READ – Acts 3:1-4:22 | POWER
One of the central claims of Christianity is that, in the early part of the first century, Jesus of Nazareth was killed by the religious and political powers of Jerusalem for claiming to be God in the flesh. Three days later He miraculously rose from death. While the implications of that are inexhaustible, one implication is clear: Jesus’ resurrection introduced a new kind of power in the world. That’s what is on display in Acts 3-4 – the power of the new creation in the healing of a disabled beggar. It’s clear that the audience of the miracle were particularly interested in the power at work in Peter and John. The crowds were amazed by the power (Acts 3:12) and the Sanhedrin or religious rulers were annoyed by it (Acts 4:7). What is this power and how does it connect with our life today? That’s the focus of Sunday’s message.
1. WHERE’S THE POWER FROM?
The concept of power may be too abstract for us. Nevertheless, it is a very present part of our experience. Consider this: power is the capacity to affect reality. Think of a typical workplace. Power is always at work in any organization or institution. Some have legitimate power because they’re in a higher position that necessitates control over people in lower positions. Some have the power of an expert – they are influencers because they hold the right academic degrees or have the right experience. Some people you know have connectional power. They attain influence and clout in the company by gaining favor with their higher ups.
In Acts 3-4 there’s two hints about where people look for power and Peter’s message about where power can ultimately be found.
· Looking Out | Some people look out to find power in external structures, rituals, or strong leaders. For 1st century Jews and pagans, power often came from temple(s). At the center of Judaism was the temple in Jerusalem. This was the place where a powerful connection with God could be found through worship and the place where God had promised to be powerfully present. For the modern, secular West, our places and people of power are not necessarily religious temples, but we still look out to find power. Consider Silicon Valley and the allure of technology to shape and affect reality into a better world.
· Looking In | Some people look inward for power. For a 1st century audience, power could come from people who were highly spiritual and religious. Thus, Peter deflects attention away from himself after the miraculous healing (Acts 3:12). For 21st century people, we too often look to the self. You can discover countless self-help strategies that invite you to ignore external validation and instead become confident and bold by living up to your own standards, following your own North Star, or focusing on your own self-worth.
· Looking Up | Peter points us to another way. He invites us to look up. If you are unsure whether or not the power demonstrated through Peter and John is really necessary, then consider this: isn’t the world and our lives filled with brokenness? Aren’t all of us (in countless ways) reaching for some kind of capacity to affect reality, to move things towards a better place? You may have relationships that are disintegrating and you feel helpless. Your kids may be ignoring Jesus and chasing after false idols and you’re powerless. You may be stuck in a job where people are abusing their power, and you are incapable of changing the system. Peter fixes our attention on the reality that God has housed and centered his power on Jesus of Nazareth.
2. WHAT’S THE POWER FOR?
The miraculous healing of the lame beggar by Jesus through the words of Peter and John shows us not only the source of power, but the purpose of the power.
First, the healing is a prophetic pointer to the cosmic healing of all physical brokenness and disability. Peter’s claim in Acts 3:21 is that Jesus’ reign will eventually result in the restoration of all things spoken of through the prophets. The Old Testament spoke often of a time when all things would be put back to rights by a chosen and anointed Messiah, a Rescuer who would come not only to make the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk, but vanquish the powers that had caused the world to give way to entropy and death. Miracles in the Bible aren’t just a show of strength, but a sign about the alleviation of all suffering that’s coming through the Messiah. That means that God cares about the material world. He cares about your body. He cares about suffering and brokenness and is no happier with all of it than we are.
Second, the physical healing of the beggar also points to the spiritual healing of sinful brokenness. The man’s physical condition before the healing pointed toward our spiritual condition right now. He was disabled in his body; but the Bible’s claim is that we are all disabled in our hearts. We are constantly looking to sources of power we think will fix our problems and offer us a better world, but they actually won’t – just like some spare money from Peter wouldn’t have healed the man of his primary problem. God says that our deepest, primary problem is sin. Sin is a kind of spiritual disease. It disables us. It cripples everything we do and touch. It twists and distorts the ways in which we desire and utilize power – whether it’s money, control, significance. But it’s not something that only works on us, we also actively choose it. Peter says as much in his sermon to the religious elite in Acts 4 – sin is the rejection of Jesus, the cornerstone, the ultimate Power in the universe.
3. HOW DO WE ACCESS THE POWER?
So how do we access the power? Repentance and faith. That’s what Peter says in Acts 3:19 and Acts 3:16.
Repentance is a kind of turning back from our own pursuit of power. It’s admitting we are not in control. It’s the confession that we are powerless. Ironically, repentance is a giving up of power that is in fact powerful. In repentance we place ourselves under the command and control of Jesus, the Christ, the Author of our lives and life itself. But in submitting to him, we are inviting the Source of all power to enter our lives and utilize us for his kingdom.
Faith is trusting in “the Name” of Jesus. That’s another way of saying the reality of Jesus. His Name stands for who he is. So faith in His Name means trusting and banking your entire reality on Jesus. If power is all about the capacity to do something to achieve a result, then faith is the opposite: it’s the recognition and rest in the results already accomplished by Jesus. It’s leaning your entire life into Jesus’ capacity and ability, not your own.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Is power in and of itself wrong? Why or why not? Are there legitimate uses of power? Explain.
3. Are there ways in which you look out or look in to find power? The sermon mentioned the tech world of Silicon Valley and the techniques of self-help. What are some other ways in which we look to sources of power besides God? How do you think looking out and looking in rather than looking up affects the way we seek and use power?
4. The power on display in Acts 3-4 points towards both cosmic physical healing and personal spiritual healing. What are some ways you have experienced God’s powerful grace in healing you this week? What are areas of brokenness in our neighborhood, culture, and world that you are longing for God to heal? What does prayer for both kinds of healing look like?
5. Jesus was the stone rejected that became the cornerstone. He was the crucified criminal who became the King of the world. How does that shape your view and pursuit of power? What does it look like to follow Jesus with the power he grants us?