In the beginning of Acts chapter 3 we read about a man who was crippled from birth. Every day he sat outside the temple gate called beautiful and begged for for money as devout Jews passed by to go to worship. One of the 3 pillars of the Jewish faith was the giving of alms. So, most of the devout Jews undeniably recognized this man and sometimes they would throw him a coin or two. Peter and John did something different, they stopped, they engaged with this man, had him look them in the eyes and prayed for him to walk in the name of Jesus.
Acts 3:6–10 (ESV) — 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.
This miracle, gave a wide open door for Peter to preach the gospel. Peter was simply doing what He saw Jesus do for 3 years. After most miracles Jesus performed, Peter saw people react with awe and wonder. Jesus would take that opportunity to preach truth. Here, we see a man who most of the people recognized as the lame man instead walking, and leaping, and praising God! So, just like when Jesus performed miracles, people were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened. Here is how Peter responds:
Acts 3:11–26 (ESV) — 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 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? 13 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. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 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. 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 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. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Peter was a student of Jesus. He knew Jesus intimately and personally, and knew the Torah that prophesied all about Jesus. This depth of experiential and personal knowledge of Jesus was evident by Peter’s boldness in proclaiming Jesus. Just reading Peter’s sermon, it’s evident that Peter preached out of this overflowing relationship with Jesus. Peter was a fisherman, not known for his academic prowess, but because Peter was willing and hungry, God imparted deep theological truths to him. By the power of the Spirit, Peter drew from this theological depth to preach effectively and powerfully about Jesus to these Jewish people. Peter effectively pointed them to the truth that Jesus of Nazareth, the same Jesus one who healed the lame man who stood before him as Peter preached, the same one who they crucified, was also the Messiah who they’ve been waiting for and the scriptures foretold.
Jesus Himself took as many opportunities as He could to teach theological truth. There are 37 miracles recorded in the Bible and nearly all of them Jesus is not just healing and walking away, but uses the opportunity to teach truth. We see this with the woman at the well in John chapter 4. Jesus was teaching this woman that He was the living water that she could drink from and never thirst again, In Matthew 9:28-29 Jesus was teaching two blind man about faith and took time to ask them pointed questions about their faith in Jesus ability to heal.
As we become hungry students of Jesus God will deepen our relational and theological knowledge of Him and use this to teach others about Him. In order to be a good teacher we have to be first a good student.
Recognized the lobbed ball.
Peter and John recognized an opportunity to preach the Gospel and when to stop and pray for the lame man. I pray we all have a sensitive heart to be led by the Spirit and walk in power in proclaiming Jesus to a lost world. For so many years the lame man was brought to the temple gate called beautiful daily. Through the years, many would flip this man a coin, but this time the Holy Spirit pricked Peter and John’s heart to stop and pray for the man. They recognized that God was doing something special.
The Home Run Derby is a fun event in baseball where they lob easily hit balls at power hitters to see how many home runs can be hit in a set amount of time. Sometimes God is lobbing us ministry opportunities whether it’s to pray for someone, or extend kindness to an individual at the grocery store, or lead someone to the Lord.
Sometimes God is lobbing us a baseball to slug out of the park, and we just grab it and throw it back. We need to be sensitive to the Spirit and recognize when God is giving us an opportunity to preach the gospel and point people to Jesus. So when we sense God lobbing us a ball, I pray that we swing hard, and hit it out of the park. Be willing to miss, but don’t stand and watch an opportunity pass you by! Are we perfect at this? no! Was Peter? No! Sure he is pumped up quite a bit in the Gospels and Acts. But, let’s be honest Peter had some glaring flaws. He denied Jesus 3 times. Peter missed a lot of opportunities. But I love how Peter knew how to recognize an opportunity set up by the Holy Spirit quickly, and before he could think himself out of it, he jumped on it.
Distract and Redirect
Many people with good motives tend to deflect compliments about What God is doing through you, instead of turning that compliment as an opportunity to express the nature of God. Notice when Peter has the crowd’s attention and they begin thinking He has some special power, He doesn’t say, “Oh no, no big deal. It’s all God!” He takes the awe that was directed at him and redirects it to Jesus.
There is a method in parenting called distract and redirect. In order to redirect a two year old, it takes some skill. You’ve got to sell them on something other than what they are doing. So, if you’re child is playing with Grandma’s vase, you try to distract him from the vase and redirect him by making the Fisher Price rattle look more appealing… (usually unsuccessfully in my experience.)
Some people may look at what God is doing in you and think its because you are some superhero. People will see how much joy you have in the midst of difficulty, or see how kind you are to strangers, or see God use you to heal someone. Whatever people see in you that grabs their attention, God is going to use your life as a living gospel to declare the mighty works of God. It is imperative that we pay attention. When people recognize aspects of God in you, God might be using that as an opportunity for you to share about How it is not you, but instead Jesus in you. This is an opportunity to distract them from looking at you and redirect them to Jesus. Just as Peter and John did with the crowd in the temple.
Prayer: I pray that God would bless us all with a deep overflowing hunger for Him that would bubble over and boldness to proclaim the gospel in word and deed. Amen!
1 Corinthians 2:1–5 (ESV) — 1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”