We’re back to looking at a larger chunk of text and so Growth Group leaders will need to decide how to divide the text and what to focus on. In this week’s passage, it is possible to discuss the whole passage from an eagle-view and then zoom in on a few sentences to discuss.
The book of Acts is dealing with the early days of the Christian church. Jesus is risen and ascended to the right side of God the Father. From there he has poured out the Holy Spirit on all who believe. A great crowd of Jewish God-fearers hear Peter’s conviction that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah whom they had crucified. About 3000 of them repented and were baptised. During this time of revival, the church enjoyed the excitement of Learning together, meeting together, eating together and praying together. The days of the early church sound amazing! The apostles were excited to teach about Christ and their teaching was accompanied with many wonders and signs (2:43).
- Notice how similar chapter 3 is to chapter 2!
- 3:1-10…A miracle occurs through the apostles resulting in praises to God (2:1-12)
- 3:11-14…Peter steps up and declares that this is because of Jesus (2:14-23)
- 3:15-16…Peter convicts his fellow Jews of their wicked treatment of the Messiah (2:24-32)
- 3:17-26…Peter calls the hearers to repent for the forgiveness of sins (2:33-40)
- While chapter 2 ends with 3000 converts, this episode leads to the first sign of persecution in the church (Ch4). Instead of converts, they get critics!
- What the lame man expected from anyone was, at best, some money, and has experience of getting little or nothing as people walk by. Getting money from pious Jews was why he was brought to the temple and this is what he asked for. Even when he asks Peter and John, it seems like he hasn’t made any eye contact with them – he sees them and asks them for alms, but does not know for sure that he’ll get anything from them.
- “In the name of Jesus Christ” – this phrase could be read as a magical word to provoke a miracle but this doesn’t fit at all with the gospel, of Jesus ministry or of the teaching of the apostles. It’s better to be read as a command for the man to get up and walk in Jesus name. That is, he’s being asked to trust Jesus and the power of Jesus. Verse 16 supports this. So, the man responded immediately to the call to trust Jesus.
- Notice the physical aspect of this story. The man was carried to, probably, a routine location to receive alms from folk who were not even going to look him in the eye – any gifts from the crowd would be passed on with minimal to no personal contact. But Peter and John asked the man to look at them. Peter looked at them and said, “look at us!” After talking with the man (more than what he’d be use to) they took him by the hand (v7) and helped him up. What follows (7-8) is quite a visual description of the man’s activity – strength returned, jumping and walking and shouting praises to God (yes, go ahead and sing that song). Lastly, we read that the man held on to Peter and John (v11). The physical elements of the story take us from lame and distant, mechanical and dreary – to leaping and touching and talking and praising. It sounds like death has come back to life.
- Notice the descriptions or titles attributed to Jesus in the story:
- “servant” (v13) which reflects the language of the Servant Messiah in Isaiah (eg, Isa52);
- “Holy and Righteous One” (v14) which seems again to point to the Messiah (note Mark 1:24);
- “author of life” (v15) – this doesn’t seem to have any past usage but clearly refers to Jesus’ divinity and work in creation. John 1 covers this theology and it’s brilliant to see Peter, only weeks after the resurrection, preaching this conclusion about Jesus.
- “Messiah” (18 and 20)
- “Prophet like [Moses]” (v22) – from Deut 18:15
- The sermon from Peter is quite similar to the sermon in chapter 2. It’s where it differs which helps us to learn. Peter continues to emphasise the teaching of the Old Testament but rather than quoting as much as he did in chapter 2, he refers to key figures in the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, “all the prophets” beginning with Samuel, Moses. Jesus is the fulfilment of all that God has been promising beforehand.
- Peter is encouraging the Jews to respond to all of this on the basis that the promise is first for the Jews (v25-26). The inference is that if they don’t accept Jesus as the Messiah, then others will be offered the gospel to accept.
- Verse 18 – God fulfilled, God foretold – the Jews recent participation in the death of Christ was part of God’s plan. This doesn’t make what they did any less wicked and wrong – they killed the author of life! But repentance and forgiveness is still there’s to take hold of if they would turn to God.
- Verse 19 – Repentance means turning to God. These are not two things. We can say sorry but it is only valid if you turn to the one you are sorry to! It’s being turned away from God and working, seemingly, against him that we are to repent of and be sorry for.
- “Times of refreshing” – here is a recollection to the Deuteronomy choice: choose life or choose death! Choosing life will see you live long in the land that the Lord has given you! The difference now is that the times of refreshing are looking forward to the reality of the kingdom of God. See verse 21 which describes when the time comes for God to restore everything! So the times of refreshing are not prosperous times here on earth but are the day ahead of us when God restores all things – that is, when Jesus returns and the new heaven and new earth are revealed.
- “Completely cut off from their people” – This is the flip side of the coin – if you do not repent, you will miss out on the refreshing times and will be cut off and removed from the people of God.
- The Jews all needed to come to terms that Jesus Christ the Nazarene is the suffering servant, the holy one of God, the author of life and the Messiah whom God has promised. Unless they turn to God and repent, they will not be saved.
Peter has taken another opportunity to teach his fellow Jews that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that all of his brothers, the descendants of Abraham, must turn from their wickedness and turn back to God. God will make all things new through Jesus.
- Faith healing is not about the power of the preacher/healer, but of the trust that we place on Jesus. This does not mean that we need more or greater faith in order to receive healing, but that our trust and confidence must be in Jesus. It’s not ours to demand a healing, but it is Jesus’ who demands to be trusted.
- Peter had preached that Jesus is Lord in chapter 2 and his message and focus has not changed in chapter 3 – nor will it for the rest of his days or the book of Acts. The question of who Jesus is to us is key to Christian ministry. Who do you say that Jesus is?
- Jesus had said that he would work first in Jerusalem before the gospel goes beyond (Acts 1:8) and this sermon is directed to the Jews in Jerusalem. Therefore, the mission of God is going exactly how God said that it would. He uses us to preach and teach and speak about Jesus but it is his mission.
- Jesus is the author of life – in the name of Jesus, we will see people move from spiritual death to spiritual life – their sins are wiped out! And in the name of Jesus, we will see the whole of creation see refreshing and restored times – illustrated by the lame man. Are we living like the cripple who didn’t expect much improvement or are we seeing clearly like Peter who waits for the Messiah to return and make all things new?!
Prayer for the week
Author of life, wake us up to the mission you have for this world. Gift us with great joy to be praising you for the life you have given us and for the refreshing times you promise ahead. Amen.