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The Power of God to Heal

23 Aug

In Acts 9:32-35 we have an account of Peter healing an impotent man. He lay in his bed paralyzed, unable to walk and perhaps unable to even use his arms. I believe this account and the next miracle immediately following is very important for Luke’s message in that these are the final recorded miracles performed by Jesus through Peter in Acts. Paul performed a similar miracle at Lystra in Asia in Acts 14:8 and following. What are we to think of these things? What is Luke telling us?

First of all, I believe that Luke wants to show us that what Jesus did through Peter for the Jews, he also did through Paul for the gentiles. Both of the infirm men were paralyzed, symbolizing that both Jew and gentile are impotent when it comes to helping themselves get saved, whether physically from a bulling emperor or spiritually from our sinfulness. In the case of the man at Lystra the paralysis was from the waist down. We don’t know this to be true of Aeneas at Lydda. His paralysis may have been complete, from his neck downward. Nevertheless, both men were healed. In the case of Aeneas all who heard both in the city and in the Plain of Sharon believed and turned to the Lord. In the case of the man at Lystra in Asia, the gentile priests and the people thought the gods had come down in the persons of Paul and Barnabas, so they came to sacrifice before them and worship them. So, we see miracles can have mixed and complicated results. Jesus himself never wanted the publicity that miracles brought him, because it often hindered the Gospel (cp. Mark 1:44-45). However, miracles can also aid the publishing of the Gospel and protect believers from their enemies, as Luke records in Acts 5:12a, 15 and compare this with verses 25-26.

I believe it is interesting that both the Jewish religious authorities and the gentile religious authorities had a common reason for rejecting the Gospel. Notice, that once the Jews from Antioch and Iconium (Acts 14:19) persuaded the gentiles what it would mean to them if they believed Paul’s Gospel—namely destroying their gods and hurting their economy dependent upon the sale of religious ornaments (cp. Acts 19:24-28) etc., the same people who wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas stoned Paul and cast him out of the city, believing he was dead. On the other hand, the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem grew very concerned over the possible loss of profits on their own behalf, if people turned to Jesus (John 2:13-18; cp. Mark 11:15-18). So, how do we tie these matters into Luke’s message concerning his final recording of Jesus’ miracles through Peter?

What is most interesting about Peter’s and Paul’s miracle accounts is that they parallel one of Jesus’ own miracles in Luke 5:17-26. Here we have an account of a man whose friends had lowered him and his bed down from the roof to Jesus sitting in the house. Jesus told him to rejoice in that his sins were forgiven. Meanwhile, the doctors or teachers of the Law murmured to themselves that Jesus had spoken blasphemy, in that only God can forgive sins (Luke 5:21), and Jesus had put himself in the place of God, saying he had forgiven the man his sins. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus asked them which was easier to say: “Your sins are forgiven!” or “Rise, take up your bed and walk!”? According to the current rabbinical teaching, a man who had an infirmity was being punished for sin either he had committed or that his relatives had committed (cp. John 9:1-3). So, Jesus’ logic shows that saying one is healed or saying one is forgiven of his sins amounts to the same thing, at least according to rabbinical thought. Therefore, if the man could rise up and walk, Jesus had not committed blasphemy. The result was the man was healed (Luke 5:24-25), and the people, including the Jewish authorities, were both amazed and confused over the implications (cp. Mark 2:12). The authorities wanted to think over the matter and contemplate what it all meant. The result was they turned against Jesus and tried to entrap him into doing evil (cp. Luke 6:6-11 and Mark 3:1-6) in order to kill him. So, we see the results of these miracles at least in the cases of Jesus and Paul turned against them, placing their lives in danger, because of what believing Jesus would require of the people, especially the religious authorities—both Jew and gentile.

In the case of Peter’s miracle we need to keep in mind the context of the times. Peter’s miracle occurred during the **rest** believers were experiencing as that pertained to the persecution they endured from the Jewish Temple authorities (cp. Acts 9:31). The Temple authorities had been persecuting Messianic believers, especially Hellenist believers—i.e. those Jews who had grown up in the Diaspora but returned to live in Judea and had turned to Christ. Stephen (Acts 6 & 7) had shown that the Temple the Lord was building was the Temple of the believing community—i.e. God dwells in the hearts of his people. This meant that the Temple at Jerusalem was temporary and didn’t reflect God’s desires but man’s. This would have tremendous economic ramifications for the Temple authorities, and so the idea was rejected and labeled blasphemous. Nevertheless, **rest** had been granted (Acts 9:31), because it seemed that the Temple’s destruction was then eminent, in that Caligula had commanded his Roman governor at Syria to place a statue of himself within the Temple compound. This would ignite war between Rome and the Jewish people and ultimately end in the destruction of the Jewish nation and its Temple, as was the case in 70 CE some thirty years hence. Was it possible that Stephen was correct? The authorities were frightened and left off their persecution. Just as Jesus’ miracle was intended to heal the Jewish community, including the authorities (Luke 5:17), so Peter’s miracle was a peace offering from the Lord to the Jewish nation. Many believed (Acts 9:35), but ultimately the persecution resumed with the particular intent that the Apostles, themselves, would be destroyed (Acts 12:1-4), and this immediately following upon God’s judgment on Caligula and the raising up of Claudius who was more favorable to the Jewish nation.

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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Gospel, Persecution

 

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