ACTS, Chapter 3

 

Verse 1
(NIV)
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.

(NKJ) Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 

(KJV) Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.

Comment: Peter and John were with James at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28). John speaks of the 'other disciple' being with Peter when Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin (John 18:15) -- this was John's normal way of speaking about himself when he was writing. So it was normal for these two to be together.

The Temple was the focus of worship. Jews travelled from all over the Roman Empire to be at the Temple during the Holy Days. When the Jews were taken captive in Daniel's time, they would pray facing the direction where the Temple was (Daniel 6:10). Solomon's prayer of dedication for the Temple he built is recorded in 2 Chronicles 6:12-42 and highlights the reasons the Jews held the Temple in such reverence.

What was the 9th hour? Jewish daytime hours began at dawn and ended at sundown (which would start the next day). We often think of 6 a.m. as their 'first hour,' but that was not necessarily so. The earth is tilted and the seasons in Israel make daytime hours longer or shorter as the year progresses. Israel, for the sake of comparison, is at the approximate latitude of Los Angeles, South Carolina, and the most southern part of Japan. Currently, sunrise can vary from about 5:30 a.m. on June 21 to 6:30 a.m. on December 21. That would make the current 9th hour vary from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. For convenience, the '9th hour' is thus normally considered about 3 p.m.

Henry Dosker explains about the hours of prayer in the following:

"The Mosaic law did not regulate the offering of prayer, but fully recognized its spontaneous character. In what manner or how far back in Jewish history the sacrificial prayer, mentioned in Luke 1:10, originated no one knows. In the days of Christ it had evidently become an institution. But ages before that, stated hours of prayer were known and religiously observed by all devout Jews. It evidently belonged to the evolutionary process of Jewish worship, in connection with the temple-ritual. Devout Jews, living at Jerusalem, went to the temple to pray (Luke 18:10 Acts 3:1). The pious Jews of the Diaspora opened their windows "toward Jerus" and prayed "toward" the place of God's presence (1 Kings 8:48 Daniel 6:10 Psalm 5:7). The regular hours of prayer, as we may infer from Psalm 55:17 and Daniel 6:10, were three in number. The first coincided with the morning sacrifice, at the 3rd hour of the morning, at 9 AM therefore (Acts 2:15). The second was at the 6th hour, or at noon, and may have coincided with the thanksgiving for the chief meal of the day, a religious custom apparently universally observed (Matthew 15:36 Acts 27:35). The 3rd hour of prayer coincided with the evening sacrifice, at the ninth hour (Acts 3:1Acts 10:30). Thus every day, as belonging to God, was religiously subdivided, and regular seasons of prayer were assigned to the devout believer. Its influence on the development of the religious spirit must have been incalculable, and it undoubtedly is, at least in part, the solution of the riddle of the preservation of the Jewish faith in the cruel centuries of its bitter persecution. Mohammedanism borrowed this feature of worship from the Jews and early Christians, and made it one of the chief pillars of its faith."

There is a rather simple reason the 9th hour would be the time of the evening sacrifice/evening prayer: shortened daylight hours. The new day started at sundown and it was important to get the day's business finished by then. No matter what time of year it was, the 9th hour (instead of the 10th or 11th hour) would leave time for this.

Verse 2
(NIV)
Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.

(NKJ) And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple.

(KJV)  And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;

Comment: This man has not become lame -- he was born lame. It could have had a number of physical reasons, although the later text seems to indicate the main problem was in the bones of his feet and ankles. Doctors today cannot heal someone born that way; they can only help relieve some of the symptoms. Who carried him? Family? Friends? Did they care for him during the rest of the time? We don't know any of this -- we only know he was born lame and somebody carried him to that gate to beg daily.

We do know he was an adult. This means, if he was at the Beautiful Gate daily, that he had seen Jesus, heard Jesus, and been aware of Jesus' miracles. This gate was inside the Court of the Gentiles and probably about where the "inner temple precincts" label is on the illustration below.

Temple

 

temple gates

If you check the link above "Beautiful Gate" you will see that there is a dispute as to whether the Beautiful Gate was #4 or #5 in the above diagram.

An artist's rendition of the Temple Mount, showing what it was like before the Muslims built their edifice there is below:

Temple mount

The viaduct -- the 'road' with a series of archways beneath it, shows the main entrance to the Temple Mount, thus it was leading directly to the Gate Beautiful. The Garden of Gethsemane is in the valley below the viaduct. Jesus, and the disciples, and just about everyone else, would enter the Temple grounds through this entrance.

Verses 3-10
(NIV)
When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

(NKJ) who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God.  Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

(KJV) Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

Comment: Something which is probably not often noticed in the beginning of this passage has to do with the beggar. He is not looking at the people. He was over 40 years old, we find out in chapter 4. Begging was his lifestyle. If you have ever seen photos or movies of beggars in India or anywhere, you will often see them either sort of staring into space or just looking around somewhat blankly. To look in someone's eyes is to risk rejection, or scorn (again) and it is easier on the emotions to just beg somewhat anonymously. So Peter's first command is direct contact, "Look at us!"

So, we are told, the man "gave them his attention." Why? He expected to get some money from them. If the donor wants you to look at him before he gives you money, fine -- you can do that.

Peter then states he does not have money -- no silver, no gold. Now the health and wealth folk today want you to believe that if God is pleased with you, He will make you healthy and rich. This pretty much denies that doctrine. But Peter had something more precious to give. He did not make the beggar wait, but gave it immediately. He commanded the beggar "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" to get up and walk. And then Peter helped him up.

"In the name of Jesus Christ" is a phrase often used to try to command God to do something. That is not how it works. The idea of "name" is not the letters spelling what the person is called, but a reference to the character of the person. If someone has a good, or bad, "name" in town, it means his character is known and people will treat him accordingly. We we pray "in Jesus' name" or similar, we are claiming that we are praying in His character. If that is true, then the Father will indeed grant the prayer. But these are not magic words which force God's hand. They are words that can only be uttered by someone who is His follower, filled with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8 says all who are His have the Holy Spirit), and at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. This is what Peter did. Think of it as 'acting on orders.'

And because Peter was acting on orders, he had no doubt as to the result. So he helped the man to his feet. And we read that instantly the man's bones became strong. Out of curiosity, we looked up the words "ankle," "bones," and "made strong." There are no surprises. The "made strong" is "stereoo," which also means "to solidify, to establish." This would lead us to think that perhaps he feet were badly deformed from the ankles on down. After 40 plus years, his leg muscles would have atrophied at least to some extent. The idea of walking on deformed bones with atrophied muscles is not something possible unless it is a miracle. Jesus did not hesitate. He responded instantly, healing whatever was wrong with the man and making his muscles strong enough to jump and run immediately.

...And praising God. This man must have seen Jesus in the Temple -- maybe even as a baby. So he knew where his healing had come from, and he praised God. All the translations record the people's reaction as 'wonder and amazement.' They knew this beggar. They had seen him for years. They must have been aware of his deformity. But here he was, jumping and running and praising God. What was going on?

Verses 11-16
(NIV)
 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.  When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate,though he had decided to let him go.  You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.  By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

(NKJ) Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon’s, greatly amazed.  So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.  But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.  And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

(KJV) And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Comment: Did the man come back to hold on to Peter and John, or has the narrative backed up a few moments? It may be the former, as they are no longer at Gate Beautiful, but are instead at Solomon's Porch. Here is the picture again:

Temple

If the beggar had been running and jumping in the Court of the Gentiles, many, many people would have seen him. Peter and John have now voluntarily or otherwise backed up and are at the perimiter of the Temple area. Did the crush of people cause the ex-beggar to go back to Peter and Paul and hang onto them? We have no idea, but can only guess from the clues in the narrative. What we do know is that Peter does not waste a moment explaining.

His first point is that they did not do this by their own power. The Mithras Sect was gaining inroads quite rapidly into the culture at this point, and their trademark was false miracles and magic. Peter immediately discounts any possibility that he is part of that or that either one of them in any way possesses the ability to heal this beggar. He immediately credits the God they know and worship and connects Him with Jesus Christ. The same Jesus they had turned on that spring and demanded His crucifixion.

Peter then summarizes the entire Gospel message in three sentences: But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,  and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.  And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Verses 17-26
(NIV)
 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’

“Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

(NKJ)  “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.  And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”

(KJV) And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

Comment: Peter's first comment here was good news and bad news for his hearers. "I know you acted in ignorance." That means their judgment would not be what it might have been if they had known what they were doing. But the flip side of that is that Peter is now going to give them the knowledge they must have to make a decision. He then tells them to repent. Then he adds something that is a strong indication that he and the others were expecting the imminent return of Christ to rule from Jerusalem: "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." In other words, "Repent, so that time can begin now!"

Peter closes telling them Christ came to them first, even though the promise of God to Abraham was that through him all the families of the earth should be blessed. But the Jews first, as Paul also said, and which also echoed Jesus' statement in Matthew 15:24 when He stated He was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. And so Peter pleads with them with his explanation.