During the months and years following the Day of Pentecost the apostles had the ability to do miraculous signs. We need to keep in mind that these were for a purpose. Yes, they did good through what they did, whether it was a healing or even a resurrection from the dead. But there was a greater purpose.
The gospel of Mark ends with these words: “They went out and proclaimed everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through the accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20 NET). Did you notice the purpose of the signs? It was to confirm the word that the apostles were telling others.While we may think that miracles took place throughout the Biblical narrative, a closer reading will show that they centered on just several time periods. When God gave the Law to Moses, there were miraculous signs, particularly as the Israelites left Egypt. When God gave his word through Elijah and Elisha there were miraculous signs. And during the days of Jesus and the apostles there were miraculous signs.
What is the common thread running through each of these time periods? God was revealing his word – through Moses, through the prophets, and through Jesus and the apostles. The miracles were signs to confirm that the word spoken was from God.
We see this just after the Day of Pentecost. Peter and John were going to the temple at the time of prayer. A man who had never walked, who was lame from birth, was at the ‘Beautiful Gate’ of the temple begging money from those going in to pray and worship.
“When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple courts, he asked them for money. Peter looked directly at him (as did John) and said, ‘Look at us!’ So the lame man paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!’ Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:3-8)
The man received far more than he had expected. Notice that this healing was total. Normally when we are immobile for a time we have to strengthen our limbs to be able to use them again. This man had never walked. Yet his feet and ankles were strengthened to the point that he could walk and jump. And his balance was there, too! The healings in scripture are total with no need for any rehabilitation.
Although this was a wonderful thing to do for a man who had never walked, there was more. This miracle attracted a crowd (see Acts 3:9-10). They recognised the man as the lame beggar yet now he was walking. How did this happen?
Peter took advantage of this opportunity. He explained that they did not have the power to make the man walk – it was Jesus who did it. This was the same Jesus they had rejected and killed but God raised him from the dead. They were witnesses that this had really happened. All needed to change their lives by turning to the Jesus, the Messiah (Acts 3:11-26).
We, too, have opportunities to speak a good word for Jesus. Sometimes we can even create these opportunities. But do we use them? Or are we afraid of what someone might think of us?
Although we don’t have miraculous signs today, we have God’s word which has been confirmed by the miraculous signs of Jesus and the apostles. We need to take advantage of the opportunities that we have.
photo: Beautiful Gate and Solomon’s portico in model of first century temple in Jerusalem
Readings for next week:
13 May – Acts 5
14 May – Acts 6
15 May – Acts 7
16 May – Acts 8
17 May – Acts 9