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  • Writer's picturePaul Cottington

More Miracles and Money


“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.’" Acts 3:6

In my previous message, which was principally about the earliest days of Christ’s New Testament church, as described in that last section of Acts 2, I said that the passage had references to both miracles and money. I also said that ‘the same themes are present in Acts 3, which I hope to consider a bit more thoroughly in my next message.’ Well, that time is now. Actually, the ‘money’ in Acts 3 is conspicuous by its absence. There is a man begging on the streets of Jerusalem. Peter tells him, ‘I do not have (any money).’ I wonder how many times in the course of human history that this has happened? Someone sits on the floor of the retail park, and requests some spare change from a passer-by, but is told, ‘sorry, I don’t have any money today.’ That person then walks into Home Bargains and leaves five minutes later with two bags-for-life, full of shopping, proving that, they are either a liar or a very proficient shop-lifter.

Peter was many things. Previously, he had been a liar. Now, though, he was a new man. He had ‘turned back’ (Luke 22:31-34) from his former way of life. He was being truthful. Peter had no money, but Peter had something in his possession that was worth so much more. I do wonder whether Peter’s empty wallet ties in with what we find in Luke 9:1-6. Peter was one of the twelve, original disciples of Jesus. Luke 9 says, ‘When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money”’. Jesus didn’t want his followers to be prepared in advance for this mission with an abundance of material things at their disposal. Through him, they had an abundance of spiritual things at their disposal. They had all that they would need. The proof is in the Bible. In Luke 22:35, Luke records one final question of Jesus before he went to the harrowing experience of Gethsemane’s garden. ‘Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’ ‘Nothing,’ they answered.’ Peter, in Acts 3, had nothing, but lacked nothing. As a believer in Jesus Christ, that is a really good place to be. Peter gives this needy man what he has. It’s a message and a command. Not a message and command that originates from some worldview that Peter has dreamt up that afternoon, but a message and command from God himself. ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’

Again, I think it is important to tie this in with other scripture. There is more than one place in the gospel accounts where the town of ‘Nazareth’ is disparaged. People despised that place and despised the people who lived there. John 1:43-51 has the record of a man called Nathanael. He was being excitedly urged by his friend Philip. Why? Well, it’s like I mentioned last time about the parable of Jesus, from Matthew 13, about a man ‘looking for fine pearls’. He ‘found one of great value’ and, consequently gave up everything to get it. That parable is about Jesus. Jesus is that ‘one of great value’. Philip had found Jesus. He exclaimed to his friend – there wasn’t a moment to lose, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote, Jesus of Nazareth’. Sadly, Nathanael’s response revealed that he was just like us. His deep-rooted prejudice boiled over. ‘‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?Nathanael asked.’ Philip’s response is short, but it is awesome. ‘‘Come and see,’ said Philip.’ His friend did what was requested and his preconceptions were melted in a moment. Then Nathanael declared (to Jesus), ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’

The fact that Jesus came from Nazareth would seem to undermine the message about him. It could have been tempting to remove this apparent point of weakness. Peter could have said, ‘In the name of Jesus…’, and left off the bit about Nazareth. But he didn’t. We may be tempted in the same way. Aspects of what we claim as believers, naturally speaking, can appear weak. Should we brush those things under the carpet? Peter didn’t. Nor should we. In all its power, the gospel message will continue to look weak to those who reject it. But to those who accept it, in all its weakness, it will appear abundantly powerful. 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us that, ‘the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ In Acts 3:6, that man is ‘being saved’. The message of ‘Jesus Christ of Nazareth’ becomes almighty power to him. So, it will always be. Some may object at this point. Was this man ‘being saved’, or was he simply ‘healed’ physically? Peter’s claim, in verse 16, is that he was ‘completely healed’. I believe that he was ‘completely healed’, both physically and spiritually, in “Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him”.

During the earthly life of Jesus, when he was ministering to the needs of the general public around him, physical healing often went hand in hand with evidence of spiritual healing. People believed that Jesus could heal, and they were healed as a consequence of that faith. But, in the Bible’s accounts, there is also the evidence of what happened when faith was lacking. There was a time when Jesus brought his message to the people of ‘his home town’, which is recorded in Mark 6:1-6. Again, prejudice reared its ugly head. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter?’, they said, ‘and they took offence at him.’ ‘Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few people who were ill and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.’

The Son of God ‘could not do any miracles there’. What does this mean? Well, the parallel account in Matthew 13:58 the lack of faith is irrefutably linked to the lack of healing – ‘he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.’

Why do I point these things out? Well, because some people argue that the ‘faith in the name of Jesus’, spoken of in Acts 3:15, is Peter’s faith. Now, I would agree that Peter could not have been instrumental in this happening if he had not had great faith in that situation. He did, but so did this lame man. I think this is very similar to what we will come across later in Acts 14, when Peter’s witness ‘in Jerusalem’, has given way to the accounts of the gospel message being carried throughout ‘Judea and Samaria’, and that has given way to the detail of Paul’s carrying it even further. The journey to ‘the ends of the earth’, promised by Jesus in Acts 1:8, is in full flow. There we read of Paul being in the Lycaonian city of Lystra. Previously, once again, people had taken offence at the message of Jesus, and there was a plot to ‘stone’ Paul and his companion, Barnabus, to death. They have left those threats behind and arrived in Lystra. What were they doing there? Surely, Paul and Barnabus would have learnt their lesson by now? Thankfully not! We read, ‘they continued to preach the gospel.’ That gospel, in all its weakness, was more powerful than the power that threatened it. This is what happened. ‘In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.’ What was true of that poor man in Lystra, was true of his fellow in Jerusalem, I believe. The lame man in Jerusalem had faith - he was healed - he was abundantly healed! He didn’t just slowly get up and shuffle along with a pronounced limp making ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ noises. ‘He went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.’

The essence of the gospel is here. We may not have the same physical disability as this man. But his physical ailment was a perfect picture of his spiritual ailment, and ours too. He had been like it ‘from birth’ - like us, and like David, in that painful Psalm 51:5, where he said, ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.’ This lame man’s only hope of surviving; of living, was to beg. So it is ours in a spiritual sense. Are you ready to beg? - like the fallen character, described as a ‘tax collector’ in Luke 18:13, who cried out, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. You may not be ready, but there is hope. This lame man didn’t even have the capacity to beg by himself. We read that he ‘was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg’ (v.2). That carrying, which was so vital in a bodily sense, to get him to the place where he could beg effectively, was something that also needed to happen with regards to his soul. How did he come to faith? He was carried there. That Holy Spirit, who testifies to Jesus, who was so powerfully revealed in Acts 2, on that Pentecost of Pentecosts, ‘like… a violent wind… from heaven’, carried him to the place where he was ready to beg and to believe. I want those here today, who don’t yet know Jesus, to know this. We, as believers, often pray for you. We pray with abundant hope and confidence, that God, through his Spirit, would carry you. Because we know that God’s Spirit still does carry people, and bring them to a place where they are prepared to call out to him for saving through his Son. And, because we believe that what was prophesied by Joel, and repeated by Peter, in Acts 2:21, is still true, that ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

It is a great transformation that we see in Acts 3, accomplished ‘in Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him’ (v.16). The man instantly witnesses. Not only is he ‘walking and jumping’ but, in gratitude, he is ‘praising God’ as well. I think this is important to note from the passage. Because it tells us that ‘all the people… were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened’. When? When they ‘saw him walking and praising God’ (v.9).

This creates an opportunity which Peter seizes. Verse 12 tells us, ‘When Peter saw this, he said to them…’ Peter noted the response and acted upon it. He saw that questions were being asked and knew that the answer lay in the truth of Jesus. Of all the transformations that we see in these early chapters of Acts, Peter’s transformation is perhaps the greatest miracle of all. When Jesus was facing his mock trial before his crucifixion, in Matthew 26:71-72, this title, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ comes up. It is used in an accusation against Peter. Peter is ashamed of the name of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. We are told that a ‘servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’’ Yet, now, he boldly proclaims the ‘Nazarene’ (see Matthew 2:23).

Peter knows his Jewish audience. He understands where they are at. They are at the most important point in their lives – the most important point in their eternal lives. Have you ever heard of the expression ‘I was at a crossroads in my life’? What does it mean? The Cambridge dictionary reckons that it is when you are, ‘at a stage in your life when you have to make a very important decision’. It is like when a car comes to a crossroads. The driver has three choices in travelling onwards, but all three lead in very different directions, and will end up in different places. Actually, it wasn’t a ‘crossroads’ that these people were at. It was more like a fork in the road.

When I was younger, my Grandad used to often recall tales from his past. Some were amusing. Some were outrageous. Some were both. When I was 17, I started to ride a motorbike. My Grandad said to me, ‘Paul, you’ll be ok if you avoid doing what my friend did.’ I asked him what he meant and he told me. Years before, he knew someone who had a motorbike. They were riding in an unfamiliar area and came to a fork in the road. They decided that the correct way was to their right but, on getting closer changed their mind and leant over to the left. Indecision crept in. They turned right, then left, then right again, never quite making a final decision. You may ask, ‘Where did they finish up?’ In the middle; in the ditch!

Peter knows that this is where his audience that day was at. The message of Jesus Christ isn’t something that arrived, out of the blue. Throughout the Old Testament writings, the Messiah’s coming was promised, again and again and again. Peter assures them that he completely believed those Old Testament scriptures. He believes in Abraham, who he mentions, along with Isaac and Jacob. He calls them our fathers’. I share these beliefs with you, he is saying. I believe in ‘the God of our fathers’. He mentions Samuel and ‘all the prophets’ (v.24). He includes Moses, who promised the Jews that, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet… you must listen to everything he tells you’ (v.22). But, listen up now, ‘fellow Israelites’ (v.12). That prophet that Moses promised is ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.

Peter is saying that, as fellow Jews, they have been travelling along a particular road. If a Jew had truly believed the promises about the coming Messiah, then they were on the right track. They were on the way which leads towards God. But the arrival of Jesus had resulted in a tumultuous change. If a Jew, rejected the news that Jesus was the promised Messiah, continued along the same Old Testament road of waiting for the Messiah’s coming, then they would no longer me heading towards God, but away from him. Jesus, himself, said, ‘I am the way…’ (John 14 6).

Sometimes, in our lives we come to similar forks in the road. Sadly, all too often, we choose the easy path, even though we sense that it leads us away from God. The path that leads towards God is often the hard path. It may be the one, for instance, where we have to admit that we got things wrong, where we have to use possibly the most difficult words in the human language; ‘I’m sorry’!

These Jews were at that point. Actually, they were in the ditch at that point. They were responsible for rejecting God’s Christ. Peter points this out to them. He uses the word ‘you’ several times to show how wrong they had been. ‘You handed him over to be killed’. ‘You disowned (him)’. ‘You killed the author of life’. How damning was the evidence. But rescue from damnation was on Peter’s lips. He continues with the words, ‘but God’. Here is the great contrast. What we have done is to sin. ‘But’ what God has done is to save. ‘But God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this’ (v.15), Peter says. ‘God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer’ (v.18). And Peter links the name of Jesus once again to the Old Testament promises in his choice of language. It is the New Testament Greek word ‘pais’. It translates as ‘servant’ and Peter uses it twice. ‘The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus’ (v.13). In verse 26, we read, ‘When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you (you Jews of Jerusalem, as promised) to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.’ ‘You’ killed God’s servant, as he ‘foretold’. ‘God raised up his servant’. Why? So, he can pull you out of the ditch that you are in, and set you on the right way that leads to truth and life.

This Greek word ‘pais’ is translated as ‘servant’ in Matthew 12:15-21. That section, in the NIV is titled, ‘God’s chosen servant’. It tells us that God’s servant, prophesied to in Isaiah 42, is none other than Jesus. That is why we read part of that chapter this morning. It links to Peter’s message here. Peter wants these people to choose the correct fork in the road, because he knows that it leads to the most beautiful place. He says, ‘turn’. ‘Turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out’ (v.19). Isaiah 42 tells the same story of rescue from the darkness of sin. What is Jesus, God’s servant going to do? He is going ‘to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’ (Isaiah 42:7).

Some of those Jews did take the right ‘turn’. Their darkness of misunderstanding was steadily swept away. It was down to the promise found in John 8:12. There we read, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ Who has the authority to say such a thing? Only God’s servant - only Jesus of Nazareth.

Do you still have doubts about coming, and committing to Jesus. Well my friend, I’ll say the same thing in encouragement to you, which Philip said to his friend, Nathanael - ‘come and see’. And I will pray for you, that your response will be the same as that man’s was. That you will be carried into God’s ‘way’, and will, in due time, be able to believingly exclaim, about Jesus Christ of Nazareth, ‘You are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’


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