of the Israelites out of bondage and into the promises of God through the Mosaic covenant and the exodus of all people out of sin’s bondage and into the new covenant in Jesus.
NT Wright writes…
Exodus 3 is the moment when God calls Moses, at the burning bush, and tells him to go back from the desert into Egypt and to lead his people out from slavery into freedom. God assures Moses that this isn’t just some odd experience he’s having; this really is Israel’s God speaking, Abraham’s God, the God who made promises to the ancestors of the presently enslaved Israelites and is now about to make those promises come true. Peter, quoting this passage, is saying, ‘It’s happening again!’
Peter, in other words, is doing what all the early Christians did all the time. Faced with a question to which the answer is something to do with Jesus, he goes back in his mind to the Exodus. That was when God acted spectacularly to fulfil his promises and rescue his people. That was when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, when they came through the water, when they were given the law, when they went off in search of their inheritance. All these themes jostle together in the New Testament, clustering around the question of who Jesus is and how it is that God acts through him. And, again and again, we get the sense: when we look at Jesus, and see what happens through his name, it is as though, like Moses, we are standing by the burning bush, seeing something spectacular, which ought to say to us that the creator God, the God of Abraham, is living and active and keeping his promises once again.
Back to verse 13.
13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, STOP .… Acts 3:13 (ESV)
“glorified his servant”
This phrase would have taken the people to Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the Messiah glorified in Is 55.5
5 Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Isaiah 55:5 (ESV)
And the suffering servant in Is 52-53…
13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. Isaiah 52:13 (ESV)
4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4–5 (ESV)
One commentary says…
Peter’s use of the term [servant] would cue his audience to remember the Servant in Isaiah who accomplishes God’s will through His suffering and resurrection (Isa 52:13–53:12). In the end, the Servant becomes the conquering hero who rules (Isa 53:12). Through His death, God forgives Israel’s sins. By His victory over death, He restores the nation both spiritually (Isa 53:10–12) and physically (Isa 54:1–3).
I can just see the wheels turning in everyone’s minds that day as the links form. Jesus is the suffering servant of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whom he glorified. Jesus leads people out of bondage with forgiveness and grace in his own exodus and yet they…
13 delivered [him] over and denied [him] in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. Acts 3:13 (ESV)
Isn’t ironic that the Roman non-Jew Pilate could see Jesus’ innocence and how he was undeserving of dying but the very ones he was sent to — the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — could not? And not only that, Peter says…
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. Acts 3:14-15 (ESV)
To this we are witnesses. Peter and the other apostles were witnesses to the fact — note I said fact — that Jesus, the promised messiah (God come to us in the flesh) came back from the dead. To this day we are witnesses to this truth as well.
This is what makes Christianity undeniably different from all other religions.
The Eastern religions claim to possess secret knowledge. Come learn the hidden teachings of our founder. He’s dead but what’s he’s left behind can give you enlightenment.
Islam claims to know the truth because it was divinely revealed to their founder, Mohammed. He’s dead, but follow him or die an infidel.
Christianity is revolutionary in that its founder died but came back from the dead. The apostles were so sure of this, so transformed by what they saw, heard, and touched concerning the author of life, their testimony literally changed the world, and it’s being changed to this day.
Being Jesus’ witnesses is still the church’s mission BTW. Doing what he did and teaching what he taught.
Conclusion: Certainly a miracle happened that day, but make no mistake. It was wholly and completely the work of God through Jesus…
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. Acts 3:16 (ESV)
We can’t blame the crowds for wanting to see the man made whole, to concentrate on the supernatural phenomenon, maybe even ascribe some kind of power to Peter and James. But Martin Lloyd Jones writes…
what Peter was saying to them is, “You are concentrating on the wrong thing. It is not the miracle, as miracle, that is important. The vital thing is that to which it points.” Humanity in its cleverness is always interested in the phenomena, and these people came rushing together crying out, “This is wonderful!” You can always get a crowd if you produce some kind of a phenomenon. They want to understand and investigate. That was the very thing Moses was tempted to do when he saw the burning bush, and indeed he was beginning to do it. There he was, leading his sheep, when suddenly he saw the phenomenon. He was a very able man, and he had been trained in Egypt. He knew something about the magicians and the lore and learning of the ancient Egyptians, which was considerable. Egypt was a great civilization. And Moses, with the science of those days, said, “Ah, I shall turn aside. I’m going to investigate this phenomenon.”
But out of the bush came the voice: “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exod. 3:5). The phenomenon is a phenomenon, yes, but not for our detached, academic, scientific investigation. “Ah yes, I’ll get a book out of the library on Christianity. I’ve read the others. I want to evaluate it all.” But if you continue like that, you will never become a Christian. “Take off your shoes. The ground on which you are standing is holy ground.” The phenomenon in itself is not important; what matters is that to which it points.
I repeat, this is not mere theory. If you have not felt something of awe and amazement and wonder, you have not even started yet. Peter did not give a discourse on miracles. That is what modern men and women like—“Is a miracle possible?” “Is it any longer possible for the modern, educated, scientific person to believe in the supernatural and the miraculous?” These are the great debates, and we are tremendously intrigued. But Peter did not preach on miracles. The Bible does not defend miracles; it is a record of them. It just tells us they have happened. It confronts us with them. As long as you think that with your intellect you can understand them, you have not started; you are outside. You must take your shoes off your feet. You must be humble. You must become as a little child.
So Peter did not preach on miracles, nor did he attempt to give explanations. He said in essence, “Look at this, yes, but what does it point to?”
What does this miracle point to? We’ve already seen how Luke includes it to remind us of the promised new heaven and earth where poverty and suffering and disease and handicaps will be forgotten. Peter reminds us in his sermon that it also points to what it took to get us there:
The spectacular way God worked in our world to free us all from the bondage of sin and the devil. It points to the new exodus led by Jesus, the one who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died and came back from the dead to lead us into these promises.
All those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
The best part of that is entering the holy city one day, led by Jesus into the final promises of God.
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