I love superhero movies. One of my favorite parts of any superhero story is when the hero discovers his/her power. Something happens, they feel different, and then, almost unexpectedly, their new power shows itself. Wolverine has claws. Captain America can chase down a car on his feet. From those initial actions sagas unfold. Heroes develop their newfound powers. They do incredible things that they never would have previously imagined. And it all started in a moment when the previously unimaginable was suddenly realized.
All good heroes have origin stories that catapult their stories. Without the origin story, the hero doesn’t exist. Then, there’s the initial moment when the hero realizes and acts on something that’s different about him/her. The inward difference becomes outward and launches him/her down an uncharted path. The nerdy, awkward kid climbs walls and swings from webs. The scrawny, military-reject becomes his country’s original hero.
As believers, we have origin stories of sorts. We were living one way, something happened, we changed, and then, hopefully, we live differently. The change in the disciples is demonstrated in Acts 3:1-10. Acts began with an account of Jesus’ ascension. He told his followers that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” which happened in Acts 2. This was a revolutionary experience! In the Old Testament God’s Spirit would fall on individuals for a short period of time, empower them to do or say something extraordinary, and then depart again. Now, because of the completed work of Christ, God’s Spirit permanently took up residence in believers. The Spirit’s presence in the lives of the original followers of Christ resulted in a drastic change in their behavior and in their values. Acts 2:42-47 informs us that they had all their possessions in common. They sold their own things in order to provide for others. They ate meals together. They met together daily. The Spirit that took up residence in them definitively changed the way they related to one another.
The Spirit also changed the way they reacted to those outside of their fellowship. Acts 3 is the first account we have of such an interaction.
What we do we know about the man John and Peter encounter? We learn from the text that he sits at the Temple at the hour of prayer to beg for money because he’s lame. Sitting at the Temple is a strategic decision. The Temple is a high-traffic area. People come from all over the region to the Temple so he’s highly visible. He also probably benefits from playing on some religious piety at the Temple. It has to be really hard to not help out a lame man at the Temple when everyone else who is religious is there watching. He kind of utilizes a version of holy peer pressure in order to gain what he needs.
This lame man sitting at the Temple asks Peter and John for money. In response, Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” We read that Peter reached down, grabbed the man’s hand, pulled him up, and he went away walking, leaping, and praising God. More than that, this previously lame man who had spent countless days sitting outside the Temple because, by the religious practices of his day, he was ceremonially unclean and unable to enter the epicenter of his faith that symbolized the physical presence of God with his people, entered the Temple. When he entered the Temple he didn’t sneak in the back just to catch a peak. He entered joyfully! He walked, jumped, and praised God! He probably caused quite a raucous and disturbed the dignified proceedings of the religious folks. Imagine if someone entered your church on Sunday in this fashion. The worshippers in the Temple recognized him as the guy they had walked. We aren’t told how many years this man sat outside the Temple, but he’s recognized by the Temple regulars. He’s been there a while. Acts records that “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
How did this happen? We must keep Acts 2 in mind because there is a silent actor in this account. In his pronouncement to the lame man, Peter invoked the name of Christ but the presence of the Holy Spirit, who came upon the believers in Acts 2, must not be overlooked. Do you remember the disciples prior to being filled with the Spirit? They argued with Jesus. They demonstrated a profound lack of understanding at Jesus’ mission and identity. They focused on what they could gain by following Christ. After Jesus’ crucifixion and even his resurrection they huddled in room by themselves in secret out of fear.
Then something happened to them. The Spirit of God indwelt them. As soon as this happened they began to boldly speak the truth of the Gospel to anyone who would hear and 3000 people came to faith in Christ. They demonstrated counter-cultural values in how they lived together and cared for one another. They said crazy things to lame strangers like, “Be healed!”
The Spirit came on the disciples and completely changed them. Like them, when we place our faith in Christ the Holy Spirit comes and dwells inside of us. How does the Spirit change how you act? Do you speak the Gospel boldly to any who will hear you? Are you goals and values markedly different from those of the culture? Do you do outlandish things because the presence of God is with you or do you cower in fear?
If you are in Christ, the same Spirit that lived inside Peter and John lives inside of you. How are you different? What are you doing now that, if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit’s presence and leading, you wouldn’t be? As believers in Christ, there should be something.