Why Do You Marvel? : That Which is Worth More Than Silver or Gold (Acts 3)

I went to college in a very affluent city in West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Atlantic University rested less than ½ mile from the Atlantic Ocean, but right up against what is called an intercoastal waterway. So you have the ocean, a strip of land, the waterway, then the mainland. We could sit on a bench at the front of the college, look across the intercoastal waterway and see some homes the likes of which few have seen. One person told me that ¼ of the world’s wealth was found on that strip of land between the intercoastal and the Atlantic. Stunning!

When my parents and I went to enroll and go through orientation, we noticed something very strange to us, but is very common in larger cities. On one side of that Intercoastal was ¼ of the world’s wealth. But on the other side toward downtown, beggars and homeless were found all over the place. Of course they would be seen quite a bit around our Christian college, laying guilt trips and taking advantage of young ministry students who were out to help make the world a better place. But no matter how many we gave money to or fed, there were so many one barely made a dent.

As we come to Acts 3, we come face-to-face with a beggar. This beggar was, as Dr. Luke tells us, “lame from birth.” He had to be carried to the Temple and was a daily fixture there (3:2). The only way he could make any income at all was to sit at a very strategic place at a very strategic time and beg for alms (which is money or other items given to the poor). Getting him to this place was no easy task. The Temple rested on a hill, and to get this beggar to this position required going up a number of steep steps.

But there was only so far he could go. He could not go into the Inner Court where his Jewish brothers were. According to OT law, if one had an infirmity like this man, he could not enter in to worship but had to stay in the Outer Court where the Gentiles were. This was his lot in life. He had never known how to walk, run, jump, nor had he ever known the thrill and joy of worshiping! He sat at the entrance.

And what an entrance—the gate called Beautiful! This Temple was built by Herod and was considered one of the great wonders of the ancient world. But this gate, the Beautiful Gate at the eastern part of the Temple, was overlaid with silver and gold! Little did they realize that silver and gold would pale in comparison to the beautiful act that would happen there soon.

There Are Some Things Money Can’t Buy

Some of you are familiar with that memorable MasterCard® commercial with the tagline, “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard®.” While that commercial dealt with buying things we want (tickets to a ball game, concerts, movies, etc.), this beggar was looking for money just to survive. He wasn’t wanting a all-inclusive stay at the Sandals resort in Jamaica—he just wanted his next meal.

He had become such a fixture that most ignored him. We understand that—the majority of people both inside and outside the church ignore. So any response from anyone filled this man with eager anticipation.

Enter Peter and John! Peter, the Word says, “directed hi gaze at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us!” The beggar looked back. No, they didn’t have silver or gold. But they had one, as the chorus said, “More precious than silver… more costly than gold.” They didn’t given him silver or gold—they gave him Jesus. “All hail the power of Jesus’ name”—and in His power, this man stood up and walked!

Notice one phrase in verse 8: “And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” This was no staged ‘miracle.’ Some folks are sour on such things.

My father told me of a time when he was on business in Houston, Texas, when someone invited him to go see Ernest Angley, the faith healer. He went, and noticed a man at the base of the steps by the stage crawling to the stage with his crutch for healing. And Angley healed him. My father, a non-believer at the time, was impressed—until he went to Portland and saw the same Angley and the same man with the same issue asking for the same type of healing.

This is not the same issue at all. This was a man who was lame from birth and who was a daily presence in the Temple. Everyone knew this man—and everyone knew that this was an amazing thing which had happened.

There Are Some Things That Should Not Surprise

[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. (Acts 3:11-16 ESV)

In verse 12, Peter again addresses for the second time the “men of Israel.” And then asks, “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?” What a penetrating question! They had over 3,000 years of accumulated history to see the power demonstrated by the “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our Fathers.” He makes this connection in their minds that the God they worshiped is the God who accomplished this.

One aspect of the Jewish mind that one must understand is how they arranged the furniture in their mind. Their history and the canon of the Old Testament centered around three events that stood as pillars to them and the world: creation, the Passover/Exodus, and the Exile. Each of these demonstrated God’s power, His holiness, and even his justice against sin—not to mention His grace toward His people.

In creation, God merely spoke and it came into being—and it was good. He spoke as to the freedom and the boundaries they had in their relationship to Him—and the consequences were meted out when those boundaries were ignored and they distrusted His protection and wisdom and Word.

At the Passover/Exodus, they were strangers in a foreign land enslaved to a tyrant who believed that he had the power of their life and death in his hands. But through the Passover, God showed who held that power—and how he protected these strangers in a foreign land by delivering them from death by the blood of the Lamb. He delivered them across dry ground, and crushed the Egyptian army by the very waters that he held back for His people.

In the exile 800 years later, the people of Israel had so turned their back on the things of God (from the leaders on down) that when Jeremiah came to preach, no one repented. Hearts were so hardened and their faith so cold that Jeremiah had no conversions in his ministry—and the people of Israel were taken away by the Babylonians out of Egypt, their Temple destroyed, their walls trampled. But God kept them a people and would eventually soften the heart of King Darius and allow them to return to rebuild the Temple and, under Artaxerxes, rebuild the wall!

You see, God has shown his power in creation, over kings of the earth, and even stayed faithful when His people were the acme of unfaithfulness! So God healing a man in the Temple should not have marveled the onlookers!

How do we react when we see God move? Do we attribute it to the preachers or leaders? Do we find some earthly explanation for it? We must not. Because as we will see, all of us who have been on the receiving on of the gospel of grace are walking miracles, to be sure. We are sitting in a better position than even those Jews were, because now we have about 5,000 years of history (OT, NT, church history) to draw from in seeing God’s sustaining power.

There are Some Things Where Ignorance is Not Bliss

[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 again, 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.” (Acts 3:17-26 ESV)

Ignorance! Few things get the dander up of people like being called ignorant. But let’s amp this up a bit. The word here in the Greek is the word agnoia which is where we get the word ‘agnostic.’ It’s someone who in the first century and beyond understood this to be ignorant. In what regard? The word, when taken a part means not (a) – knowing (gnosko). It really means to say that there is not enough evidence to make a determination. But up until recently, an ‘agnostic’ was a derogatory term—because the majority saw plenty of evidence for the existence of God.

Peter said the same thing here: “But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” They had the entirety of their Scriptures (the OT) to draw from. God left His Word. He even brings in Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15 and What is the response? The only appropriate response there is: “Repent … and turn.” You see, this beggar in the temple was a miracle that demonstrated the power of God to heal spiritually! This beggar’s heart was turned from mourning into gladness! How much are do we who have been converted by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to ‘repent’?

If men will not receive the Truth of God till they understand it, there are many things which they will never receive. Yes, there are many facts, common facts in Nature, which nobody would deny but a fool—which yet must be denied if we will not believe them till we understand them! There is a fish fresh taken from the sea—you take it to the cook to serve it on the table. You eat salt with it, do you? What for? You will have it dried and salted, but what for? Did not it always live in the salt sea? Why then is it not salt? It is as fresh as though it had lived in the purling brooks of the upland country—not a particle of salt about it—yet it has lived wholly in the salt sea! Do you understand that? No, you cannot. But there it is, a fresh fish in a salt sea!

And yonder are an ox and a sheep, and they are eating in the same meadow, feeding precisely on the same food. But the grass in one case turns to beef, in the other case to mutton—and on one animal there is hair and on the other wool. How is that? Do you understand it? So there may be two great Truths in Scripture, which are both Truths of God and yet all the wise men in the world might be confused to bring those two Truths together. I do not understand, I must confess, why Moses was told to cut down a tree and put it in the bitter waters of Marah. I cannot see any connection between a tree and the water, so that the tree should make it sweet, but yet I do believe that when Moses put the tree into the water the bitterness of Marah departed and the stream was sweet. I do not know why it is that Elisha, when he went to Jericho, and found the water the bitterness of Marah departed and the stream was sweet.

I do not know why it is that Elisha, when he went to Jericho, and found the water nauseous, said, “Bring me a cruse of salt.” I do not know why his putting the salt into the stream should make it sweet—it looks to me as if it would operate the other way—but I believe the miracle, namely, that the salt was put in and that it was sweetened. So I do not understand how it is that my bidding impenitent sinners to repent should in any way be likely to make them do so, but I know it does—I see it every day. I do not know why a poor weak creature saying to his fellow men, “Believe,” should lead them to believe, but it does so—and the Holy Spirit blesses it—and they do believe and are saved! And if we cannot see how, if we see the fact, we will be content and bless God for it!

Let me ask you this morning: do you have to understand every bit of it to believe it? Does your belief hinge on an earthly, sophisticated explanation before you will take that step? What was Peter doing? He was saying, “You denied him, delievered him, and asked for his death. And that did not stop Him! You tried to kill the Author of life, and yet God raised him from the dead.”

Consider that if God will forgive those who kill His Son, the Author of life, do we not understand that He will forgive the sins of all who would believe?  Now that’s something at which to marvel!

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