Wholeness in Jesus Christ
April 14, 2024

Wholeness in Jesus Christ

Preacher:
Passage: Acts 3:1-26

Knowing Jesus

We’re continuing in the Book of Acts tonight, to see how the earliest Christians spoke about Jesus and his significance. Though we’re a new church in Mount Pleasant, we want to make sure we really know the real, historical Jesus that his disciples knew. We don’t want to have a church that worships a Jesus of our own imaginations. We want to know the real Jesus ourselves, and gain confidence in making him known to others. Knowing Jesus Christ is foundational to being the church that God is calling us to be. Tonight we’ll again how Jesus is proclaimed in Acts Chapter 3. So if you have your Bibles with you, please turn with me to Acts Chapter 3. Before I read our text for tonight, please pray with me:

[PRAY AND READ TEXT]

A Broken World

We are frequently reminded that there’s something wrong with the world. When someone we love dies, when a marriage relationship spirals downward and ends in divorce, when oppressive laws are passed, when we see the devastation of war, when we see the affects of drug addiction – when we hear reports of child abuse, election interference, medical malpractice, abject poverty – these events remind us that the world is sick with a devastating cancer.

For some of you, you may not be confronted with these issues very often. Chances are, some of you have a pretty decent life, and don’t feel personally afflicted on a regular basis. But others of you know the brokenness of the world every moment of every day.

This lame man we’re introduced to in Acts 3, who’s unable to walk – he’s constantly aware that everything isn’t okay. Because his whole life long, he sees the world’s brokenness in himself. Never once has he been able to stand on his own two feet. He can’t walk to the bathroom on his own. He can’t step outside to get fresh air on a sunny day. In his childhood, he could never run outside to play with the other children – like a normal boy. Instead the kids would point at him and whisper. Every time he was carried out of the house, his neighbors would stare at his shriveled, twisted legs. The old women would grimace and shake their heads at him. And as he grew older, his family members would set him by well-travelled roads to beg for food and money. But this just exposed him all the more to the staring, the mockery, the disdain – to public humiliation. Every coin that fell into his lap was a reminder that he was a good-for-nothing – weak, pitiful, and helpless.

But one day, as he’s sitting by the temple asking for alms – for gifts of charity – two men show up and do the unthinkable. They heal his legs. They make him whole, they restore him. The beggar begins to leap for joy. He follows these two men, Peter and John, praising God. And a crowd of people begin to gather, looking for an explanation.

And in the following verses, Peter explains everything. There are four elements of his speech to notice. He speaks of Jesus Christ as Respected. He speaks of Jesus Christ as Rejected. He speaks of Jesus Christ as Expected. And he speaks of Jesus Christ as Extended.

Jesus Christ Respected

So first, Jesus Christ respected. As the crowds gathered around Peter, imagine what they must have been saying. “The beggar has been healed! These must be holy men, or powerful prophets!” People were concluding that Peter must be someone great. It would have been easy for Peter to let people’s admiration go to his head. After all, back in Luke 22, Peter and Jesus’s other followers had a history of seeking self-promotion. They used to argue over which one of them was the greatest. But here, Peter doesn’t crown himself the Supreme Father of the early Church. He doesn’t present himself as someone who is inherently capable, authoritative, or spiritual.

Instead, Peter denies his greatness in verse 12: “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?” Peter’s aware that this miracle has nothing to do with his power or piety. He’s not better than other people. That’s not what this is about. The miracle doesn’t tell us about the greatness of Peter. It tells us about the greatness of Jesus.

But oh, how tempting it is to take credit for what God has done. The fashion queen is tempted to boast in her beauty. The academic is tempted to brag about his intellect. The athlete is tempted to brag about her strength. Even religion is something that people try to use for self-advancement. There are people in ministry who are out to make a name for themselves, to attract a social media following, to sell books, to draw people to themselves.

But Peter has encountered something better than himself. He’s adamant that people shouldn’t be amazed with him. Because Peter isn’t the one who brought wholeness to this man. Peter isn’t the one who brings wholeness and rightness to the world. Instead, in verse 13, Peter urges them to respect Jesus. He says “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus.” And if Jesus has been glorified by God – if the transcendent, Most High deity has honored and exalted this Jesus, then we should think carefully about the way we treat Jesus. We have no right to despise the one God has delighted in, or to reject the one that God has glorified.

Jesus Christ Rejected

Yet in the second half of verse 13, Peter rebukes the people, because they have, in fact, rejected God’s servant. This is my second point: Jesus Christ rejected. And as Peter rebukes them here, he exposes just how foolish and wicked they were to oppose Jesus.

First, he reminds them, they “delivered over and denied” Jesus “in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.” This man, Pilate, was the pagan Roman governor who was the judge over Jesus’s case. And Peter draws a contrast between this foreign, pagan man, Pilate, and the Jews. You’d think that these Jews, who knew the Old Testament, who were waiting for God’s servant to bring wholeness and restoration – surely the Jews would have been on Jesus’s side! But they treated Jesus like a criminal. And even after this pagan man, Pilate confirmed that Jesus was innocent and should be released, Luke 23:21 says that “[the crowds] kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!”

Peter goes on in verse 14: “But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.” See, back when Jesus was killed, that’s what happened. The crowds asked for a notorious murderer, Barabbas, to be set free in the place of Jesus. And Peter says look what you chose for yourself! If you loved holiness and righteousness, you would have asked for Jesus. But instead you asked for a murderer. You called Jesus a villain, and chose the murderer to be your hero!

And every time we choose to embrace any kind of sin – laziness, drunkenness, lust, slander, unrighteous anger, greed – we’re doing the same thing! We’re rejecting the rightness of Christ, and in his place we’re asking for the deadly enemy sin to be empowered and released! We’re guilty of the same type of evil.

Yet Peter has one more accusation, in verse 15: “…You killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” Notice the irony again. Jesus, the Author of life – the one who gave each person breath, the one who came to bring them lasting life with God – they put him to death. That’s the way these people welcomed their Maker. That’s how they told Jesus “thank you.” They didn’t worship him. They didn’t validate him. They wouldn’t even tolerate him. They killed him.

And Peter explains that this puts them in danger. Because God has confirmed that he stands with Jesus by raising him from the dead. So if you aren’t standing with Jesus, Peter says, then you and God aren’t on the same team. It means that you’re setting yourself up as God’s enemy.

Yet Peter acknowledges, “brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers.” You didn’t know what you were doing. But Peter presses them here – now you do know. You can’t pretend to be ignorant anymore. In verse 19, Peter urges them – you need to REPENT, and turn back to God. Because if you do turn back – if you receive this Jesus instead of rejecting him – your sins will be blotted out, he says. Your guilt will be washed away. And just as that lame man received wholeness and wellness, times of wholeness and restoration will come to you.

Jesus Christ Expected

Because this is what God has promised in the Old Testament. The arrival of Jesus Christ was expected – which is my third point, Jesus Christ Expected. Though the people were once ignorant of this, Peter explains to them how the whole of Scripture anticipated Jesus as God’s ultimate prophet, priest, and king.

Verse 19 confirms that He’s the expected priest. It’s because of Jesus, and his affliction for the people, that their sins are blotted out.

Verses 20 and 21 confirm that he’s the expected king. Back in Acts 1, verse 6, the disciples are asking, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus’s followers understood that he, as the king appointed by God – as the appointed Christ – only he could bring restoration to the world. And here in verses 20 and 21, Peter affirms that Jesus is the great kingdom-restorer predicted by the prophets.

Finally, in verses 22 through 24, Peter confirms that Jesus is the expected prophet – the great prophet spoken of by Moses, and foreshadowed by every other prophet afterward. This great prophet, Jesus, is the one we must listen to in whatever He tells us! “And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.”

It’s much easier to fill your ears with the political commentators, the sports analysts, the economy gurus, with neighborhood gossip – but are you actually taking to heart the words of God’s Servant? Are you putting his commands into practice? Are you finding joy in the realness of his promises? Are you treasuring the things he says you should treasure? Are you listening to your great prophet, priest and king?

Jesus Christ Extended

Because He’s for you. Jesus Christ is extended to you, just as Peter extended Jesus to that crowd in Jerusalem, so many years ago. This is my fourth and final point – Jesus Christ extended. Back in verse 16, Peter confirmed, “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.” Peter is telling us here that restoration comes through Jesus. His is the name we must lift high. Yet Peter’s also insisting that if you want restoration, if you want wholeness – if you want Jesus’s power and provision to touch your life, you need to personally believe in this Jesus. It’s by faith in his name that this man was made well. And it’s by faith in his name that you will find wholeness and restoration, as well.

In verse 24, Peter tells the crowd that the covenant made with Abraham is being extended to them. Jesus, the offspring of Abraham, has come to bless – not only the Jews – but all nations. And what is the blessing that Jesus brings? Verse 25: “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

What Peter lays before the crowds is blunt, it’s simple – it’s astonishing. God has sent his Holy and Righteous servant to turn you from your wickedness. Believe in him, Peter says. This is the way to wholeness, to restoration, just like that lame man was made well. And notice here – you and I can’t claim to be ignorant anymore. You must choose between your wickedness and God. Either you will receive God’s servant, or you will remain God’s enemy.

A Blessing for Each One of You

Please pay attention in this last verse – Peter says that God has sent his servant Jesus – why? – to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness. That’s my great hope – that every last one of you in this room tonight would receive this blessing – that you would turn your attention to Jesus, that the legs of your heart would be healed for walking in integrity and dignity before the face of God. Please, make sure this is you.