A Sermon on Acts 3:11-20 for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, April 12/15, 2018.
Have you ever had that “aha” moment happen in your life? The time, after many struggles with something, it all of a sudden becomes crystal clear. For me, it often happened in math class. A certain concept just would not stick. I would work through the problem, but one part would always be wrong. Even though I would review it every day, even though the teacher would explain it, it just would not make sense. Then all of a sudden the light went on. Maybe practice helped or it was explained in a different way. I got it. All the pieces fell into place I wondered why it took so long for me to figure it out.
We need that “aha” moment when it comes to knowing Jesus. By nature we come into this world spiritually blind and dead in all our sins. Through the powerful work of God’s Word in our hearts and lives the Holy Spirit removes all those dark clouds. We see clearly. The light goes on. We understand why things had to happen as they did.
Faith Makes Jesus Known
- As the one who came to save us.
- As the one testified by the Scriptures.
Peter and John had just performed a great miracle. On their way to the temple they came across a man crippled from birth. Every day he begged hoping that the passersby would be able to spare a few coins. Instead of digging through their pockets to give something lasting only a moment, the two disciples gave him a much greater gift. They healed him. This man got up and walked for the very first time in his life. Praises arose from his lips to God for granting him healing.
It did not take long for a crowd to gather. Everyone knew this man was the crippled beggar. They used to see him sitting down begging for money. Now, they saw him up on his feet walking. As if on cue to clear up any misunderstanding, Peter declared, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Why are you staring at us, as if by our own power or godliness we have made this man walk” (Acts 3:12)? Immediately all the attention focused on Peter and John. How were these two able to heal this man? Peter and John did not do this great deed.
“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus” (Acts 3:13). Peter took this opportunity to launch into a sermon just as he did at Pentecost. He told the crowd the power came not from any human source, but it came from a source much greater. The very same God Abraham worshipped, the same God who brought the nation through the wilderness, the same God who preserved his promise through many generations healed this man.
However, the nation had failed to see the fulfillment of all of these promises in Jesus. Peter continued, “Whom you handed over and disowned in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you. You killed the Author of Life” (Acts 3:13-14). The law hit home with great power. The Savior, the very one the Jews had waited for years, faced rejection by his own people. Not only rejection, the people murdered him. Pilate tried to set Jesus free but to no avail. The shouts of “crucify” overpowered any rational thought. A murderer was released to satisfy the thirst of the people to rid the world of Jesus.
Without faith we fail to see Jesus. We remain as blind as the Jews did. We want to think that others disown Jesus by their own selfish living. However, we need to hear the harsh sentence of the law as well. We try to rationalize our own sinful thoughts and actions to twist our way around God’s commands and will. God will let just one sin go. As long as I promise not to do it again, God will be okay with it. All of a sudden we fall prey to forsaking God’s grace. We wish that Jesus would still be in his grave so that he would not see all my vile actions.
The end of the story did not come at the cross. “Whom God raised from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (Acts 3:15). Peter and John rushed to the tomb on Easter dawn to see it empty. Jesus appeared to Peter and John and all the disciples in a locked room two weeks in a row to prove his resurrection. For forty days Jesus gave proofs of his resurrection. Yes, Jesus died. More importantly, he rose. The plan of the Jews would not work.
God’s plan called for all of this to happen. This was how it needed to be. Sin would inflict a strong blow against our Savior. Yet, the knockout punch would be delivered by our Savior. “But in this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through the mouth of all the prophets: that his Christ would suffer” (Acts 3:18). All the Scriptures testified to this one point. Jesus would rise from the dead. Faith makes Jesus known.
This faith is not something that comes naturally to us. We want to go in the opposite direction. We try to make salvation a matter we do. We try to make salvation man driven rather than God done. It takes many twists and turns from Scripture to get this point across.
As the Scriptures are opened up to us, the Holy Spirit rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. Through those pages of sacred story we see it all building up to the climax of Jesus. He comes out on center stage to portray his work. All of a sudden our stubborn sinful flesh breaks down. The Spirit creates faith. The Spirit makes us realize Jesus has done it all.
Page after page the Scriptures bleed information on our Savior. He lived. He died. He rose. He lives still today. He will come back again. We read eyewitness accounts of people that saw it. The Holy Spirit convinces us that this is true. Faith makes Jesus known. Faith makes Jesus’ work known to us. Faith pulls us into an ever closer relationship with our Savior.
It was that relationship that Peter and John emphasized. “Therefore repent and return to have your sins wiped out, so that refreshing times may come from the presence of the Lord and that he may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you” (Acts 3:19-20). Now, the gospel oozed out in Peter’s sermon. He cut the people to the heart. They needed to see Jesus. They needed to hear forgiveness.
It was not too late. They could return to Jesus, who came for them. God’s promise had not disappeared just yet. God would still send Jesus into their hearts. It was not done through sacrifice. It was not done by keeping the high moral code. Repent! Return! Come to hear of Jesus’ forgiveness.
What are we waiting for? The warning cry comes to us. We cannot expect to get into heaven while still wearing the stain of sin upon us. We need to turn to God. We need to repent. God needs to send his Spirit into our heart.
The order of this is very important. We cannot come to God. God must come to us. God comes to us with his words of forgiveness. God comes to us in water to wash away sins. God comes to us through his Word, so that we might grasp his wonderful love.
Peter points to faith, “And on the basis of faith in his name, it is the name of Jesus that has strengthened this man, whom you see and know. This faith that comes through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you” (Acts 3:16). It all came full circle. Peter and John had nothing to do with it. God did it all. Faith allowed this man to be healed.
Faith heals. We will still suffer from many afflictions in life. We will face uphill battles financially. The twists and turns of health crises will cause us to become disoriented. The highs and lows of life’s struggles will be harder to take than a roller coaster. Faith heals.
Faith heals because it points us to Jesus. It gives perfect health. We stand in front of God, who no longer sees a laundry list of our sins. We stand in front of God with perfection. We stand holding onto the forgiveness proclaimed to us in his Word.
It seems so foolish, but the message is so powerful. Faith makes Jesus known to us. It reveals the Savior of the world who came for us. It reveals his mighty work. It reveals his love and forgiveness to poor sinners all throughout the pages of the Scriptures. Amen.