A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 3:1-10. 1). A congenital cripple is healed.
What triggered the opposition of the Jewish authorities was the healing of the cripple, together with Peter’s sermon which followed it. Luke began his second volume by telling his readers that he was going to record what Jesus continued, after his ascension, ‘to do and to teach’ through his apostles (1:1-2). He has also told us that ‘many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles’ (2:43). Now he supplies a particularly dramatic example. *Peter and John were going up to the temple*. The date is not given (it happened *one day*), but the time is, namely, *at three in the afternoon*, which is *the time of prayer* (1). This took place shortly after the evening sacrifice and was observed by all pious Jews like Daniel and ‘God-fearers’ like Cornelius (Dn.9:20-21; Acts 10:2,22). The apostles’ arrival at the temple coincided with the arrival of *a man crippled from birth*, who *was being carried* there, presumably by friends and/or relatives, so that he could beg from those who came to worship and who thought (incidentally) that they would gain some merit by their almsgiving.
The beggar’s pitch, Luke says, was *the temple gate called Beautiful*. Commentators mostly identify this as the Nicanor Gate, which was the main eastern entrance to the temple precincts from the Court of the Gentiles. Because Luke names it ‘the Beautiful Gate’, it is probably the one made of Corinthian brass which Josephus said ‘greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold’. It was about seventy-five feet high and had huge double doors. But at the foot of this magnificent gate the cripple sat begging. Luke’s medical interest seems to be betrayed in the brief clinical history he gives. It was a congenital case, he tells us; the man was now *over forty years old* (4:22); and he was so severely handicapped that he had to be carried and *put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts* (2). As *Peter and John* were *about to enter* the temple *he asked them for money* (3). The apostles stopped and *looked straight at him*, and Peter gave him two commands, First, ‘*look at us!*’ (4). *So the man gave then his attention, expecting to get something from them* (5). But by his second command peter told him he had something better to give him than money: ‘*Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk*’ (6). The apostle did not stand back and watch the man struggle to his feet; he leaned forward and, *taking him by the right hand, he helped him up* (7a). As Thomas Walker comments, ‘the power was Christ’s, but the hand was Peter’s’. It was not a gesture of unbelief, but of love. Besides, it was something Peter had seen Jesus do when he took Jairus’ daughter by the hand (Lk.8:54). Then *instantly*, Dr. Luke continues, *the man’s feet and ankles became strong* (7b) – so strong and agile that *he jumped to his feet and began to walk*, which he had never done before. Not only so, but he now accompanied the apostles *into the temple courts*, all the time *walking and jumping, and praising God* (8). It was an outstanding fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy: ‘Then will the lame leap like a deer.’ (Is.35:6).
A crowd quickly gathered, for they *saw him walking and praising God* (9). This is the fourth time that Luke describes the man *as walking*, as if to emphasize the incredible fact that his poor crippled legs and feet were now for the first time fully operational. *They recognized him as the same man who* had been a familiar sight for decades, since he *used to sit* every day *begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him* (10).
Tomorrow: Acts 3:11-26. 2). The apostle Peter preaches to the crowd.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|