Study in the Acts of the Apostles. Presentation 21. The Use Of Miracle Chapter 9v32-43. Presentation 21. Introduction.
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Acts of the
If you are interested in painting then you will know that works of art are sometimes described as being after the school of some great artist. ‘After the school of Raphael’ or ‘After the school of Tintoretto’. And what is meant by that is that although neither Raphael nor Tintoretto painted the picture it was, nevertheless, produced by someone who had been trained by them. The hand of one of the great masters is seen in the work of his pupil.
Similarly, in our passage Luke shows that the ministry of Peter is not only modelled on a Great Master but it continued to be empowered by Jesus. Keep that in mind as we look at these miracles.
Peter arrived in a town called Lydda where he met with a small band of Christians and a man called Aeneas who had been bedridden for 8 years. Peter said, "Jesus Christ heals you get up and tidy up your mat" and the man got to his feet! Peter was clearly prompted to exercise faith for this man’s healing but what do we mean by that?
Some people think that if they believe hard enough, or by sheer willpower screw themselves up enough, something miraculous will happen to alter a situation of real concern to them. Faith is God’s gift. Peter wouldn’t have dreamed of saying what he did to this man if he’d not been convinced by God that the man would be healed.
Failure to recognise basic principles about healing has resulted in a great deal of hurt. I have known of folk who have tried to emulate the apostles, they too have spoken words in great boldness but they had no persuasion from God, that he intended to heal. They acted presumptuously and when nothing happened, they have blamed the ill person saying, ‘your faith must be inadequate’.
The condition of the ill person is worsened because they’re now saddled with guilt.
Others claim that God does not intend any Christian to be ill. A claim often made on the basis of Isaiah 53 which speaks of Jesus’ death and says, "by his stripes you are healed“.
They claim that Christ's death not only secures the forgiveness of sins but the healing of all disease to those who seek it. Christians are told to ‘claim’ healing as their right as the redeemed children of God. When nothing happens they are filled with despair.
Now it was never God's intention to cure every disease. Jesus did not cure every sick person in Palestine.
The early church lived with disease and did not claim healing as its right. Read 2 Tim.4.20… [Trophimus was ill] and 1 Tim.5.23… [Timothy was ill]. The latter reference also indicates that God often brings relief through the use of means available. True faith in God gladly and gratefully uses such means, whether medicines, blood transfusions or surgical operations. But it is wrong to teach that healing is always guaranteed.
There is a remarkable economy of miracle in the Bible. The healing of Aeneas is only the second ‘miracle’ recorded in any detail in 9 chapters of church history.
The healing miracles in the N.T. have a primarily theological rather than a merely medical purpose. Sometimes, as here, miracle was used to gain men's attention and prepare them to hear the gospel. One writer says; ‘miracles are the great bell of the universe which draws men to God's sermon’.
Healing miracles were also a means of illustrating the gospel message, Jesus succeeds when human help fails. What is true of the physical condition is also true of man’s spiritual condition. Man is spiritually adrift, broken, infirm and powerless to withstand the relentless currents of evil which break over his head. Only Jesus Christ can bring spiritual wholeness into such a situation.
Miracles were never intended to browbeat man into accepting God but they can prepare man to believe in him. The miracle in Lydda“gained the attention of a whole community”. That said, the solution to atheism is not a whole barrow-load of miracles. Miracles may make faith possible but they do not produce it. C.S.Lewis writes:
“Suppose you had a vision of God in his flaming majesty; would that induce you to believe? For a few days perhaps. But then you would start wondering: Did I really see that? Was it a hallucination or a figment of imagination? The vision would fade in your mind and nagging doubts would suggest themselves.”
The Pharisees were surrounded by Jesus’ miracles but that did not create faith.
News of Peter's presence in Lydda reached the Christians in Joppa who sent for him after the death of Dorcas, a woman who had made a significant contribution to her community v36, 39. We’re not told what the Christians in Joppa expected of Peter, was it comfort in the midst of their loss or something more?
Their reaction to death highlights a problem that many people struggle with today. Why is it that God removes good Christian people in the prime of their lives, when others who lead wicked lives remain on earth? Christian leaders are asked that question regularly.
Sometimes the questioner betrays an uncertainty about the quality of life that awaits God’s people after death. When we are uncertain of what lies ahead we want to hang on to this life for all we are worth.
Scripture encourages us to fix our focus on what lies beyond the grave. Jesus endured a uniquely horrific death but endured as he looked forward to what he knew lay beyond. cf… Jn17v5, 24 and Heb.12v2.
Jesus overcame death and it is to underscore that glorious fact that we have the miraculous resurrection of Dorcas here and of Lazarus and others elsewhere in scripture. What Jesus intends to do when he returns at the end of this age, he does in miniature before people's eyes. He shows that he has power over death. It has not defeated him. The Christians in Joppa had to be convinced that Jesus Christwas the Lord of Life.
Before a great building is constructed the architect often shows his client a model to give him a taste of what the real thing will be like. That is what is happening here!
This miracle also contributed to the advance of the church. When news of it spread to those in the community, the bell was rung that brought crowds to hear and respond to God's word. Death was the cause of great despair in the C1st and people were concerned to know how it had been defeated.
People today pay fortunes and go to all sorts of lengths to try to escape death. In an attempt to prolong his life, the American pop singer, Michael Jackson, slept in a container that allowed him to breath in pure oxygen. Others make provision for there bodies to be frozen when they die in the hope that science in the future may be able to resuscitate them.
They are looking in the wrong
direction, for at the end of the
day only Jesus is the Lord of life.
Healing Miracles show how a creation that has been vandalised by man’s sin will one day be healed, rebuilt, cleansed and brought to newness of life. The healing acts of Jesus, at one and the same time authenticated his claims concerning the uniqueness of his person while also illustrating his primary objective which is to make all things new!.
You might be thinking that a miracle like this one is just what our church needs top make people sit up and take notice. In Jn. 14v12 Jesus spoke of a miracle greater than the healing of the sick or the raising of the dead. To what was Jesus referring? Something of eternal dimension. Through gospel preaching God calls men out of the sepulchres of spiritual death into newness of life. He imparts spiritual life, eternal life.
Luther the great Church Reformer writes;
“Conversion is the greatest of all miracles. Every day witnesses miracle after miracle, that any village adheres to the gospel… is a continued miracle to which healing the sick or raising the dead is a mere trifle”.
It is not only possible but very desirable to be surrounded by this kind of miracle. I believe with all my heart that as miracles of this dimension - the transformed lives of ordinary men and women - become increasingly evident, then the gospel that we proclaim, and which is proclaimed elsewhere around the world, will be authenticated. As a result others will be drawn to place their trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation.
This is what Paul had in mind when he reminded the church at Corinth that they were ‘a letter…known and read by everyone’ 2Cor.3v2. It is a well attested fact that the greatest number of people become Christians, not because of persuasive arguments or well crafted sermons but as a result of being exposed to the lives of Christians whose lives have been transformed by the grace of God.
Your church may not have a bell to call people to worship , but God can make our lives a bell that can summon others to himself. May it be rung increasingly to God’s glory!