PETER AND THE POWER OF JESUS
THEME: Jesus shows that He is alive and well and still powerful. He uses Peter to demonstrate that the Word of God has power that can be used by those working in the will of God. Peter is careful to be only the agent or tool that Jesus uses to spread the Word.
SCRIPTURE: Acts 9: 32-43.
I. Background of Peter’s Judean/Samaritan ministry.
A. Peter now takes advantage of the peaceful period provided by Saul’s conversion to Christianity. The organized persecution by the Jewish religious powers flounders without its former champion.
1. Taking his cues from the clearly Spirit led activities of Philip the deacon in Samaria and the Negev Desert, Peter moves out from the Apostles’ sanctuary of Jerusalem.
2. Jesus obviously encourages Peter’s activities by empowering him to open a new area to evangelism – the province of Judea, which up to this time had been largely ignored.
3. Peter begins to understand that the Apostles must follow Jesus’ command: (Acts 1: 8) “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
4. God is also preparing Peter for the biggest step in the history of the church – the evangelization of the Gentiles.
a. God’s preparation of Peter for this action must not be overlooked or downplayed in its importance.
B. Peter leaves Jerusalem and wanders over the northeastern quadrant of the province of Judea, preaching the Word wherever he can gather a crowd. Surely, he performed miracles of healing and exorcism at every location, even though Luke only documents two very spectacular miracles for us.
1. Lydda was the equivalent of a “county seat” for its district, and was located about 11 miles SE of Joppa. It was a very old village, dating from at least 1500 BC, before the Israelite conquest of Canaan.
2. It was strategically located at an intersection of the Via Maris and the Joppa/ Jerusalem roads. It had earlier been a Samaritan town, but Julius Caesar granted the district to Judea during his reign as Emperor.
3. Its current day name is Lod, which was its name before it became a part of Benjamin’s tribal lands.
C. Joppa was Israel’s primary seaport until the time of Herod the Great, when he built Caesarea Maritima. Herod’s new port city was the official headquarters of the Roman rulers of Judea. We’ll learn more about Caesarea Maritima next week (it was Cornelius’ duty station).
1. Joppa was located about 32 miles north of Caesarea, or about a day and a half journey by foot in those days.
D. Philip the Deacon might have done some evangelistic work in this general area. After he was taken from the Ethiopian eunuch, he preached his way from Azotus (Ashdod) north to Caesarea Maritima, a distance of about 55 miles.
II. Peter journeys through Judea, preaching the Word.
A. We learn from vv. 32 & 38 that there was already a body of believers in both Lydda and Joppa. These two early churches were probably the work of Philip, but they could have been started by Peter and John on their way back to Jerusalem from Samaria (Acts 8: 25).
1. Peter works his way to Lydda, (v. 32) “to visit the saints.”
2. This would have meant Peter not only preached, but also taught and fellowshipped with those believers, strengthening their faith and encouraging them in the work of believers.
B. We note what seems to be an early church phenomenon: The Word of God is proclaimed and then “backed up” by miraculous signs.
1. These signs served three purposes:
a. They relieved the suffering of the people who were healed/exorcised.
b. They show/prove that the one who Jesus works through is an “accredited, accepted” minister of God.
c. Jesus shows that He is truly alive (and immensely powerful), because all of His agents give Him the credit for the miracles.
2. In every case, anyone who does a miracle is always documented (sometimes “between the lines”) as giving the credit for the miracle to God, Jesus or the Spirit, or sometimes “all of the above.”
C. There are times where a miracle causes more crowds to gather and makes them more receptive.
1. Note in (v. 35) “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him [Aeneas] and turned to the Lord.”
2. This result is also noted in (v. 42) “This [resuscitation of Dorcas] became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”
3. The preaching was made more effective by the miracle, and the miracle was correctly attributed and its reason and cause were established by the preaching.
4. The two activities were inextricably interwoven, so that a maximum effect was obtained by the evangelist.
D. There are some today who say if God wanted people to turn to Him, He would give preachers the ability to do miracles.
1. One reason that miracles died out at the end of the Apostolic Era was that the world now has a written Gospel.
2. The written Gospel is adequate to prove the message to people who have even a slightly open mind.
3. In other words, preachers today don’t need to do miracles: they have the Bible.
4. Even so, many of us know of many miracles that God does for His people today.
5. Probably another reason for not having preachers who are empowered to do miracles today is that, unfortunately, all too many of them would misuse that power for evil gains, just like Simon Magus we talked about a couple of weeks ago tried to do.
6. Simon Magus proves that the desire for wealth and power and status are still a definite large part of human nature – and those desires have not lessened one bit: in fact, they might have grown larger (and more destructive).
III. Peter demonstrates the power of the Word.
A. Peter’s healing of Aeneas closely parallels Jesus healing the paralyzed man let down through the roof by four faithful friends. (See Mark 2: 1-12).
1. Peter heals him in a way that is instructive: (v. 34) “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.”
2. He already knows what the Lord has done, and tells Aeneas the good news.
3. Peter makes a declaration of healing instead of calling on Jesus to heal.
4. The healing is explicitly associated with the RISEN Jesus.
5. The resurrected, alive, powerful Jesus was the centerpiece of Peter’s preaching. (See his summarized sermons in Acts 2 and 3 for the specifics).
B. Peter’s healing of Dorcas puts him in very exclusive company.
1. Only 5 people have ever healed someone of this ultimate sickness.
2. And the number of people brought back from death doesn’t show that Christianity is “busting up the graveyards”!
3. In the Old Testament, only Elijah and Elisha performed this ultimate miracle.
(Elisha’s bones also brought one man back).
4. In the New Testament, Jesus raised 3 (plus His own resurrection); Peter and Paul: one each!
5. Even though only 9 people have been brought back from death in the whole of Biblical time, it is still a singularly spectacular miracle – to put it mildly.
6. It is a statement about POWER, TOTAL POWER.
C. And we know who has the power: it’s not Peter himself, although he is the conduit in this story. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who has the power.
1. Peter kneels and prays to his Lord for this miracle, and Jesus grants his prayer.
2. This proves beyond all doubt that what Jesus had told His Apostles had come to pass (though they doubtless knew it by this time) (John 14: 12-14) “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
3. Of special interest to us is that Jesus will answer their (and our) prayers because it will “bring glory to the Father.”
4. And these two miracles, along with Peter’s preaching, certainly did bring glory to the Father.
IV. The effect of the Word (Peter’s preaching combined with two spectacular miracles).
A. God certainly did receive glory from Peter’s short foray into the Judean countryside.
1. In Lydda, (v. 35) “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon . . . turned to the Lord.”
2. In Joppa, (v. 42) “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.”
B. The Word of God had great effect, as many people believed and were converted. But it didn’t end there.
1. Peter stayed in Joppa for a long time (months? years?) and taught all who would listen.
2. What was Peter teaching? Why, what Christ Jesus had told him to! (Matthew 28: 20) “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
C. I think most of us here today don’t have much problem with believing what we’ve read in Scripture today. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of us stop.
1. Oh, yes, we believe that all these miracles were done!
2. But that’s where our belief begins AND ENDS!
3. When it gets to the obeying Jesus’ commandments, then our believing stops – or at least slows way down to “turtle speed.”
4. This is why we have no joy, no peace, no power in our lives.
5. If you want all this, you have to believe all the way – and all the Scripture: and that includes commandments.
6. Jesus said (John 14: 15, 23-24) “If you love me, you will obey what I command. . . If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. . . He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”
7. That is simple and straightforward: We must obey Jesus’ commands.
8. They can all be boiled down to two:
a. Love God with everything you’ve got.
b. Love your neighbor like you love yourself.
(Might also be stated “Treat your neighbor. . .”)
If you aren’t obeying Jesus’ commands, then REPENT and turn back to Him – TODAY.