Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our text for this morning is the First Reading from Acts chapter 3. This portion of Acts 3 is actually only part of a much larger story which starts at the beginning of chapter 3 and continues into chapter 4. The story begins with Peter and John going into the temple together. As they’re passing through, they see a lame man sitting there begging for money. The man looked at Peter and John and asked if they had anything to give him. Then Peter looked directly at the man and acted as if he was going to give him something. But then Peter said to him: 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! (Acts 3:6). And then something amazing happened.
This man who had never been able to walk in his life stood up and started walking! Then his walking turned into joyful leaps as he praised God for bringing him this healing. Then we’re told that all those who were around recognized this man—he’s the lame man who was always begging at the gate. And so the people were amazed as this man’s joyful praise bore witness to the truth that God had healed him.
2. Then our text begins. We’re told that this man was “clinging” to Peter and John. And as the crowd gathered around to see this man who had been healed, Peter saw his own opportunity to bear witness to the truth. And so, he opened his mouth and began to address the crowd: 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? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus (Acts 3:12-13). There are two important things that Peter says here. First, he points the people to the real source of the miracle. It was not Peter and John’s power that healed this man—it was God’s power that gave this man the ability to walk. But secondly, and just as importantly, Peter makes sure that he also bears witness to the truth of Jesus. It’s not enough just to talk about God in general—the word “God” can mean so many things to so many people. No, it was the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who brought healing to this man. It was important that Peter bear witness to the truth of Jesus because Jesus is the true God and it’s through Jesus that God has revealed himself to us.
3. As our text goes on, Peter continues to bear witness to the truth by explicitly preaching the Gospel message of Jesus to the people. Like a good Lutheran preacher, Peter skillfully presents both Law and Gospel to convict the hearers of their sin, to show them what desperate need they have for a savior, to share the message of Jesus’ saving work on the cross, and finally to show them what all of this means for them if they believe in Jesus. As I said, it’s a skillful message, but it’s a message that wasn’t shared without risk. This crowd could have turned on Peter and John at any moment. This crowd could have begun rioting and hurt Peter and John. This crowd could have turned them over to the religious authorities (which is actually what happens next). But Peter isn’t concerned about any of these things. He’s not concerned at all about the potential consequences of speaking up for his faith in the midst of a people and world that was hostile to the message of Jesus. Despite the risks, Peter bore witness to the truth of Jesus because he was more concerned about the salvation of others than his own physical well-being.
4. But as I hinted at, the story doesn’t end there. As chapter 4 begins, guards show up with some of the religious leaders and were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). They proceeded to arrest Peter and John so they can bring them to testify before a large group of religious leaders the next day. But before that can happen, Luke tells us: But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of men [who believed] came to about five thousand (Acts 4:4). The Lord was using the faithfulness of Peter and John to expand his kingdom. And it doesn’t stop there. The next morning, Peter and John stood before the rulers, elders, and scribes gathered in Jerusalem. And Peter boldly bore witness to the truth once again, this time to men who were largely hell-bent on stopping them. But Peter spoke of Jesus and preached the Gospel message to them. And the Lord used that large crowd to whom Peter had been preaching to cause the religious leaders to let Peter and John go because they were afraid of how the crowd might react if they punished them.
5. And so, chapter 4 concludes with Peter and John returning to the gathering of believers to tell them everything that had happened. All of the believers were amazed at how the Lord had worked through Peter and John, and so in response, they began to pray. They thanked the Lord for his faithfulness in causing the Gospel message of Jesus to expand and triumph over the powers of the world. And they also prayed for the Holy Spirit to strengthen them so that they might be empowered to continue boldly bearing witness to the truth of Jesus. And we’re told [They] continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
6. Let me close by saying this: Jesus invites you and me to bear witness to the truth of his Gospel message as well. In all likelihood, we’ll never be called to do the kinds of things that Peter and John did in Acts 3 & 4. I doubt that many of us will be called to bear witness to the truth of Jesus by miraculously healing someone. Most of us aren’t called to bear witness to the truth of Jesus by publicly preaching the word of God to crowds. It’s likely that we’ll never be forced to stand in front of a group of hostile leaders and bear witness to the truth of Jesus. So how then are we called to bear witness to the truth of Jesus? Well, it can be as simple or complicated as you make it. But one way or another, each of us is called to bear witness to the truth of Jesus with our words. So, how are you using your words? Do you use your words to tear other down, as is often our sinful human tendency? Or do you trust that Jesus died to forgive your sins and empower you to be his witness? Will you use your words to bear witness to the truth of Jesus for the sake of a world that is in such desperate need of a savior?
In the name of Jesus. Amen.