Walking and Leaping and Praising God

Walking and Leaping and Praising God

Walking and Leaping and Praising God
Text:  Acts 3:1-26

Main Idea:  Miraculous healings herald the present reign of Jesus Christ and point forward to his promised restoration of all things.  And as a result, they beckon us to embrace Jesus in humble repentance and faith.

Sermon Outline:
I.   The Miraculous Restoration… (Acts 3:1-10)
II.  The Incriminating Explanation… (Acts 3:11-16)
III. The Astonishing Implication… (Acts 3:17-25)
IV.  Conclusion

As we begin this morning, I expect that (at least) a few of you have underlying questions about out the miraculous healing in our passage today. By this, I do not mean that you question the fundamental accuracy of Luke’s account in Acts 3. Rather, I expect that you may have questions about Luke’s link between faith and the lame man’s healing. After all, it’s easy to see how a casual, surface reading of this account could push a Christian toward the manifest errors of the prosperity gospel that promises heaven on earth to those who can simply muster enough faith.

But if we take the time to read this text carefully —which we will— it will become increasingly clear that this chapter is not a prescription for “faith healing” OR a promise that sincere faith will always result in healing. Rather, this passage points us to Christ. And it helps us grasp God’s purpose in miraculous healings. (Main Idea) Miraculous healings herald the present reign of Jesus Christ AND point forward to his promised restoration all things.[1] And as a result, they beckon us to embrace Jesus in humble repentance and faith.

I’m stating this up front because it is easy to miss Luke’s primary emphasis as we try to process these 26 verses. So, as we turn to the miraculous restoration in verses 1-10, I’d like to begin by drawing your attention to the miserable state of this man’s condition.

Acts 3:2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple.

The Miraculous Restoration (Acts 3:1–10)

The Man’s Condition (Acts 3:1–7)

The first thing that we can see about this man is that his life has been utterly defined by his disability— he has been unable to walk from the day he was born. And if you think about it, this means that he has probably lived every day of his life with a sense of abject hopelessness, in that, everyone knows that there is simply no cure (in the first century or the 21st century) for his condition.

The second thing that we see is that he was utterly dependent upon other people for his every need. He was not just begging for money every day outside the temple, he had to be carried back and forth to the temple every day so that he could beg.

But the third thing that we see about this man is devastating— on top of everything else, he is spiritually isolated. Notice, where does he beg every day? He begs outside of the temple. And while this may seem like an insignificant detail, scholars tell us that the temple authorities used the priestly restrictions in Leviticus 21:16–18 and the statement in 2 Samuel 5:8 that “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house” to actively ban disabled people from temple worship.[2]

In many ways, this man is trapped in a close loop. He is utterly dependent on others for everything he needs, and he has no way forward. In fact, as we follow the narrative, we can even see this sad sense of resignation in his initial interaction with Peter and John. He is simply looking for someone to help him with a little money to get him through the day, is not actively pursuing a miracle. But everything changes the moment that Peter and John enter the picture.

The Instantaneous Result (Acts 3:6–10)

Now I know it’s easy to get hung up on healing texts. But it’s important to point out a few things in our text that do not really align with the typical “faith-healing” narrative. To begin with, Peter does not demand or beg Jesus to heal the lame man; nor does he require the lame man to conquer his unbelief and conjure enough faith so that Jesus might heal him. Does he? No.

It is very clear: Peter fully believed that Jesus would heal the lame man, but at the same time he called him to believe in Jesus in the most rudimentary way as he raised him to his feet and commanded him to walk. Don’t miss this, there is active faith on both sides of this healing, even though their faith is still light years apart in regards to Jesus.

And what was the result of this faith? Was it a partial healing? Not in the least bit. It was an instant healing that was so complete that the man was able to run and jump as if he had never been lame in the first place. He was not just healed he was restored to the full and complete health of a forty-year-old adult (Acts 4:22).

The Subtle Point

Now, at this point of the story it’s easy for us to transition to the people’s response and Peter’s sermon. But there is something in this man’s response that is intended to point us to Jesus by reminding us of God’s OT promises— the fact that a lame man is leaping for joy and praising God.

Isaiah 35:4–6 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. 7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

What I want you to see is that this man’s “leaping” is a tangible sign that God’s promised salvation has finally arrived. Yet, this salvation is not described in purely spiritual or nationalistic terms, is it? No. It’s described in terms of physical restoration and recreation— disabled people are restored to full heath; dry barren deserts are transformed into lush meadows. The picture in these verses is that of the Genesis 3 curse being completely reversed.[3]

But lest we think that this promise of healing and restoration in Isaiah 35 is instantly available to every person who puts their faith in Christ, all we have to do is jump down to Acts 3:19-21.

Acts 3:19–21 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Notice what does Peter want us to know? He wants us to know that the restoration of “all things” is not a promise about the present work of Christ but a promise reserved for the future return of Christ. If you remember, this is what we call “the already, but not yet” nature of the kingdom of God. It’s begun, it’s here, it’s present because of what Jesus has done. But it will not be realized in its fullest extent until the return of Jesus Christ. But even more —and more pertinent for Peter’s audience— it will only be experienced by those who have rightly embraced Jesus as their promised Messiah.[4]

The Incriminating Explanation (Acts 3:11–16)

What the Miracle Does Not Indicate About the Apostles (3:11–12)

Notice what’s the first thing that Peter wants everyone to know? He wants them to know the true source of this miracle— “this miracle is not the product of our power or our piety.” Don’t look at us as though we have secret access to a special power or have achieved a superior level of spirituality or godliness. No, look to Jesus, we are simply his witnesses.

What the Miracle Reveals About Jesus Christ (3:13–16)

So, what does this crowd need to know about Jesus? Well, in many ways they need to know what the crowd at Pentecost needed to know. They have made a horrible mistake. They delivered God’s appointed servant over to Pilate to be crucified and willingly chose to free a convicted murderer so that they could secure the death of the Holy and Righteous Author ofLife. And as such, they are rebels in the sight of God and fully responsible for his death. But, even more, serious is the fact that God reversed their rejection by raising his rejected servant Jesus from the dead. And it was by the power of this rejected but resurrected Jesus that the lame man was fully restored.

But in all of this, Peter’s primary focus is not Israel’s guilt. Rather, he wants his audience to recognize the recent fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. In fact, we see this most clearly, in that, Peter draws an explicit link between “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers” and the “glorification” of Jesus his rejected “servant.” Don’t miss this, in referring to God as “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers” Peter is saying that the ministry of Jesus was a direct manifestation of God’s promises not just to David (as at Pentecost) but to the Patriarchs.[5]

And furthermore, by designating Jesus as God’s “servant” before describing his rejection, execution, and resurrection; he is pointing his audience to the fact that Jesus has accomplished God’s saving purposes for Israel and the nations because he fulfilled the role of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 52:13–15 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— 15 so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

Isaiah 53:8–9 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Jesus is the promised messianic servant who accomplished God’s saving purposes for Israel and the nations by fulfilling the pattern of suffering and death set out in Isaiah’s prophecy. But, how can Peter’s audience know that this is true? It because the lame man’s perfect health (v. 16) was not the result of their piety BUT their faith in the name of the rejected and glorified Jesus, the very Author of Life.[6] And this very affirmation compels Peter to transition to the astonishing implication that flow from this truth.

The Astonishing Implication (Acts 3:17–25)

God has Provided a Path to Forgiveness in Jesus Christ (3:17–21)

The first thing that Peter wants his audience to know is that they have not lost their only chance to experience God’s blessing in their promised Messiah. Yes, they rejected their promised Messiah. Yes, their rejection was a manifestation of their ignorance. But in some mysterious way, their rejection woven into God’s plan before the foundation of the world (In fact, that is the message of Isaiah 53).

The second thing that he wants them to know, is that their only path forward is to repentant of their sin and embrace Jesus as their long-promised Messiah (Jesus is the long-awaited Christ) so they could be forgiven and enjoy the promised restoration of all things when he returns in glory.

So, what does Peter mean by repentance? Well, as we saw in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost; repentance would have required a complete change in their view of Jesus. On the one hand, it would have required that they reject their former rejection of Jesus. And on the other hand, it required that they fully embrace Jesus as their Messiah and God, they put their hope and trust in Jesus as their only hope of forgiveness, a right relationship with God, and the ability to experience God’s promises.

And what are these promises? It is not merely forgiveness (as important and necessary as forgiveness is). It’s a promise of two glorious things: present refreshing and future restoration in the new creation. Let me quickly touch on these two promises.

One, the “times of refreshing” in verse 20 seems to be a reference to the active work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life. The Holy Spirit assures us that we are God’s children (Rom 8:14–16), he empowers us for obedience, he enables us to experience small tastes of God’s new creation blessings, and he guarantees our full participation in the new creation (Eph 1:14). In light of this, we might even say that this refreshing is the settled assurance that we are in a right relationship with God.

The second promise is the guarantee that this repentance secures our experience of the restoration of all things at Christ’s return in the future. Don’t miss this, eternal life in Christ is an expressly physical existence on a physical planet in a physical universe. BUT even better is the promise that it we will experience life in the way that God intended it to be (i.e, restored). Sin, Satan, and death will be forever destroyed. The curse will be forever removed. We will be given new, glorified bodies fit for eternity. And when that happens, God will forever eradicate cancer, dementia, cerebral palsy, MS, and every other disability or disease known to mankind. The blind will finally see, the lame will finally walk, the deaf, will finally hear, the broken will be fully restored, the wounded will be fully healed.

Isaiah 65:17 For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

Revelation 21:1–4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Just think about it, the entire planet restored to its original state, every disability and disease known to man forever destroyed by God himself. No more senseless massacres. No more injustice whether that be on the street, in the halls of government, or in the ruthless invasion of peaceful countries. Because there is coming a day when Jesus will return, restore all things, and physically reign in glory! But this very promise drives Peter to reinforce the truth that it can only be experienced by those who have come to Christ in repentance and faith.

Jesus is the One We Have Always Been Waiting For (3:22–26)

Now to be honest, we could spend an entire morning in these five-verses. So let me hit the high points so that we can still have time to apply this passage.

One, Peter wants his audience to see that Jesus is the long-promised prophet like Moses from Deuteronomy 18; and that according to Moses himself, this fulfillment demands a response!

Deuteronomy 18:17–19 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Notice, what does Moses say? He says listen to Jesus because whoever rejects him will be destroyed! Jesus is not one choice or option in many, he is the only choice that will save them from destruction.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

But, Peter doesn’t end his sermon with the threat of destruction, does he? No, he points his audience back to the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment God’s first promise to Israel… his covenant promise to bless the families of the earth through a future male offspring Abraham.[7] And that this blessing of “all people” has now begun among the people of Israel. But, to experience this blessing they need to embrace Jesus as the One they have always been waiting for.

As we conclude this morning, I’d like to emphasize two truths that flow from this text.


The Primary Function of Miraculous Healings is to Point to Faith in Jesus; not Promise Healing by Faith

We see this first in how Peter develops his sermon. At the beginning of the sermon, he wants his audience to know that the lame man was healed by faith in the promised Messiah Jesus Christ. But he does not point them to faith in Jesus so that they can find physical healing. No. His audience is facing a far greater problem than physical disability. They are spiritually disabled, they rejected their messiah, and they are cut off from God’s blessing. They are not just outside God’s temple; they are outside of God’s kingdom. What do they need to do? They need to repent of their rejection and put their faith in Jesus Christ so that they can be forgiven and forever enjoy his blessing and restoration of all things.

What I want you to see is that the initial conversation about faith and healing was and intentional bridge to the gospel. Because as desirable and important as healing is in this life, mankind’s’ greatest need is always forgiveness and restoration through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus came as a servant before he returns judge all things.

So, the first question for everyone this morning is have you truly come to faith in Christ? If he is the way, the truth, and the life and no one can come to the Father except through him, have you come to him in faith for life or are you hoping in something else for life? There is only one path to forgiveness and a right relationship with God and it’s Jesus Christ.

But this still leaves us with a question about healing. Doesn’t it?

Miraculous Healing and Lifelong Illness are a Reminder that the Best is Yet to Come.

Let me quickly unpack what I mean by this. I believe that Jesus is still healing people today. But his healing when it comes, is not evidence that the person has mustered enough faith. No, it’s an in-breaking of the coming restoration of all things into the present. AND when it happens it is always a manifestation of God’s undeserved kindness toward the individual and in response to their faith or the faith of those who are praying for them, no matter how feeble their faith may be. When we pray for healing, we pray in faith knowing that God is more than able to heal.

But the truth of the matter is that God does not always heal. Does he? And we struggle to understand why. Well, in light of this passage I think we can rightfully say that one of the countless reasons that God does not always heal when his children pray in faith is that the sickness and disability of this life remind us that the best is yet to come. God will not restore everything until Jesus returns and his saving purposes are finally and fully realized in a new creation (3:21; cf. Rev. 21:1–5).[8]

Faith, at its core, is trusting in God’s promises despite the fact that we have not yet received them.

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

[1] David Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 165.

[2] Eckhard J. Schnabel, Acts, Expanded Digital Edition., Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapid: Zondervan, 2012).

[3] Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, 171.

[4] Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, 171.

[5] E.g., Gn. 12:1–3; 13:14–17; 15:1–21; 17:1–22; 22:15–18; 26:1–6; 28:10–15.

[6] “The healing of this crippled man is a pointer to the saving power of Jesus in the widest sense (cf. 4:10–12). Since ‘calling upon the name of the Lord’ was a distinguishing mark of Israel in the ancient world, it was extremely provocative for the apostles to claim that Jesus was the one on whom to call for salvation. It was an implicit claim to divinity, which could not be ignored by pious, monotheistic Jews;” (Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, 176–77).

[7] Offspring is a masculine, singular noun in Gen 22:18.

[8] Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, 170.