If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” … Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 4:9-12 & 29
Okay, so if you jump into the beginning of the book of Acts you should know that Jesus has been killed by the leadership in Jerusalem that is still there. Jesus rose from the dead, and after meeting with the disciples, now called apostles which essentially means sent ones, He gave them the Holy Spirit to care for and grow His body, the church, and to do miraculous things. Immediately when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit and started their ministry many believed in Jesus as God and savior in the city of Jerusalem. And, they believed in large part because of what He was doing through the Spirit working through Peter and the other apostles.
Now, Peter had seen many people come to believe in Jesus as he continued his ministry in Jerusalem. One day, as Peter was going into the Temple a man who had been crippled since birth begged him for some money. Well, Peter was a fisherman, then he followed Jesus, then Jesus was murdered and the guy who carried the money pouch was bribed into helping that action only to commit suicide, and now Peter is speaking regularly about Jesus in the place that had Jesus killed. That said, Peter responds I have no money, but what I do have I give you.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” – Acts 3:6
Boom! Guess what happens? The crippled man is no longer crippled. And, better than that, it says that his legs were strengthened. He was not just able to walk his legs were strengthened. I can’t run long distances, running for an extended period of time leads to me blacking out. Long distances equal a mile or seven or so minutes. I have bad circulation in a leg due to heart surgery as a child. So, hearing that a man was not only healed to walk, but healed and strengthened it is unimaginably exciting.
Now, Peter may have been the instrument that healed the man, but what was great about this situation was that the no longer crippled man praised God. The man was grateful to Peter, but the people who saw him saw that he was praising God!
As the man praised God a crowd started to gather because they recognized him and could see something amazing happened in his life. They saw this man who had been crippled since birth praising God because he could walk with strengthened legs! And so, Peter addresses the crowd.
“Why are you amazed at this?”
Wait, why wouldn’t they be amazed? Oh yeah, because Jesus had healed and done amazing things all throughout the country and in the city. And so, this confidence in God is why Peter is amazing! Peter reminds the people amazed with this one incident that they had killed Jesus. Jesus was going to be freed if only the people of Jerusalem, so excited about what happened today, would have asked for him. But instead, they called for Jesus to be torturously murdered rather than freed.
But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. – Acts 3:14-15
Insert Mic Drop…
But really, Peter didn’t mic drop, he didn’t say this horrible and harsh truth and walk away. His truthful and blunt tone didn’t stop either. Instead, Peter spoke of hope. He spoke of what the Lord of all offers them. He tells them that Jesus even in His death completed what they had hoped for, because He rose from the dead!
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 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…. God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness – Acts 3:19-21, 26
But! Woe, hold up, wait a minute! This is not kosher! For real, the Jewish authorities essentially said so. While Peter was preaching about Jesus, while he was explaining how he healed a man crippled for 40 years, and why he was living the way he was Peter was stopped. The people did not stop him, but the people who orchestrated the death of Jesus did.
Why did they arrest Peter and John? They were arrested not because of what they did, rather they were arrested because of why they did it. They were arrested for explaining why they were doing good deeds. They were arrested because of why they had decided to heal a man. Not for what they did, but why they did it.
That is the comical moment, isn’t it? You can be kind, helpful, and have an amazing response, but then it is discovered why you did it and they are frustrated. Sometimes loving actions can be rejected because of the person and the reason why.
To be fair, when someone does something amazingly kind for you, you can feel a little disheartened when you realize they didn’t do it for you, right? You still are grateful for the kindness, but, it feels a little less than exciting when it wasn’t because of you.
As a father, it means a great deal more when my children clean their room because they want to make me happy rather than because they know I will take their Gameboys away. It means a great deal more to me when Kate, my wife, helps me when I am working on something because she wants to spend time with me rather than because she feels like she should.
More than likely, you can understand why people may gage their response to what you do because of why you did it. But, you must remember and remind them that your life and love is premised in the fact that God loves them. It is not simply that God loves you and loves them. Because we see how awesome God is, we are convinced that what He finds value in is immensely valuable.
So, Peter goes before the leaders and puts it simply:
if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. – Acts 4:9-10
In essence, yeah, we healed a man for Jesus! Yeah, the God of the universe whom you crucified is the reason this man is walking for the first time in over 40 years of life. And yeah, you killed Him, but He raised Himself from the dead so that we can do things like this!
Oh, and I know you guys are all about helping people so let me leave you with these two statements:
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” - Acts 4:12
You should know that salvation for the Jewish leadership at this time was not simply a metaphysical eternal hope salvation. The Jewish people were under duress, they were an occupied country. The leadership could not even execute Jesus like they wanted until they had went to two Roman set leaders. So, the Jewish leaders wanted help. They wanted a tangible savior of a nation, not a Kingdom of God that would come, rather they wanted a Kingdom of God that came right then and there and helped them and their country.
Although you don’t like why I do what I do and you don’t want me to tell anyone:
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:19-20
There will be moments as you live life and a life of love that people will be angry. Not because of what you do, but because of why you do it. The purpose of our lives is to be Jesus to those who do not know Jesus. The purpose of our lives is to shine for Jesus and love people because of Him.
But, here’s the thing, if people think you are nice, if people think you are kind, and if people like you because you live a life of love and they do not know it is for Jesus, then the praise will not go to Jesus it will go to you, and that is kind of idolatry.
Do the people around you know why you love them?
Not everyone will like the reason you love, not everyone will even want you to be kind to them if it is for Jesus.
This is not to say everyone will be against you or even against why you are doing it. But, what you can know is that often the opposition will be louder, more intense, or at the very least more effective in getting in your head. Do not lose sight of why you live the way you live. Do not be discouraged from the victory and the truth of the Gospel.
Jesus is God! He has a lasting love that will never forsake you even when life is difficult. He is a love that has overcome hate through being hated until death so that truth, love, and life might reign eternally.
This doesn’t mean that threats, attacks, or opposition is easy to endure. Rather, it is the opposite. Opposition is difficult and yet it is something everyone faces all the time, whether or not it’s for Jesus. The question is how will you respond in the midst of the opposition you face?
I know that I am not perfect in my responses. And, I’m sure that as Peter spoke he had continually remembered that the people he spoke to were the ones that murdered the author of life, and they were not happy with them. But instead of shrinking away from the truth Peter prayed:
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, - Acts 4:29
Peter, was bold, he is unashamedly bold, but he remembered when he was ashamed of Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times. Yet, Peter was no longer ashamed, and this time it was not with servants it was after being arrested and brought before leaders. This was not after Jesus had just been arrested it was after Jesus was murdered. It was also after Jesus had raised from the dead!
We should and must remember to be willing to live for the Lord. And, in living and loving for the Lord; others should and must know why we are the way we are and why we live the way we live. The frustrating thing is when people see what God opposes more than what He is for.
Because God even offered forgiveness, love, and kindness to the very people who were murdering Him. How daring and how loving are you to those who oppose you?
How has your life, love, and speech affected someone’s life for Christ this week?
How have you communicated why you live the way you do? This can be frightening. If I tell others I live for Jesus or love others because I love Jesus, what will they think of me and even of Jesus when I fail?
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:20
It is not about how good you are or how much good you do, it is about how much grace you can show, give, and bring to people. Peter was an utter failure in many capacities leading up to Jesus death and even leading to his resurrection.
Peter was rebuked, challenged, and discouraged or scared into denying Jesus at the end and abandoned the Son of God to die alone. Peter, the leader in many accounts, did not set up shop waiting for Jesus to raise again.
Peter’s confidence was not in his track record. His confidence is not in his ministry accolades. Peter’s confidence is in the living and raised Jesus Christ. Our confidence is not in what we have done or what we will do.
Our confidence in speaking to others about Jesus is Jesus Himself.