In Acts Chapter Three, Peter shares a sermon on the miraculous healing of a crippled beggar. Peter and John are about to enter the temple at the time of evening prayers. “This was the time when devout Jews came into the temple courts to pray.”[i] A man who was lame from birth asked them for money. Peter responds that they did not have gold or silver to give him. “Luke has consistently pictured those who responded to Jesus’ call to discipleship as without property.”[ii] Without a family, the man may have depended on public assistance, asking people for help. What Peter and John did have (the power to heal), they offered freely to him.
Peter asked the man to look at them. After looking at them intently, and expecting to receive something from them, Peter instructed him “in the name of Jesus,” to rise up and walk. Peter took him by the right hand and helped him up. He immediately stood to his feet – his ankles and feet received strength, (by the power that they offered), and he began to walk. He entered the temple with them, walking, leaping, and praising God. “This vivid detail…recalls Is.35:6 ‘the lame shall leap like the deer’ part of the language of the messianic age that Luke sees as now fulfilled in the time of the church.”[iii]
While the man clung to Peter and John, the people watching were astonished at what they saw. They knew he was the man who sat at the beautiful gate of the temple (Solomon’s Portico). Although the people believed that the man was healed, it still did not make them want to be Christians. “Faith is generated by hearing the gospel message; thus the miracle becomes the occasion for Peter’s second sermon.”[iv] When Peter saw the people, he addressed them. He wanted them to know that it was not because of him or their piety or power, that the man was healed. “Peter and John resist being applauded as ‘celebrity Christians’ or as ‘divine men’ (See Acts 8:10; 14:16.)”[v] He shared that it was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob being glorified in Jesus Christ.
Peter recounts the events of Jesus’ rejection, arrest, and trial by Pilate, crucifixion, and resurrection. He suggests that their rejection was of the Holy and Righteous one. They choose to have a murderer released instead of Jesus. Peter accused them of killing the author of life, the one who God raised from the dead. He said the people’s ignorance killed the Messiah. This ignorance did not stop God from fulfilling what was promised through all the prophets – that the Messiah would suffer. Luke is wanting to convey that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, that he suffered according to Old Testament scripture, and that “as a whole, the Old Testament must point to the suffering Messiah.”[vi] In other words, I believe we need to study the Old Testament just as we need to study the New Testament, because it points us to the one who came to set us free.
Boring and Craddock suggest two tensions in Peter’s speech: “1) the people should have known better, and 2) they did not know, could not have known what they were doing when they rejected the Messiah.”[vii] When we study the Christ event, we are challenged to comprehend that “it was not clear who Jesus was until the story was over. His true identity was discerned only in the light of the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”[viii] We often hear that we know how the story ends, in our day and time. We understand how it ends according to scripture, however we are still called to believe and live in faith.
Peter challenged the people listening to repent so that “times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” He said that the promise given by Moses, that God would raise up a prophet from their own people, points to the Old Testament prophets fulfilling the covenant God gave to their descendants. In Abraham, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Peter points to this work and maybe contradicts himself when saying that God sent him (Jesus) first to you (all the people), hoping to turn them from their wicked ways. “In the Acts storyline, Peter only gradually became aware that God’s plan includes all people Acts 10-11).”[ix] Luke’s perspective is that salvation was offered to all people.
Prayer: Dear God: We thank you that this story includes a miracle in healing. So many in our world are sick and in need of comfort and strength – miracles. We see through the story that miracles still happen. And these miracles point us to the one, Jesus the suffering servant, that the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled. We thank you for this biblical history and the importance that it conveys for our faith and belief. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.
[i] Boring and Craddock, pg. 374.
[iii] Ibid., 375.
[vi] Ibid., pg. 376.