|Today’s Readings:||Genesis 3||Matthew 3||Ezra 3||Acts 3|
Acts 3 – the incident of the crippled beggar who gets healed and the sermon that prompts – starts with Peter and John attending the regular afternoon prayer service at the temple. At Pentecost, over 3000 people became members of the congregation of God’s people, and God added more and more on a daily basis. Yet becoming a new believer didn’t require a sudden break from all that came before. Becoming a Christian didn’t mean that the people all of a sudden had to stop attending the temple services and start attending the “First Gospel Church of Jerusalem”. The church was the body of God’s people being called out from among those who claimed to be God’s people. So it was entirely proper for Peter and John to keep attending the temple prayer services. But their focus, I’m sure, had changed. Rather than praying with longing for God to send a Messiah, they were now in all likelihood praying for the return of the Messiah – and that more and more of their kin would accept the truth of Jesus’ being the Son of God: King of kings and Lord of lords. Naturally, their way of following God would be different. And eventually they would be cast out of the temple and the synagogues. But it’s important for us as Christians to remember that the history of God’s dealing with humanity doesn’t start with the birth of Christ. Rather, God has been working to redeem all humanity – through his chosen people Israel (of whom Jesus is the true heir) since the fall. The prophets, as Peter points out, spoke all about what God was doing: God was keeping his promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world. (Acts 3:24-25)
Concerning the healing of the beggar, Peter asks the crowd in Acts 3:12 what was so surprising about the man being healed. He’s quick, of course, to point out that it wasn’t any human power that healed the man, but rather the God who did so to bring glory to his servant Jesus. What, I wonder, would be our reaction if this incident occurred today? We’re happy to think of Jesus doing miracles in the past, but isn’t our God the same yesterday, today and forever. Surely the God who raised Jesus – the author of life – from the dead (Acts 3:15) can just as easily heal and do any other miracles today.
So why don’t we see more miracles? I need to remind myself that even in biblical times, miracles were not common. A miracle is, per definition, something that does not occur as part of the natural course of events. It is a breaking into and overriding of circumstances and situations by God. Rather than being an end in themselves, miracles most often have the purpose of directing our attention to what God is doing. As Peter said in his Pentecost sermon, God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know (Acts 2:22). The miracle of this beggar being blind, I believe, is more of the same. It shows God authenticating the good news that in Jesus there is life that was being shared by the disciples. This crippled man was a sign to the world that Jesus was still alive and active in the world.
Does God still provide such signs? Sometimes. But we must also remember that the healing of the crippled man (as well as the other miracles, wonders and signs recorded in the bible – not to mention the resurrection of Jesus!!!) are just as much signs for us today as they were for those who first saw them. Are we so arrogant as to insist on “new signs for a new generation”?
Thank you Lord that your love for us is so great. Thank you that even from before the fall you had already planned to rescue and to save. Thank you that you have a history with humanity. Thank you most of all that you weren’t content just to stand outside of history, but that you stepped in. Lord, thank you for providing signs pointing to the truth of who you are. Help us to follow them and seek you fully.