Many of you have followed current news about Russia. Perhaps you have also heard about the recent events concerning Soviet avant-garde artist Anna Leporskay’s. One of her paintings is of three faceless women, undoubtedly reflecting how females were viewed in society (1930-32 image). Her painting is titled “Three Figures” and was owned by a Moscow art gallery, but loaned to the Yeltsin Center in Russia for a special art exhibit.
Apparently, some time on the night of December 6, a security guard had his first night on the job. As he patrolled the building and observed the expensive art pieces, his eyes landed on the “Three Figures” painting (image). And since it was the guard’s first night, his expertise somehow needed heightened and demonstrated for his co-workers, supervisors, and honestly the world. The security guard looked upon this $1 million dollar painting and thought, “Something is missing.” So, he took the standard handout gallery ball point pen and displayed his own art by adding eyes to the faces on the abstract art. Needless to say, the Yeltsin Center administration who hired the security guard has since terminated employment of the individual. Exhibition curator Anna Reshekina said, “[The security guard’s] motives are still unknown but the administration believes it was some kind of lapse of sanity.” The restoration is estimated to cost $3,345.
Comical, but unhelpful. We live in a society that looks upon others as those who need fixed. We are preconditioned to solve problems according to our own perspectives. Especially when we look upon those disadvantaged or disabled, we have preconceived ideas on why people are the way they are, with little actual understanding about someone’s life. So, we attempt to fix when instead God often wants us to love people in their faceless shame and unspoken difficulties.
How many of you are willing to admit, right now, you are enduring difficulty: physical ailments, emotional burdens, or even a season of spiritual dryness? If it’s not you, then you often know someone who is. And right now, you’re wondering: does Jesus still perform miracles today?
Here is what we need to know about the reasons God heals and Jesus performed miracles.
- Jesus’ miracles had meaning. Uniquely, the Gospel of John uses the word “signs” because, as one scholar noted, “Jesus’ miracles are never simply naked displays of power, still less neat conjuring tricks to impress the masses, but signs, significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived with the eyes of faith.”  The miracles were not the end but the means that point to something eternal, greater, and deeper – that of people understanding identity Jesus. Our faith is not in the miracle but the Miracle Worker.
- Jesus’ miracles were signs of the coming kingdom (Isa 35:5-7; 49:18, 22; 61:1-11; Lk 4). God’s design for creation and the natural order for His kingdom is abundant life. Therefore, the miracles of God in OT or of Jesus in NT are not suspension of the natural order but restoration of it. It’s like the human body, when cut, will heal on its own because life is intended to grow. Yet, when a corpse is cut, healing never occurs. Human DNA is hardwired for life and the miraculous.
- Jesus’ healing and miracles were evidence of His heart of mercy and love for people who suffered. We want to say today, Jesus cares. Reading the life of Jesus in the Gospels, He made a point of spending ample time with strugglers and sinners. He cared for the heartaches and hang-ups of individuals. He cares for you and He’s still in the miracle business.
- ReadingIn the Gospels, Jesus performs at least 40 miracles, and in Acts there are at least 24 miracles of Jesus by the Spirit through the apostles. Each of these are indicators of God’s care for people.
- Jesus’ miracles were validation of His messengers. God performed miracles through Moses, Elijah, Elisha, or later with Jesus (Lk 4:36-37, 40-41; 7:19; 10:9; Ac 15:12), and then later with the apostles. The miracles performed were direct indications and validations they were from God and demonstrations of the Spirit’s power (Jn 14:12; 1Cor 2:4-5; Heb 2:3-4).
- Be careful not to seek or idolize making miracles. We’ll look at what happens next week in Acts 4 post the miracle. But allow me to say this: people who perform miracles often get persecuted.
It’s also important to note that Luke, the author of his Gospel & Acts, was a “beloved physician.” So, a man who wrote about supernatural healing was not intending to replace human science and health procedures.
- Consider the fact this man in Acts 3 was over 40 years old (4:22). The text indicates this man had been regularly in front of the temple begging for money, if not also pleading to be healed. Therefore, undoubtedly, Jesus had seen this man on several occasions but never chose to heal him.
- There are some works and miracles God is waiting to bring about through someone else. You might have all the ambition and ability, but God’s assignment for you is not the same as someone else. So, we pray for healing but we also plant & water seeds of the gospel for others to be used by God in different means and future ways.
- Paul had many physical struggles (2 Cor 12:8-10 “my grace is sufficient for you”); prayed & instructed Timothy’s health (1 Tim 5:23); left Trophimus sick (2 Tim 4:12); etc.
- So, while God can and does heal, sometimes our faith during struggles and sicknesses brings God greater glory in our earthly circumstances than healing ever could.
- Some things in Gospels & Acts are descriptive and not always normative – or prescriptive.
- Rest assured; all suffering has an expiration date (Rom 8:18; Rev 21:4).
All of this sounds like the conclusion but it’s only the introduction… welcome to SPBC where the preacher pays little attention to the clock but promises you won’t leave this place without being challenged to hear from God.
EXAMINE Acts 3:1-10 Spirit Filled Miracles (2 ways)
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 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. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
God does wonders in our worship.
The author Luke leaps forward to an unstated time after Peter’s sermon in Acts 2. The previous summary in 2:42-47 describes the nature of Christian belief and church behaviors; the ideal Christian community, which deserves much reflection. Acts 3 is a typical specific example of the happenings described in the earlier summary.
The focus is on two of the apostles: Peter & John. They were going to the temple, as they regularly gathered for worship; specifically the hours of daily Jewish prayer: 9am, 12pm, 3pm. Here it is the ninth hour – 3pm (3:1).
The disciples remembered that Jesus’ body was the replacement of the temple (Jn 2:19-22). They understood their worship was now in spirit and truth and did not necessitate meeting at a single location (Jn 4:20-24). The disciple’s confidence and pep in their step was evidence of the torn temple veil and resulting in personally being filled with the Holy Spirit (Mt 27:51; Ac 1:8; 2:1-4).
Yet, Peter & John still viewed it important and valued gathering in the temple to worship God with other believers.
- The apostles and early Christians would find it strange, and likely sinful, to hear of Christians today who claim to affirm Jesus but perpetually absent from His church.
- Spiritual growth can arrive in a single moment but often occurs through the repetition of obeying God in the ordinary. The daily rhythm of reading your Bible with prayer, and the weekly rhythm of gathering with the people of God is how God sustains and sanctifies us.
- You may not be able to remember all the meals from yesterday, last week, or last month but each one was sustaining and you look back with thanks.
- A word about repetition… there can be negative aspects of repetitive rituals going through the motions. Yet, there are many positive too.
- The mind can process repetition faster than the heart. Our heart needs reaffirmed, not to mention the discipline and process of sanctification reflects the value of repetition (cf Lk 24:25 “slow of heart to believe” – even with resurrected Christ present!).
- How many times do you tell family “I love you”? Can it ever be enough?
- Psalmist valued repetition (cf Ps 118; 136; 150; also 14 with 53; etc.).
- Angels valued repetition (Isa 6; Rev 4/5)
- Hymns: How Great Thou Art; There Is A Fountain; I Surrender All; etc. so be careful of complaining about contemporary songs.
- In all, repetition can be well used or fully abused but we do not magnify God any less or miss Him any more because of repetition in a worship service. Our complaints about a church’s worship service say just as much about our own relationship with the Lord as they do about that church. A believer should be able to worship God in any Christian church, regardless of preferred musical styles/songs. (Lk 24:32 “did not our hearts burn within us?”)
Likewise, the man who was lame gathered daily (v.2 imperfect tense implies ongoing activity) at the temple. Yet, from reading the text we understand his gathering looked a little different. He needed carried because he was lame since birth. He had never known a day of walking to church, standing for prayer, dancing to music (just watch the swaying crowd online!), or jumping and running with friends like he will do in a few moments (v.8).
According to OT Law, this lame man would have been forbidden to be a priest (Lev 21:17-20), or much more included in the fabric of communal life (Lk 7:22; 14:13, 21). Yet, due to ritual almsgiving and general altruism, the man lived from public assistance (Dt 15:7-11).
Few of us understand what it is like to live like this. The wealthy look at the poor as those who are lazy, while the poor often view themselves with insecurity, shame, and embarrassment. In this case, the lame man never expected a solution to his disability, yet his only hope day after day and week after week was to beg for money for food and shelter.
The fact that the man availed himself of help at the temple reflects a willingness to ask for help. Likewise, our needs will seldom be met if we are unwilling to take a vulnerable step to voice our needs and weaknesses. Adversity becomes opportunity when we make ourselves available to the hope of God and help of others.
God does wonders in our worship if we allow ourselves to be available and active participants.
- Our prayers for one another offer sustaining grace during challenges and crisis.
- Our Scripture readings remind one another where to turn for salvation and strength.
- Our songs uplift us with celebration to the God who is worthy of all praise; they inspire joy of life even in uncertain circumstances; they instill a victory mindset in a world full of victims by all sorts of experiences… I’m not saying victims should not voice happenings or grieve hurt; only that some people claim a victim identity over things that God allows in their life to produce patience, endurance, love for others, and a profound hope for eternity. This is the power of praise.
- Our sermons aim to motivate meaningful faith in Jesus – the only name for salvation and perspective that makes sense of this life.
- Our response times are opportunities to claim miracles great and small. To say, “Yes, God has spoken,” “I have encountered God in a meaningful way,” or “Here am I, Lord, send me.”
- Gatherings are not just for insiders but outsiders. If you’ve been shopping or at a public park and saw a large gathering, you knew there was a reason. If you see the news about a large public rally of thousands of people, you click the link to discern its purpose. Gatherings not only influence insiders but they invite outsiders to take notice. So, this is the purpose of the church.
Paul to Thessalonians, “For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere” (1:8)
Peter, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people” (1Pet 2:9-10)
God does wonders in our witnessing.
When Peter was entering the temple, he heard the lame man ask for alms. Peter directed his gaze [look intently] at him, as did John (v.4).
- How often do we stop to see people? Seeing people can be overwhelming. Who can make the lame walk? Who wants to get involved in people’s mess and morbidity? Yet, while we may feel unqualified, as Christians we are called to see people because the love of Christ compels us (Mt 9:36; 2Cor 5:14).
- “If we can’t see [people], we won’t love them. If we can’t love them, we won’t pray for them. If we can’t pray for them, we won’t win them. If we can’t win them, we won’t send them.”
- As lifeguards scanning the water, seeing people is essential for saving people.
Peter said, “Look at us” (v.4). Witnessing to others isn’t just about seeing people but inviting them to see you. Christians should invite others to evaluate their life and practices. A Christian who isn’t willing to be seen isn’t sure of their salvation.
Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
This is the first miracle of the apostles since Jesus had ascended. Yet, Peter doesn’t hesitate to speak the healing.
- Are you focused more on what you don’t have or know, than what you do have or know? As one person said, “the gap holding back most believers is not the gap between what they know and what they don’t know. It’s the gap between what they know and what they’re living. Many Christians are…educated beyond their obedience (emphasis mine).”
“And Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”
A Christian should not be afraid to allow a relationship to continue beyond a witnessing encounter. Some will have immediate response and growth but not all.
- When the response is positive:
- keep walking with them and celebrate.
- Connect them with others at church.
“And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
- When the response is negative:
- Pray with a burden for the broken not bully for your cause.
- Persevere. As the Father of the prodigal, waiting was not passive but planning for their return.
- Permit them to walk away.
God does wonders in our worship and in our witnessing. #SpiritSentTweet
Christians should care about all suffering: physical and eternal. We want to be a community that helps people experience the eternal love of God with tangible acts of love.
- Faith answers to questions and doubts.
- Fresh starts and sometimes professional counseling.
- Friendship and sometimes food or financial support.
- Family… marriage enrichment, parental support, generational bridging, crisis networking.
Miracles point upward to God, backward to Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection, forward to the coming kingdom, and inward to our souls deepest need of the divine.
- You may not be physically unable to walk but spiritually dead.
- You may not be physically blind but still unable to clearly see God or yourself.
- You may not consider yourself sick but sin is rotting your very soul with a terminal diagnosis, and the only cure is Christ’s salvation.
- Your miracle begins when you receive the message of the gospel.
 D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary – The Gospel According to John, John 2:11.
 See Tim Keller, The Reason For God, p.95-96.
 See C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p.184.
 Thoughts from Jonathan Leeman, Rediscovering Church, pp. 46, ff.
 Neil Cole, Cultivating A Life For God: Multiplying Disciples Through Life Transformation Groups, 4.
 Dave Browning, Deliberate Simplicity (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 515-18.