“While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 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. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 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.” (Acts 3:11-21 ESV)
A miracle, by definition, is an extraordinary event or circumstance that defies normal explanations or understandings. A Christian understanding of such an event is that God has intervened into history and exercised his power and authority. I think the question for most of us is why did God intervene and how can we get Him to “do it” again?
Let me state first, and somewhat emphatically, that God is sovereign and does not and will not “perform” miracles upon our command or based on our expectations. In fact, Peter notes as much when he states “why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” This event was NOT the result of Peter’s power or piety (holiness). So, God did this and it clearly wasn’t because Peter or this man deserved it.
To understand this miracle and, I believe, every other miracle we see in scripture or in our world today, we must clearly hear and understand Peter’s next words. Peter explains that God was focused and is still focused on glorifying Christ in and through the events these people had just witnessed. In other words, God had healed this man specifically through the “name” or glory, power and authority God had given Jesus and had done so for the express purpose of showing them what He is even now doing through Jesus Christ.
I think we tend to approach miracles as though we deserve them. If we need a miracle and God doesn’t deliver then we question His goodness as though He shortchanged us. Miracles are an expression of God’s glory and His grace and, quite simply, grace isn’t grace if it is earned or deserved. In this instance, God grants grace and heals this man through faith in the name of Jesus and suddenly Peter has everyone’s attention. Just what God intended…
The purpose of this miracle and, as I stated earlier, all miracles is to glorify God and to focus attention on Jesus and His atoning death and life giving resurrection. Somehow most people usually miss that part of a miracle. A miracle draws attention to God precisely because it is outside the realm of human ability and understanding. We have no other explanation. So, a miracle is a bit like a roadside neon sign on a dark night that’s flashing and drawing attention to God’s presence. Slow down! Stop a minute and take a look!
We need to recognize and understand the same about the miracles we seek in our lives. Instead of drawing attention to us and our faith, the miracles we seek and so desperately desire must have the purpose of drawing attention to God and the Gospel of Christ. In fact, our entire life should have that same goal. If our life goal is personal achievement and financial success then we’ve completely missed the purpose of our existence and that really is Peter’s message to the crowd.
Peter points out that the very God these Jewish worshippers claimed to seek had intervened into history and they had completely overlooked that miracle. They were so focused on their own experiences and expectations they completely missed “God in their midst.” In fact, Peter points out that the pagan, Roman governor Pilate was more aware of God’s presence than they were. He had sought to release the “Holy and Righteous One” but the people insisted he release a murderer instead. God is, once again, in their midst and they’ve just witnessed His power and glory in this man’s healing. Peter’s point is crystal clear, don’t make the same mistake twice.
C.S. Lewis said, “…we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
Peter says the people (and their rulers) had previously acted towards Jesus out of ignorance, but that can no longer be their excuse. God has clearly declared Jesus’ position as the “Author of life” through the truth and power of the resurrection. This declaration also applies to you and me. We might have formerly reacted towards Jesus out of ignorance, but that is no longer the case. The witness of Peter and John to the truth of the resurrection and the amazing glory of God demonstrated in the miracle of this man’s healing stands as proof of Jesus’ position. We can no longer claim ignorance. We must choose…
There are a great many things that we say give life purpose and meaning. We seek happiness and personal fulfillment through various means. Some say they find it in discovering work that is satisfying and enjoyable. Steve Jobs, founder and former CEO of Apple, said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.”
Others think happiness comes through finding that “one true (romantic) love” of your life. They would say, we aren’t fully satisfied or complete until we find just that “right someone” with whom to share our life. They spend their lives loving, leaving and then finding a new love interest every few months or years. We live in a world of unsatisfied looking and longing for our “soul mate.”
Still others seek satisfaction and fulfillment in the accumulation of wealth or things. For some it is the accumulation money or financial success and for others it is the biggest, most expensive toys or possessions. I knew a man several years ago whose primary life goal was to make certain his wife had a new Cadillac to drive each year. Her car was a statement of his personal success. You see, each of these things (work, blessings and love) are really a piece of God’s design but by themselves they all fall short of deep, soul-satisfying purpose.
Why have I made such a big deal out of this issue? Because, like these Jewish men and women who claimed to love God above all else, we often overlook the “Author of life.” This phrase really points out that Jesus is not only the Creator through whom the world was made, but He IS the very essence of life and existence. What we truly need, what we are really seeking is Him. The satisfaction and fulfillment we seek in work, in financial achievement and in love is most fully met in Christ. The reason we feel empty and aimless is because we’re wandering around trying to find fulfillment in everything but that which can truly satisfy our desires.
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” — C.S. Lewis
So, what do we do? How should we respond? Peter says our only logical choice is repentance, to turn back so that our sins may be blotted out. To repent means to stop going the direction you’re going and to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Stop running away from God, stop denying the truth of Jesus’ deity and authority, stop seeking life in things that can’t satisfy and begin seeking the “Author of life.”
Just for a moment, stop and ask yourself what God has been doing to get your attention? Maybe, like C.S. Lewis suggests, He has been “whispering in your pleasure or speaking in your conscience.” Are you listening? Sometimes He does have to “shout in our pain” to get our attention. Don’t make Him shout twice. Maybe, just maybe, like the gentleman in our story, God has demonstrated His glory and presence through a miracle in your life. Has He gotten your attention?