Wonder and Amazement – June 7, 2015
Psalm 103, Acts 3:1-10
June 7, 2015
Today we’re talking about one of the most important stories in the book of Acts. This story is right up there with the Ascension of Jesus, the day of Pentecost, and the conversion of Saul! This is the story of Peter and John healing the man at the Temple gate in Jerusalem. And as I’ve said before, this story and it’s repercussions go on for several chapters! This becomes a huge controversy! A big deal!
This is the first real miracle story of the Apostles. And again, I want you to think about them. This is still long before they had any statues carved in their likenesses, or any paintings of them depicted with haloes. Up until Pentecost, they were still “laying low” awaiting the promise. Then, on that day, they spoke out boldly. And Peter gave what is considered to be the first Christian sermon!
However, as we said last week, Peter really didn’t talk on Pentecost about the Holy Spirit. He didn’t talk all that much about the power of God they had all just witnessed. He talked about Jesus! As we also said last week, that had to have given Jesus’ opponents fits! They thought the matter was done! But apparently that was far from the truth! And in this chapter we see their reaction.
Peter does the same thing here in this story. Again, he didn’t say, “The power of God is now among you in a new and powerful way.” He said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand and walk!” And the man did! And when that happened, there were two reactions. The first is what I’ve used for the title of this message. “All the people saw the man walking and leaping and praising God, and they were filled with wonder and amazement!” But not everyone had that same reaction.
In the next section of this chapter, which we didn’t read today, Peter addressed the crowds. I’d like you to read this sometime. If you do, you’ll find that, in what may well have been the second Christian sermon, Peter made it clear why all this had happened – and not just what had happened to this man. He told the people the whole story of Jesus. And he didn’t mince words! He laid it all out for them. He started with the “biggies,” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He tied Jesus to them. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” he said, “the God of our Fathers, glorified this Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.” Those are tough words! They’re very accusatory words! And don’t forget. This took place at the Temple. This was right in the heart of Jerusalem!
Well, Peter then lets them off the hook… sort of. “And now, brethren,” he said. “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” “…but God foretold by the mouths of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer.” Which by the way, they did know – or they should have known. Though again, that’s more clear to us today than it was to them.
Well, as I said, take some time and read this. See how Peter laid it all out that day. He tied Jesus to all the major parts of their faith. He talked about God, the patriarchs, the prophets. (All of those!) And I have to think that the same wonder and amazement was seen in his words, too! But not by everybody! Some of them, especially the religious leaders – the ”rulers” he just mentioned – were not so filled with “wonder and amazement.” They had just been accused of wrongdoing in Jesus’ death, and of not knowing what they were doing! They were accused of ignorance! By this fisherman!!
As this story plays out in the next few chapters, we find that it involves the same religious leaders that opposed, and then “silenced” Jesus. Look who they are. They are Annas and Caiaphas. Do you remember those guys from the Easter story? Well, remember also that this was not all that many days since then. And I’m sure the memories and the emotions from those days had not diminished all that much! You don’t quickly forget something like that!
The difference here is that, before Pentecost, the disciples feared that they were going to get the same treatment from these leaders that Jesus got. Now, they were acting in such a way as to invite that treatment! Yes, Peter and John had compassion on this poor disabled man at the temple gate. And so they healed him. But they did so, very plainly, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth! And that is the heart of the ensuing controversy!!
As we close, I’d like you to consider Peter’s words in this story. You know these words. “Silver and Gold have I none, but that which I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” And I’d like you to consider today that you can’t give someone else what you haven’t got! What Peter had to give was the power in the name of, and the spirit of, Jesus Christ.
What about you? Can you give Jesus Christ to others? Do you have that power? I know what you’re going to say, “I couldn’t do such a miracle!” Maybe not. But think of the things you can do in the name of Jesus. Maybe that’s a thought we don’t consider very much.
At the very least, you can give people Jesus. You can offer them his presence, his peace, his power, perhaps, for the healing of the body and the soul! But you can’t give it if you don’t have it yourself. And that’s what I want you to think about today. Do you have in you the presence and the peace of Jesus Christ? Is the Holy Spirit he sent part of your life? Do you know the joy the Spirit can give, and the sustaining power that helps you cope with whatever life throws at you? Do you know that “wonder and amazement” in your life?
Life is not always easy. It certainly wasn’t easy for these Apostles, and it wouldn’t be for them – or for the other followers of Jesus – in the coming days. But they had Jesus! They had his promised to be with them. And his promise was true! And it’s just as true for us today. So then, seek to know Jesus more. Strive to know the “wonder and amazement” of knowing him in your life. May all of us have cause to walk, and leap, and praise God!
Eternal God, we thank you that you have sent your Son to show us the wonder of your kingdom. We thank you for his promise to be with us always in the Holy Spirit. And we thank you for the peace and power of your Spirit in our lives. Help us to be in tune with that spirit each day, and to live in your joy, no matter what the circumstances of our lives. And we give you glory and honor and praise, through Jesus Christ our living Lord, Amen.