Beggar by the Gate
After Pentecost, all the believers met daily at the Temple for worship and fellowship. The Church Age had begun, but they had not abandoned their Jewish customs. They looked upon themselves not as former Jews, but as the only Jews true to their heritage, for they alone had accepted Jesus, the Jewish Messiah.
On a certain day Peter and John went up to the Temple at the ninth hour (about three o'clock in the afternoon). This was one of the times during the day when the devout flocked to the Temple. They had been taught that to raise corporate prayer was especially appropriate early in the morning, at the time of the morning sacrifice, and again at the ninth hour, the time of the evening sacrifice.1
Although Peter and John’s purpose was to join others in prayer, they were also looking for opportunities to spread the fame of Jesus. They noticed a beggar on their way in. He was sitting near the gate called Beautiful and asking people to give him alms (money). Passers-by took pity on him because they could see he was lame and unable to support himself by regular work.
In those days someone with a severe disability could not obtain help from the government, because there were no welfare programs. Nor could he count on the support of his own relatives, because most families were very poor. They expected every adult member to bring in money, even if the only way was by begging. If a man had to beg because he was disabled, his family might leave him every day in a good place for attracting sympathy. The entrance to the Temple was especially good because people going to worship God were more likely to remember His many commands to help the poor. For example, He said, "And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him" (Lev. 25:35).
The lame man that Peter and John saw near the gate was laid there "daily." Later, everyone in the Temple recognized him as "he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate" (v. 10). Thus, it is likely that the Jews had seen him at the same spot for years.
Better than Money
When Peter and John passed by, the beggar called out to them and asked for alms. Moved by the Holy Spirit, Peter commanded the man to look at them. The man looked, thinking he might receive a generous gift of money. But what Peter did was altogether surprising. He 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."
Peter's command to rise up and walk tested the beggar's faith. Before performing a miracle to meet a human need, Jesus always required faith either in the needy person or in someone else concerned about him. Once, when a father implored Jesus to deliver his son from an unclean spirit, "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9:23).
No doubt the lame man had heard of Jesus and knew He was a miracle worker. During one of His last visits to Jerusalem, Jesus had healed a man blind from birth, and the miracle was a sensation (John 9). News of it would surely have reached a lame beggar in the Temple. Perhaps at night he went to sleep wishing he were the one that Jesus had found and healed. Perhaps the seeds of faith had already been planted in his heart.
The Beggar's Response
Now the beggar heard a confident voice command him on Jesus' authority to get up and walk. To encourage the man in his effort to obey, Peter "took him by the right hand, and lifted him up." The man's heart must have flooded with hope, and he must have strained every muscle and summoned every ounce of strength to cooperate. But as soon as faith took root in his heart, no great effort was required. He rose as easily as any agile youth. Yet he was so eager to obey that he used great effort anyway, and the result was that he actually leaped to his feet.
Notice that several miracles were done simultaneously. First, the physical defect responsible for his affliction had to be repaired. Second, all the muscles and other tissues that had wasted away through disuse had to be rebuilt. Yet that was not all. Being lame "from his mother's womb" (Acts 3:2), he had never learned how to walk. Thus, his nervous system had to be enlarged with new intercellular connections and its memory banks reprogrammed so that he could control his restored legs and walk smoothly.
The work of healing was perfect. After leaping up, the man walked with the apostles into the Temple. But he did not quietly trudge along beside them. He was so overjoyed at being healed that he tried out different ways of using his legs. Everyone saw him "walking, and leaping, and praising God." Whether he also ran and skipped, we do not know, but it is possible.
He did not fail to be grateful. Over and over again he praised God for His goodness. Put yourself in his place. He was a man who had always envied the ability of others to do simple things beyond his power, like carrying a child or climbing to a housetop to watch the sunset. Suddenly, only minutes removed from a life of despair, he was a man like other men. Indeed, because God healed him, his legs must have been unusually fit and strong.
Excitement in the Temple
News of the miracle raced throughout the Temple compound. Some heard what had happened. Others were only aware of a general excitement drawing people toward the area known as Solomon's Porch. It was a triple colonnade running along the Eastern wall of the Temple and framing the Outer Court, known as the Court of the Gentiles.9 Everyone rushed there and found the healed man clinging to Peter and John. Here again is evidence of his gratitude. He could not stop hugging them for giving him a normal life.
He was far more deserving than some others who received Jesus' help. After Jesus healed ten lepers, nine hurried away to be pronounced clean and only one, a Samaritan, turned back to thank the healer. Jesus said, "There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger" (Luke 17:18). His comment was meant to rebuke those who think they are close to God, but make little effort to thank Him for His blessings.
The gathering crowd must have gazed with awe at Peter and John, as if they gave the two apostles credit for the miracle, for when Peter began to speak, he deflected all praise from themselves. He denied they had any power to perform miracles, or any great holiness requiring God to do miracles at their bidding.
To explain how the man had been healed, Peter introduced the name of Jesus. This Jesus was a man the Jews treated shamefully. They handed Him over to Pilate for trial, but did not accept Pilate's verdict that He was innocent of any fault. They begged Pilate to release a murderer instead. So deep was their hatred of Jesus that they coerced Pilate to crucify Him. Peter summarized his case against the Jews by bluntly stating that they killed Jesus.
Who was this Jesus who died at the hands of Peter’s hearers? Rather than identify Him first as the Christ—that is, as the human Messiah awaited by the Jews—Peter accorded to Him a string of august titles. He was "the Holy One and the Just," "the Prince of life," and the "Son" of God. These descriptions of His high standing should have made it obvious that Jesus was no less than divine. Only a divine person could be morally perfect. Only a divine person could be the author of life. And only a divine person could be God’s own Son.
Plea to Repent
In rebuke of the Jews who killed Jesus, Peter proclaimed that God had raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and the lame man had been healed by putting faith in His name.
Peter then softened his appeal by conceding that the Jews had killed Jesus out of ignorance. Yet he immediately added that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. He was implying that their ignorance was inexcusable. As students of the Scriptures, they should have known that Christ would suffer and die for the sins of the world.
Their rejection of the divine Savior left them no claim on God's mercy. Yet God was merciful anyway and offered them forgiveness if they would only "repent" and "be converted." The terms describe a change in direction. The Jews needed to leave the path of rebellion against God and turn into the path of faith and obedience. Peter assured them that God would respond by blotting out their sins.
His plea to repent was directed at each individual standing in the crowd. Yet it was also directed at the whole nation of the Jews, and it was mainly the whole nation that he addressed in his next words.
He promised that if the Jews would repent and follow Christ, they would share in all the blessings that God planned for the church. Peter divided the future of the church into two periods and named them by referring to the special blessings that each would bring. First would come Times of Refreshing. Then would come Times of Restitution (that is, restoration). He placed between these two times a single event: the return of Christ. Basically, he summarized the future history of planet earth.
In the Greek phrase translated "times of refreshing," the word "refreshing" is anapsuxis, which suggests coolness, like rain on a hot day, or a cup of water after hard work.11 It can be translated "revival."12 The word "times" is kairos, which often signifies a period marked by events with certain characteristics.13
Continuing, Peter said that God would send Jesus Christ. He was speaking of Christ's second coming, the watershed event that will divide the sadness of history past from the glory of history future.
He said, moreover, that Christ’s descent from heaven will usher in "times of restitution." In the Greek phrase, the word "restitution" is apokatastasis, which suggests regeneration, or restoration to a proper state.15 The word "times" is chronos, which signifies a time interval, whether long or short.16
In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter showed that both the Resurrection and the Ascension had been foreordained by God and prophesied in His Word. Now he showed that the future reign of Christ will be another fulfillment of prophecy. He quoted Deuteronomy 18:18-19: "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."
When John the Baptist started his ministry, the religious leaders asked him, "Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?" (John 1:25). They expected three different figures to appear in the end time: Christ, Elijah, and the prophet mentioned by Moses. Thus, when preaching in Solomon's Porch, Peter enlightened the Jews as to the true significance of Moses' prophecy. The prophet whom Moses foresaw was the same person as Christ.
Moses warned that whoever fails to hear the prophet will be destroyed. Thus, Peter treats the prophecy as referring to the Millennial kingdom, when no opposition to Christ will be tolerated. Indeed, He will "rule them with a rod of iron" (Rev. 2:27). Does this impress you as too severe? Human beings prefer leaders who wink at sin, but Christ will give it no foothold in His kingdom. Why? Because sin is a way of hurting others as well as oneself. No one during the Millennium will have the freedom to cause hurt.
Moses was not alone in speaking of the blessed time when the whole world will pay homage to a Jewish king. Glimpses of this time abound in Old Testament prophecy. Peter said that Samuel "foretold of these days." Samuel was regarded by the Jews as the first prophet. Nowhere in the recorded words of Samuel do we find a clear reference to the Messiah. But his rebuke of King Saul on one occasion is rich with prophetic meaning. He said, "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people" (1 Sam. 13:13-14). Samuel was implying that whereas the throne of Saul would be cut off, the throne of David, the man after God's own heart, would continue forever. The prophecy will be fulfilled when Christ, the Son of David, takes power over the earth and all creation.
First to the Jews
Peter concluded his appeal to the Jews by reminding them that they were special in God's eyes. Though He loved all men, He especially loved the Jews for three reasons:
1) They bore His name, for they were known as the people of God.
2) They were descended from the prophets, God's beloved messengers of truth.
3) They were heirs of the covenant that God made with Abraham. In that covenant God declared He would take Israel's side against all her enemies. "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Gen. 22:17-18).
The key provision of this covenant was, "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22:18). The promised seed (masculine singular in the Hebrew19) was Jesus Christ, and the first nation that God chose to bless through Christ was the Jews. It was to the Jews that Christ devoted His ministry on earth. He walked in the midst of no other nation. It was to the Jews that the gospel was offered first, in obedience to Christ's command that the apostles should be witnesses first in Jerusalem and Judea.