I find momentum to be a fascinating thing. Often, it’s associated with sporting events, but really it can refer to any sort of situation.
Momentum happens when things begin to click. Usually, it affects a group of people rather than an individual, though that can sometimes be the case.
I really like seeing momentum develop and build among children. Having coached baseball and soccer, I can see it.
One kid demonstrates an incredible amount of hustle and effort, and the others start catching on. One kid hits a ball really solid, and it suddenly become contagious.
Beyond the sporting world, I love watching kids gain momentum in regards to their studies. I love it when math concepts suddenly begin to click.
What once looked like deciphering a foreign language begins to look like a simple task. They start attacking those problems with speed and confidence.
Eventually, you have to make them slow down because they are a little too comfortable with those problems that used to cause such agony.
Of course, we love to see this kind of momentum among our children in regards to spiritual things. We see this a lot at VBS, I believe.
Others of you see it fairly regularly in our LOL program, Wednesday night preschool class, and in our Sunday School classes.
It’s such a blessing to see kids begin to grasp these theological concepts. Moreover, it’s the best blessing when they start knowingly responding to Jesus.
They move past responding to mommy, daddy, and memorized verses. They start responding to Jesus. They have those “aha!” moments.
They begin to see themselves as they truly are—fully loved by God but also consumed by sinful selfishness.
They begin to see that Jesus can deliver them from that state—that He can offer a better, fuller way of life. They also begin to see that He paid the price for their sin.
Suddenly, they no longer desire simply to come to church. They desire to know Jesus. And, as the old saying goes, knowledge is power.
You know, we talked about real power last week. We looked at the Holy Spirit coming down upon the disciples during the Day of Pentecost.
As confusing as that whole scene might have been, there could be no mistaking that something powerful and life-altering happened among the disciples.
Peter goes on a preaching rampage. Three thousand are added to their fellowship—now a full-blown congregation or community.
And you can sense it as you read through the book of Acts. The momentum is building. Big things are about to start happening.
Things are clicking. The disciples, after so many days of “not getting it” while under Jesus’ leadership, are about to become His hands and feet on the earth.
And the first instance of this comes in our passage this morning. It’s found in the next chapter of Acts, chapter three. I invite you to turn there.
Acts, chapter two, has left us with that huge crowd of believers. It’s also left us with a lively church structure, where everyone holds everything in common.
They eat together. They pray together. They study the word together. They work hard. They share generously. But what happens next is a horse of a different color.
Let’s begin our reading with the first verse of chapter three. (Read Acts 3:1-5.)
Our riveting story begins with something fairly mundane. Peter and John are heading to prayer meeting at the temple.
Amid the throng of people working their way through the temple area, there was a man who had been crippled from birth.
Some people were carrying this man to his usual spot, where he would beg for change and help of some other kind.
Peter and John pass by this man as they head into the temple courts. The man begins his routine. “Do you have some money I can have?” he asks.
First of all, let’s take note that this is not an unfamiliar scene to us. Just about every one of us in here can relate to this experience. We’ve been there.
We’ve come across someone in need, someone homeless and possibly penniless.
Perhaps that person asked us for money. Perhaps that person didn’t say a thing at all. Or perhaps that person was holding a sign.
If you’re like me, a lot of different thoughts run through your head. What do I do here? What is he or she going to do with the money, should I give it?
How can I know that his or her need is sincere? And on and on the questions go.
Of course, we can never answer all these questions. We can never figure out some standard or make some judgment as to whether or not the person is worthy of help.
Nor should we. We were in no way worthy of the help that Jesus gave to us. The scripture says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
He didn’t wait to validate our worthiness. He graciously and generously gave His life for us. As we said in Bible Study last Sunday, I’d rather err on the side of grace.
But this passage today gives us an entirely different take on this sort of situation.
First of all, notice that Peter and John take the time to engage the crippled man.
“Look at us!” Peter exclaims. The man gives them his undivided attention, waiting expectantly. We, too, are left waiting expectantly.
What will happen here? We’ve already talked about the momentum building from the previous chapter. We know these disciples aren’t exactly wealthy men.
What will they do? Is something amazing about to happen? We’re about to read and find out. But first, a reminder of an interesting point.
Peter and John treat this crippled man like the person that he is. He’s not a statistic or an annoyance. He’s a person, worth engaging in conversation.
He’s a person, made and loved by God. He’s a person, in need—just like every person—of knowing Jesus in a personal and saving way.
Let’s see where the story goes now, picking up with verse 6. (Read Acts 3:6-10.)
Peter states that they have no money. “Silver and gold we do not have.” That probably made the beggar ready to shut down.
There was no time to waste on folks who couldn’t help. But just as quickly, Peter states that there is something he has for this man, and he’s willing to give it.
“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,” Peter says, “walk.” Before we jump into this statement, let’s make one thing clear.
More than likely, you and I don’t have this move. In truth, only God has this ability.
But there is a simple truth found in this encounter. There are things more valuable than money. There are things money cannot buy.
Peter and John don’t offer the man money. They offer him Jesus. And we can offer that to people. The power to heal is not in our control.
God could certainly give us that power, but it’s not something we can manipulate into happening. Nor should it necessarily be expected.
Even throughout the history of the Bible, only a select few have been able to perform these sorts of divine miracles—whether healings or other kinds.
Moses did it. Many of the prophets did it. Peter and John and, later, Paul did it.
But it certainly was no regular or expected thing. And notice that it’s only done “in the name of Jesus”. The name of Jesus is synonymous with His power.
We pray “in Jesus’ name”. Those words exhibit an understanding that we can only come before God because of Jesus—His person, His actions, and His name.
Likewise, Peter and John can only bring about this healing because of the presence and power of Jesus Christ. And, as I mentioned earlier, we can offer Jesus to folks.
Doesn’t matter whether they are homeless, helpless, middle class, or affluent. What Peter and John offer here is clearly of more value than money.
The man could walk! Even better, he could jump! He celebrated, praising God. This was far better than a few mere coins or even several bills.
He was touched by the power of God—by the hand of God. He had an encounter with the name of Jesus.
He met God in the presence of the Holy Spirit, Whom we mentioned last week as having filled the disciples.
Look, I get it. This story, as enjoyable and exciting as it is to read, leaves us with that feeling of, “Well, this will never happen to me.”
And you might be right. But I’ll tell you this. Equally exciting as this moment is that moment when you share Jesus with someone and he or she surrenders to Him.
People all over the place—all through our lives and schools and neighborhoods and workplaces—are searching for something. They desperately seek something.
Unfortunately, many of them have been duped into desperately seeking something, which is of far lesser value than knowing Jesus Christ.
They seek money, fortune, and fame. They seek an easier life. They seek an end to all their problems. They seek that man or woman who will fill their emptiness.
And here’s all we can say to that. “I can’t offer you (fill in the blank with whatever thing it is they are seeking. But there’s one thing I can offer you.”
We sing that song, “People Need the Lord”. Unfortunately, sometimes we sing it because it’s pleasing to our ears, and not because it’s starkly and shockingly true.
I can’t fill the emptiness inside a person. I can’t offer fame and fortune. I can’t cure all your problems. But I can tell you how to know Jesus.
I can tell you what He’s done for me. I can tell you about His miraculous appearance on earth—how He’s way better than Santa Claus.
I can tell you about the better life He offers—about the better life He taught of while on earth. And I can tell you about His death on the Cross.
I can tell you about how He handled the ultimate problem facing every one of us—sin. I can tell you how He took my place and my punishment on that Friday.
Most importantly, I can tell you about His resurrection—and His resurrection power. I can tell you that He lives and is still ministering to His people today.
I can tell you that the same power that raised Him from the dead is available for you and me and for the living of our everyday lives.
Instead, what are we offering people? Churches, if they aren’t careful, would rather offer comfort and entertainment. They’d rather offer band aids and sleeping pills.
We don’t offer people answers to tests or relief from problems or more prosperous lifestyles. We offer them Jesus! Those other things aren’t necessarily bad.
But, at the end of the day, they amount to nothing. Only Jesus, and those found in Him, will stand. This is the message that must ring out, loud and clear.
And that’s the message that Peter then preaches. A crowd has gathered. Everyone has recognized that this man jumping and screaming is the man crippled from birth.
Peter, I’m sure through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, senses that the time is now to deliver another sermon.
Let’s read it as we pick up our reading with verse 11. (Read Acts 3:11-26.)
So Peter acknowledges the crowd and begins his message. “Why are you so shocked?” he asks. This was part rhetorical and part sarcastic, I think.
Obviously, they were shocked because a man, crippled from birth, is now dancing and singing through the corridors of the temple area.
However, if these people had paid any attention at all to what Jesus did during His ministry on earth, they would have recognized what was going on.
Peter then asks a pertinent question: “Why do you stare at us?” If you ask me, we do far too much staring at other people in our society.
We elevate our athletes and politicians and even spiritual leaders to the point that it borders on idol worship. Don’t get me wrong.
I marvel at the ability of some basketball players, at the charisma of some speakers, and at the wisdom of some preachers. But they are mere men and women.
They are mere vessels and instruments in the hand of God. Whatever power or ability they have came solely from Him.
Even their development of those gifts comes only by the grace of God working through them. And Peter wants no such star-gazing going on here.
He immediately brings Jesus into the conversation. And he lets the crowd know, in no uncertain terms, that they were responsible for His death.
They handed Him over. They disowned Him. They killed, to quote Peter exactly, “the author of life”. I love that description of Jesus.
An author creates beauty and meaning and wisdom from nothing. And that’s what Jesus did, creating life—real, eternal, and abundant—from nothing.
Their crimes were horrendous—wrongful death, shameful lack of integrity, and a reckless disregard for human life and the things of God.
But we must also think of this in the grander theological context. Yes, they were guilty of condemning Jesus to death. But He had to die. There was no other way.
God’s ordained plan was that Jesus would come to earth, take on human flesh, and die on the cross. Why must this be so? It’s because of our sin.
So, in the grand scheme of things, we are responsible for His death. We are responsible for the tragic execution of an innocent man.
We are responsible for disregarding God and His ways. This is because God said it has to be this way. This was the only way to with our sinfulness.
In verse 15, Peter also draws attention to the fact that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. There is a good ending to His story.
And that means there is a good ending to our story. That same resurrection life—a new life founded on Christ, rather than ourselves—is available to us.
It is through that resurrection life and power that this crippled man now leaps before them. The healing, Peter states, came through faith.
I don’t believe we’re talking about the faith of the crippled man. I don’t know about His spiritual condition prior to the healing, though he seems to believe now.
I think we are talking about the faith of the disciples here. Peter’s unwavering faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ brought about this miracle.
I’m not claiming that, should you get better at this “faith thing”, you too will heal people. I’m merely stating that pure faith in Jesus gives us power.
It gives us access to the Holy Spirit, who brings us the resurrection power of God.
Peter continues to cut them to the quick. He acknowledges that the Jewish folks who rejected Jesus were acting out of ignorance, unaware of who Jesus was.
But now there can be no mistaking the truth. Jesus fulfilled what the prophets foretold long ago. Jesus attested to His divinity through His miracles.
Jesus showed a better way—the way of sacrificial love—on the cross. And God gave the ultimate sign of Jesus’ standing as Messiah when He raised Him from the dead.
There is only one appropriate response, and it’s found in verse 19. “Repent, then, and turn to God.” We must repent—now, and as long as sin stays in our midst.
Unfortunately, we’ve boiled down the word “repent” to mean praying a prayer, walking an aisle, or going under the water.
Repent means, taken literally, to turn around and go in the opposite direction.
Peter is calling out to these people to embrace God-salvation rather than self-preservation. He’s calling them to renounce themselves and embrace Jesus.
One of our biggest problems in life is the inability and unwillingness to own up to our mistakes. We don’t like to show weakness. We don’t like to admit failure.
It’s a natural thing. I even see it in children, far before they’ve had the opportunity to deeply learn such a tendency. And repentance goes far beyond “I’m sorry.”
Those words are especially hard to say, and, unfortunately, once we do say them they seem to be devoid of meaning.
To truly take responsibility for the sin in our lives means we must humble ourselves.
We must confess that we have failed and fallen below standard. We must take ownership of our selfishness. We must be real before God and others.
And what do we have to repent of? It could be most anything. Perhaps we are worshipping the idols of money, materialism, or reputation.
Perhaps there is hatred, bitterness, and arrogance in your heart. Once again, those are all forms of elevating your ways over God’s ways.
Perhaps, to us, our own comfort and security have a greater value than God does.
Perhaps, when we get right down to it, we are all guilty of just that—devaluing God.
He’s just not worth all that much to us. Oh, church is valuable—including our standing within it. Prayer is valuable—as long as it revolves around our needs.
Reading the Bible is valuable—as long as we can pick and choose which parts best benefit us. But, if we aren’t careful, we’ll find we’ve devalued God.
That’s what these Jews were guilty of, perhaps without even knowing it. They needed to repent. And, quite often, so do we.
The beauty of God in the midst of such nasty sinfulness is that He can put our lives back together as they should be, no matter how far we’ve fallen.
We just need the name of Jesus. We just need that same power that raised that fellow in the temple so that he could walk, dance, and leap.
We just need to come—just as we are. The time is now to repent. (Pray.)