Twenty-First Century Productions vs. First Century Miracles

“Healing Service at the Beautiful Gate! Lame and sick healed!” Such might have been the announcement of events at the Beautiful Gate the afternoon Peter and John went into the temple at the hour of prayer — that is, if the “healing services” announced at various times and places in our day were identical with the miracle worked there that afternoon. But, while there was a multitude who did assemble around Peter and John and heard Peter preach, the multitude had assembled because someone they knew had experienced a miracle. However, they had not come to the temple to see a miracle. Where, on earth today, do any of the staged performances of “healings and miracles” ever remotely resemble what happened in the first century?

The crowd had not gathered because posters had been conspicuously placed in prominent places around the city. They had not come to the temple to hear Peter preach. They came, as they were accustomed to do, to pray. The people were startled, including the man who was healed, by what occurred. When Peter said to him, “Look on us”, he expected to receive money from them (Acts 3:4-5).

That astonished man was familiar to those who were in and out of the temple that day: Familiar because he had daily been carried and laid there by others (Acts 3:2). When therefore they saw that man whom they knew to have been crippled, shouting and leaping and joyfully clinging to Peter and John, they gathered around him, greatly wondering (Acts 3:11). When that crowd gathered, Peter seized the opportunity to explain both about the miracle and to preach Jesus to them. Peter assured them that it was by neither his goodness nor power that the lame man walked (Acts 3:12): rather the man was healed by Him whom they and their rulers had put to death some weeks earlier (Acts 3:13 – 15; 16).

This was the purpose of miracles. The great sound as of a mighty wind, aided also by the miracle of ignorant and unlearned men speaking in languages of others (which language they had never been taught), had drawn a multitude together on Pentecost. These people greatly wondered at the apostles speaking in other languages and asked, “What meaneth this?” (Acts 2:12). The miracle at the Beautiful Gate provided an occasion for Peter and John to preach the gospel of Jesus. This was God’s design for empowering the apostles to work miracles.

Miracles were not just a magnet to draw a crowd together. They were also designed to prove that the words which were preached were true. Mark wrote that Jesus instructed His apostles with these words: “And these signs shall accompany them that believe, in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover…and they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed, Amen” (Mark 16:17-18, 20).

Miracles confirmed the testimony of the apostles in the first century. They preached that Jesus, whom Jewish rulers had put to death, had been raised from the dead. They also preached that they had seen Him, eaten with Him, talked with Him, and had seen Him ascend back to heaven where the Father glorified Him with all power. The miracles they worked, which the multitude knew were undoubtedly miraculous, showed them to be true, reliable men. Everyone knew then that the message they preached was true. Of course, not everyone who saw and heard the apostles speak believed what they saw and heard. “Seeing is believing” was not true with these. The world hasn’t changed much since the first century.

Those miracles still confirm the word today — but the world, in large numbers, rejects it. It is their loss that they do. The fact that many will not believe does not lesson our obligation to continually shout and tell the world that Jesus has been raised from the dead. The world’s unbelief does not change the truth of the message we have both been taught and teach.

Jim McDonald

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