This week, we skip the verse that inspired the journey- John 3:16 (we'll hit it at the end) and skip over to Acts. Acts 3:16 is right smack in the middle of the story, and like so many of the verses we have looked at, it is the dividing line in the story. But it not only divides the story, it shows us the style of Peter's evangelism.
The story starts with a man lame from birth, who was practising Israel's form of "welfare"- he was begging at the Gate of the Temple called "Beautiful". I have since learned there is no real agreement on where this exactly was, though it was most likely an outer double-gate leading onto what was called Solomon's Porch, as it would have been a high traffic area he would have been allowed access to. Other such theorized locations would have been further inside the complex and his admittance would have been iffy.
Anyway, he begs from Peter and John, and Peter gives him one of the most famous responses in the history of panhandling:
Act 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
And he went leaping and rejoicing onto Solomon's Porch, where a crowd began to gather in amazement, as they well knew this man had laid there lame for many years, begging from all of them. Seeing the crowd, Peter jumps into stage one of his witnessing plan. First, he gets their attention with his usual lead in: "Why are you amazed?" He didn't mean them to think it a mundane thing- he actually wanted them to think about the amazing thing that happened, and open themselves up to learn how it occurred. Then, he goes on the attack- refreshing their memory that it was in the name of the Jesus THEY crucified that the man was healed. Before you can save someone, they must be made to see the guilt they wear before God.
But hammering someone with that is not what will save them- a thing a lot of Christians forget. Peter established the fact- and moved on to the hinge point, our verse:
Act 3:16 And his name--by faith in his name--has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Thus the miracle becomes the hinge point- the proof of the Power of Christ. They cannot deny Christ's power legitimately anymore- they are now witnesses, and it has become a "accept or reject" scenario. So Peter has first opened the door to discourse; then established the problem- and the solution is set up. Now, he brings in "the hook".
Act 3:17 "And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
Act 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.
Act 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out,
Act 3:20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,
Act 3:21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Not only does he give them the benefit of PREVIOUS ignorance, but then begins to show how this is not something AGAINST their belief system, but in fulfillment OF it:
Act 3:22 Moses said, 'The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.
Act 3:23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.'
Act 3:24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.
And he goes on to bring up the rest of the prophets who have carried this drumbeat of Moses- and their own connection to it.
And in this, he lays out the whole process of witnessing. And the proof of it was in the results- the priests came and had he and John, arrested.
Oh, and one other thing:
Act 4:4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
So we have the intro, the problem, the witness from which one must accept or reject, the mercy, the repentance needed, the family bond established. And it worked for Peter- but maybe not right away. After all, those who heard apparently raised no protest after the arrest- they must have had to think on what they saw. Let me re-run 4:4 from Young's Literal Translation:
Act 4:4 and many of those hearing the word did believe, and the number of the men became, as it were, five thousand.
Note the word "became". Maybe some believed right away, others took a little longer, but the EVENTUAL effect numbered 5,000. This is after all, a process. Not all of us get the immediate, miraculous transformation that this man did. Some of us go through a process like my "but I'm a Catholic" phase- a phase I see many Catholic friends observing, but not making the connection. Back in our verse is the key phrase, " And his name--by faith in his name--". Not by Church membership, or infant baptism, or being born a Jew- but FAITH IN HIS NAME. That is what releases the power.