This morning we’re in episode four, and Acts chapter 3:1–26, looking at the church that’s now empowered by the Holy Spirit. As you’re finding your place in your Bible, here’s where we find ourselves in the storyline. Jesus who is God the Son, came into history, lived without sin, died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended back to heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower his people to continue his mission on earth to seek and to save that which was lost. Last week, we read about how Jesus’ followers started preaching boldly by the power of the Holy Spirit. They began doing great things by the power of the Holy Spirit. And if you watched the NBC mini-series last Sunday night, one of those things they did was healing. I did some studying this week and discovered that in the book of Acts there were 14 cases of healing… divine healing… physical healing… by the followers of Jesus. So this morning as we begin reading in Acts chapter 3 at verse one, we find the first healing recorded by Jesus’ people in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s read it together…
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer — at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I 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. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” NIV
Recorded here in chapter 3 is the first of 14 recorded documented incidents where somebody was physically healed supernaturally by the resurrected Jesus through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. And I wonder how many of you today are struggling with an injury or an illness? Or maybe you know somebody who’s struggling with an injury or illness? Or if you’re like me and you have a house full of children it’s like a continual cycle of somebody you know and love who is sick right? You know, really that’s the world that we live in; the majority of Americans are on some sort of prescription medication for an injury or an illness. Ever since sin entered the world, people are suffering, they’re sick, and they’re struggling.
But did you know, that there was an awesome promise made, 700 years before Jesus was born, that his ministry would do two things? That he would forgive sins spiritually and that he would heal our bodies physically. Here’s what the prophet Isaiah said: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). So Jesus is our healer.
Now last week I talked about matching our experience to the Bible and not the Bible to our experience. And Matthew’s Gospel is really interesting, because that is exactly what he would do. His Gospel was written to the Jewish people and he would relate what they’d experienced, what they were seeing, and what they’d heard, to their Bible; the Old Testament. Now that’s really cool, because as you read the Gospel of Matthew, it is constantly referencing you to Old Testament passages and reminding you that what you’re seeing, hearing, and experiencing in Christ is what God said was going to happen long ago.
So in Matthew chapter 8:14-17 there’s this interesting passage of Scripture, “When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Then verse 17 tells us, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases." The New Living Translation says it this way, "He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases" (Matthew 8:17, NLT). Isn’t that awesome. Dr. Jesus is our healer.
You see, when sin entered the world in Genesis chapter 3, it affected all of creation, and it not only affects are eternal soul, but our physical body. So God remedied the situation by sending his son Jesus Christ to forgive our sin, to heal our soul, and also to heal our body. So we know that Jesus did come and he did heal. As a matter of fact, there are at least 27 individuals that Jesus heals in the Gospels. 27 people that are either named or it was explained that Jesus healed them. And then there are at least 10 groups of people where Jesus physically healed the whole group. We also know that when Jesus died on the cross, in our place, for our sins, three days later he was healed. His beaten, abused, wounded body was healed. His dead body was resurrected. And over the period of 40 days, we read in Acts chapter 1 that he went around giving many convincing proofs of his resurrection before he ascended into heaven. Last week we saw in Acts chapter 2, that the resurrected, ruling, reigning Jesus, sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the believers of the church, and they went out preaching and healing as we have read today. Now continuing in verse 11, it tells us…
“While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, 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 given this complete healing to him, as you can all see” (Acts 3:11-16)
Once again, we find that Peter is acting very boldly; he cannot help speaking about what he has seen and heard. Now remember, he’s at the temple, the spiritual center, headquarters of the Jewish people. Ultimately it’s an amazing place where God’s people would come to worship in the presence of God. So Peter stands up in the outer courts of the temple to preach; proclaiming the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. And he does so to the very people who murdered Jesus. They’re murderers and he says “You killed Jesus. You handed him over. You chose the murderer Barabbas over Jesus. And he’s pointing the finger, he’s getting really personal, and it’s almost as if he’s taunting them. And so he’s being very courageous as he calls them to repent of their murder, because if they don’t they’ll probably murder him too.
But the first thing that Peter tells them about Jesus is that Jesus is the suffering servant. Now he’s at the Jewish Temple, he’s speaking to Jewish people, and they would’ve been familiar with the Old Testament. They would’ve remembered the book of Isaiah in chapter 40 to 66, where the hero, the storyline is about someone called the servant. Isaiah tells us there that God would send a servant. And then Jesus comes and he says things like: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). So Jesus came to serve and the way that he served was to give his life.
Now all of us like the idea of someone serving us, someone taking orders from us, someone obeying us, someone looking up to us, and someone being under us. But we don’t look forward to being a servant right? You can’t get a minor in college on how to be a humble servant; you know, no one would ever take that class. But Jesus comes as a humble servant. He leaves glory and comes in humility. He leaves luxury and comes in poverty. He leaves a place where he is served by angels to serve his enemies. Jesus is our servant.
Peter continues telling them that they rejected Jesus, the “Holy and Righteous One.” Now that is a controversial statement even in our day. You know, if Jesus is just one of many good teachers, good examples, and good leaders there’s no controversy. You know, when he’s one of the many like Mohammed or Gandhi that’s okay, but when he is the “Holy and Righteous One” that’s controversial, because how many is that? How many is one? One right? And so, he is saying that there is none like Jesus. There’s no one equal to Jesus. There’s no one alongside of Jesus. There’s nothing in addition to Jesus. It’s just Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus in a category by himself. He’s not just a good man. He’s the God man. He alone is Holy and Righteous. There is no sin in Jesus.
And so here’s the point that Peter makes: Jesus is our servant. He came to give us his holiness. He came to give us his righteousness. He came to be our report card, so that when we stand before the Father to give account of ourselves; we just point to Jesus and say there’s my holiness, he’s my righteousness. So Jesus went to the cross to take our unholiness, to take our unrighteousness, and to trade places with us, serving us, and giving us his holiness and his righteousness. And then verse 15 tells us that “Jesus is the author of life...” that the God of the Bible is the living God, he’s eternally existent, he’s the uncaused cause, he’s the creator of all that’s created, and he brings creation to life because he is the living God. And so, when we rebel against God and choose sin, we choose death, but the living God, the author of life, is so gracious to us, so patient toward us, that he determines that he will enter into his own creation, that he would humble himself and walk among us, that he would come to serve, to bring us life, and what do we do? What do we do with him? We kill him. We murder the Author of life.
It’s amazing to think that at the cross of Jesus that God would reach out to help us and give us life, but that we would choose death. That God would come to bring us life, to give us a gift, and we would kill him. And it really says a lot about us doesn’t it?
And Peter presses on in verse 17, he takes it up another level saying, "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 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 Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, '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 among his people.'
24 "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."
Peter says first of all, that “God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets.” And so we can trust his word, we can rely upon his word, we can know that this is the only book God wrote, there’s not another one like it, not even comparable to it, and that God has fulfilled what he foretold. He says, “In your day, Jesus came, all the prophecies were fulfilled, and you killed him!” He tells them that God promised long ago his suffering, that he would be crucified, pierced for our transgressions, and buried with the rich in his death. He says, “I know that you acted in ignorance” but now the prophecies are fulfilled, he has risen from the grave, he is high and exalted, he is the light of life and is satisfied; all of that predicted in the Old Testament.
From beginning to end it’s all about Jesus. It’s about who Jesus is and about what he’s done. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). And so, as soon as we understand who Jesus is, that changes who we are, and that changes what we do. He’s fulfilled prophecy, that’s good news, that changes us; but we haven’t yet seen the second coming. We haven’t yet had the resurrection of the dead. We haven’t yet had the judgment of the living and the dead. We haven’t yet had the sentencing to eternal heaven or eternal hell. And so today were in between times, verse 21 says that, “He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything.” So we’re waiting, we’re leaning in, we’re anticipating the second coming of Jesus, because he is the fulfillment of prophecy.
The prophets have come and gone, we’ve seen Moses, we’ve seen Samuel, and we’ve seen Christ, the anointed one, the greatest of all the prophets. The Messiah has come, God has become man, Emmanuel. He is the true prophet, the preacher, the offspring of Abraham and the blessing to all nations. And Peter tells us, “You must listen to everything he tells you” (Acts 3:22). Let’s look at verse 26 and then we’re going to close with communion. As we close we’re going to remember the body and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We’re going to remember the moment, that pivotal time in history, when he offered himself for us and for our sins. Verse 26, “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."
Now, remember who he’s speaking to, this is important to note, because where is he? He’s at the temple, he’s in the temple courts, and so he’s talking to religious people. These are people who believe in God. These are people who are moral, well behaved, and generous. These are people that if they were Boy Scouts they’d have a bunch of patches down their sleeves. These are people who play by the rules, but what he says to them is, “You handed over Jesus. You disowned Jesus. You killed Jesus!” And he says, “You all need to repent, because He is the Lord of lords and King of Kings.
You see, if we repent, God forgives our sin. That’s how God works with us through Jesus cross in dealing with our sin. You know, if you could write it down, take an inventory of all your failures, faults, and flaws. All your shortcomings and sins it would be a long list. But if you admit it, you wrote it down, and ask God for forgiveness he comes along and takes a big eraser. You know one of those big pink ones. And that’s Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. God takes that big Jesus eraser, rubs it over that list, holds it up and says, “See, it’s all gone.” That’s what Jesus does. He makes us clean. Were forgiven, but we need to repent, we need to agree that we’ve done is wrong and change. We need to hand him that paper, that list of offenses, and allow him to do what only he can do.
That’s what the Bible says here, “God raised up his servant (Jesus), he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26). The Bible summarizes that a one word, “Repentance.” You see here’s our story, the God who made us, we rebelled against, and chose death. Then when God came for us, to help us, we rejected him, and killed him. God rose from the grave and said, “I will forgive you and welcome you. Let me change you.” And so the invitation to turn from our wicked ways is an invitation to get out of the path of the wrath of God and to be embraced by the love of our Savior Jesus.
And here’s the amazing thing about the love of Jesus: Jesus love accepts you as you are, but refuses to allow you to remain that way. So you come to Jesus as you are, but coming to Jesus means that you are acknowledging that you need to change, and that’s repentance. And for those who repent and trust in Jesus, God sends refreshing. It’s like you’ve been working outside on a hot day and you find a place of shade with a nice breeze, the Holy Spirit is like that. If you’ve been working hard physically, playing, or exercising, you’re thirsty and somebody gives you a cold drink, the Holy Spirit is like that. If you had an exhausting day where you can barely stand on your feet and make it to your bed and your pillow feels so awesome just to lay back and relax, the Holy Spirit is like that. God wants you to be refreshed, but to do that you must repent. As we close it’s an opportunity for you to do that. Confess your sins, as the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 26, 2015