Friends, I am glad you are here today. You’ve come into this meeting expecting to hear about Jesus, so that you might follow him as your Lord, your Messiah. Most people who are not here today, though … they think you are a bit crazy. They think that your relationship with Jesus is a leap of faith, that you are just hoping, against all reason, that God exists, and that this Bible we read is His Word. They think it is an unreasonable leap of faith to trust in this man who lived two thousand years ago.
I agree that our religion is a leap of faith. But a different kind of leap. Our leap of faith is a leap of joy enabled by faith. That faith is not irrationally hopeful, for it is based upon reason and experience. We heard the truth, didn’t we friends? And we checked it out and thought it through. Since we put our trust in Jesus, he has blessed us in so many different ways that we can’t help but leap for joy. Yes, we have taken a leap of faith, but not a leap into the dark unknown … a leap into the arms of the God who loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us, rise from the dead in history, and bless the nations.
Friends, we are no doubt in a very small minority of Australians who have faith in Christ. The task before us - to make disciples of all nations - is daunting! People don’t want to hear about Jesus, people don’t think they need him. But Brighton Le Sands does need Jesus. He offers wholeness to all people as their Messiah, and this wholeness is received only by faith in him. The leap of faith is available to all.
You may have come in here this morning having not yet placed your trust in Jesus. You haven’t felt the joyful leap of faith. This morning the offer is for you, too.
We are learning from God’s Word in Acts chapter 3, when Peter healed a man lame from birth, and then spoke to a crowd from verse 12 onwards. Today we’ll initially consider the miracle itself, which illustrates well the joy of faith - literally a leap of faith. Then we’ll consider two aspects of Peter’s speech to the gathered crowd – Jesus as Messiah of all, and the wholeness he offers.
Chapter three begins with two apostles, Peter and John, walking into the temple, and meeting a beggar. This man, says verse 2, was ‘lame from birth’, so disabled that he had to be carried to the temple to beg. He asked Peter and John for money, and the response is magnificent; verses 6 and 7: ‘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.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong’. This man had never walked; his feet and ankles had always been weak. Yet now, verse 8, ‘He jumped to his feet and began to walk’. This was so life-changing, so liberating, that as Peter and John continued into the temple, ‘he went with them … walking and jumping, and praising God.’
He knew that God had done this in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and he believed. Peter says to the crowd in verse 16, ‘By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.’ Faith made him leap for joy and praise God with all his might. This reminds me of David leaping and dancing before the Lord a thousand years before, as the ark of the covenant was carried into Jerusalem. This previously lame man was elated, and his joy was infectious. In verse 10 he is recognised as the lame beggar, and people are ‘filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.’
This is contagious faith, friends. Think about your own faith. What changes has Jesus brought to your life? I personally have not been healed of a life-long disability, but Jesus has made a massive impact on my life. I have peace and joy and hope. You all have stories of the life-changing, liberating power of Jesus. Which prayers of yours has Jesus answered miraculously over recent weeks? Meredith and I were praying this last week about an event we knew could go really pear-shaped, and amazingly everything went perfectly. We were thankful to God, and deeply joyful.
Joyful faith is contagious, such that others ask you for the reason for the hope that you have, as Peter wrote years later (1 Peter 3:15), if you share your joy in Christ. Even as you go about your everyday practice of worshipping God, as Peter and John were doing, God will work through you to ignite faith in others. If someone does ask you about your faith, then imitate Peter’s words in verses 12 and 13: ‘he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.’
Not by Peter’s own power or godliness, but by Jesus: Peter gave God the glory. When someone compliments you or asks you about your joy, give God the glory, and speak of Jesus.
That is a man truly taking a leap of faith. He had trusted Jesus and experienced what Jesus had done, so jumped around praising God. Let’s now turn to how Peter uses this opportunity to tell people that Jesus is the Messiah of all who offers wholeness to all.
The miracle happens at the approach to the Jewish temple, a copy of the one Solomon had built many centuries before. Peter addresses the crowd as fellow Israelites, establishing connection and union with them. In verse 13 he mentions their shared history: ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.’ In verses 24 and 25, he bundles together most of the Old Testament when he says, ‘Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers.’
When David was leaping and praising God, he was bringing God’s promises, in the ark of the covenant, into Jerusalem. David had been anointed as a Messiah, or Christ, by Samuel the prophet. God had promised David that his descendants would always sit on the throne of Israel, and later prophets expanded on this, saying that rule of one descendant, The Messiah, would last forever. The prophet Isaiah had spoken of him as a holy and righteous servant. Isaiah had also predicted that in The Messiah’s day, ‘will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.’ (Isa 35:6). This is really happening, says Peter. The Messiah has come to you and that’s why this miracle has happened.
Further proof of this was the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead. God had said through Isaiah, ‘See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.’ (Isa 52:13). Hundreds of years before Isaiah, Moses had also predicted his coming. Verse 22: ‘For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.’ So, Peter says in verse 15: ‘You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.’
Jesus is the Jewish Messiah! Over a thousand years of waiting was finished, for Jesus had been raised from the dead. Peter calls him ‘the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus’, in verse 20. When you offer to read the Bible with someone who does not yet believe, you might want to go to this speech here in Acts 3. You could say, “Look, Peter is quoting from Scriptures written hundreds of years before he was born. We have physical evidence of this, such as the Dead Sea scrolls. And these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus.”
Although, who really cares about a Jewish Messiah? What would your Hindu neighbour care for that piece of Jewish religious history? Perhaps very little. So, we also need to understand that Jesus is the Messiah for all people. Peter says in verse 25 that God had ‘said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ Every culture, every family, every nation is to be blessed through the Messiah. Blessing is a bit of a “Churchy” word, but it means a favour or gift bestowed by God in order to bring happiness.
When we think of how the Lord has blessed us; the gifts that make us leap for joy … don’t we want these same things for our friends, our neighbours, our families? The comfort of knowing that God loves us no matter what. The assurance that there is a purpose in everything, even the most painful and most mundane of events. The humility that comes from being forgiven. The thrill of seeing God answer your prayers. The Messiah of all has been appointed to bring blessing to all people, so that they can be happy.
This blessing is the theme of this whole chapter. The lame man was healed – what a blessing! Peter says in verse 16, ‘By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.’
The word behind ‘completely healed’ has to do with wholeness or completeness. The only other time this word is used in the Bible is in 1 Thessalonians 5:23: ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Wholeness means that every part of ourselves is unaffected by evil in every respect. This man experienced wholeness in his body, when he was healed. God wants wholeness of spirit, soul and body for each of us.
The New Testament doesn’t focus on physical healing as a key benefit of the gospel. Jesus healed a great many people, and the Apostles healed people, but these miracles pointed to something more significant. Peter could have said, after verse 16, that Jesus could heal anyone of anything. He could have told them to bring their illnesses and disabilities to Jesus. Instead, he offers something different, another kind of wholeness. Verse 19: ‘Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.’ Down in verse 26 he says that ‘When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”’
Disability and illness are indeed a scourge in our lives. Long-term pain and physical suffering are woeful. Our deeper need, however, is for our sins to be wiped out, and to be turned from our wicked ways. It is our base desires and selfish impulses that truly being misery into our lives and into the lives of others. Tim Paine resigned as Australian Cricket Test captain this week, for what? Not because his physical skill or capabilities have diminished, but because of his sexual immorality. It’s his sin that has ruined his career; maybe his marriage. Sin is a disease of the heart that doesn’t just threaten our physical life, like other heart diseases. Sin brings us misery and eternal death.
What all people need is wholeness of soul. Only Jesus can offer this, for only he died for our sins. God had planned for his Messiah to suffer, verse 18. Romans 8:3 says that God sent ‘his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh’. Sin was condemned and crucified with Jesus.
The way to receive this blessing is through repentance, verse 20, and faith, verse 16. We turn away from our sins – that’s repentance – and we turn towards Jesus – that’s faith. We receive wholeness of spirit and soul through repentance and faith. There is no other way, just as this lame man could not possibly have been healed so immediately after a lifetime of disability, except through Jesus. He didn’t do anything, he just believed, and was made strong, verse 16.
The place where he was healed was called ‘Beautiful’. Luke reminds us of that twice, in verses 2 and 10. It was a gate into the temple; into God’s place. I wonder if today is a beautiful day for you? Does your spirit even now desire freedom from sin and your soul cry out for refreshment from your creator? Then come to God through Jesus, friend. He said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. … I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came that your sins might be wiped out, that you might be blessed with refreshment from the Lord. Repent and believe. God wants you to take a leap of faith, that he might bless you with gift after gift after gift. Make today a beautiful day, and repent and believe in Jesus.
I’m going to pray now, and I’d like you all to pray with me. The prayer will come up on the screen, and you will repeat each line after me.
Dear God, I know that I am not worthy to be accepted by you. I don't deserve your gift of eternal life. I am guilty of rebelling against you and ignoring you. I need forgiveness. Thank you for sending your son to die for me that I may be forgiven. Thank you that he rose from the dead to give me new life. Please forgive me and change me, that I may live with Jesus as my ruler. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer for the first time this morning, I’d like to know about it. Please tick the box on your yellow communication card and hand it in after the service. We’ve learned today, friends, why all people need Jesus. He offers wholeness to all people as their Messiah, and this wholeness is received only by faith in him. This joyful leap of faith is available to all. Amen?