Miracles: A Means To A Greater End
This post resurrection scene is full of immediate and consequential power. Peter and John were going up to the Temple for the afternoon prayers when they see a man who has been crippled from birth being carried and placed at the gate of the Temple called the Beautiful Gate. The man held out his begging bowl to them as they passed. Filled with the Spirit and charged with the invigorated power of their faith, after personally witnessing the risen Jesus, Peter and John react to the man in an unexpected way.
Instead of placing a coin in the man’s bowl, we are told that Peter and John “looked intently at him and said, ‘Look at us.’” (verse 4) Already the routines of his begging have been broken. People usually either ignored him, or put a little something in his bowl and passed on without a word. Then, Peter tells the man that he has neither silver nor gold, “But what I have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” (verse 6) Peter then took the man’s hand and helped him up and the man’s legs and ankles “grew strong” and he began to jump and walk, all the time praising God. A miracle! And all who witnessed it were rightfully astonished. People started to gather in large numbers around Peter and John, so Peter took advantage of the moment and began telling them about themselves and this Jesus.
Miracles. Too often we think of them as ends in and of themselves, rather than what they really are, means to a greater end. They are “signs” that point to something greater than themselves. They challenge us to look beyond their material evidence. We tend to fixate on the miracle, just like the people gathering around this event in Acts. They are amazed by what they have seen, but they are fixated on the “dancing cripple” and on Peter and John, who they think were the ones that brought this miracle about. But Peter redirects their attention away from him and toward the real power behind the miracle, that is, their faith in the power that comes through the very name of Jesus Christ.
Then Peter seizes the moment to preach to those gathered around him and reminds them of the recent events concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus, the news of which was still fresh in Jerusalem. He challenges them with the fact that this Jesus, the one whom they had rejected and killed, was indeed the Righteous One who had been proclaimed through all of the prophets, from Abraham’s time to the present. Peter was directing their attention to the truth beyond the miracle, to Jesus, in whose name it was done. He tells them that this Jesus is, indeed, the very Author of Life. This Jesus whom they had been put to death on the cross on Golgotha, and who rose again on the third day, is “the power” that brings about the miracle of all life and all that is good. It is not the miracle that we are to focus on, rather it is Jesus that demands our attention and our amazement. Then Peter calls them to the “miracle” that they really seek in the depths of their souls—repentance. This is the miracle that brings Jesus’ cleansing mercy to each of us. It is our faith in the power that resides in the name of Jesus Christ that heals us of all of our sins. Peter, of course, knew this because he had seen with his own eyes that the Author of Life, Jesus, who had been put to death, was risen from the dead. That, then, is the message. Jesus is the power. Miracles are merely signs that direct us back to him.
God, help us to see you in the miracles of truth, goodness and beauty that are around us every day. Light our minds with the wisdom of faith. Guard us from the foe. Help us to rule over our foolish passions, and guide our feet into the way of Christ’s peace. We pray believing in the power of the name, Jesus. Amen!
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