Backstory: God had called Abraham promising him a homeland and multiple descendants to bless the world. Abraham’s descendants became slaves in Egypt, so God called Moses to led Israel out of Egypt. At Mt. Sinai God formed them into the nation of Israel and eventually led them into their land under Joshua. Then God found a king after His own heart in David and promised him a ‘perpetual kingship’ over God’s people. David’s son, Solomon, built the Jerusalem Temple as a dwelling place for God, but his many foreign wives introduced an idolatry that split the nation. The ‘Northern kingdom’ would be scattered by the Assyrians and the ‘Southern Kingdom’ was later taken into ‘Exile in Babylon for 70 years’. The Persians conquered the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return to their land but Israel remained dominated by various Pagan empires. God’s people were waiting for God to send a conquering king to liberate God’s people and God sent Jesus. After being ‘anointed by the Spirit’ at his baptism, Jesus overcame the Devil’s temptations and he proclaimed the ‘Kingdom of God’. Jesus formed a ‘new people (12)’ around himself and once his disciples recognized his Messianic identity he made his way to Jerusalem where he was enthroned as ‘KING of the JEWS’ on a cross. Three days later Jesus was ‘declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:4). Then Jesus showed himself alive to his disciples and ascended into heaven. He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem and then on the ‘Day of Pentecost’ God poured out his Spirit on disciples empowering them to be his witnesses. This brings us to the story of Peter healing a crippled beggar at the temple gates. Watch the story being told and read the comments below.
A Cripple is Healed: The apostles, Peter and John, were on their way to the temple to pray when a crippled beggar asked them for money. Peter tells the beggar that they didn’t have money but Peter tells the man, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Then Peter helps him up by the hand. The man’s legs became strong so that the man was able to walk into the temple courts, jumping and praising God. Peter had something better than money and he didn’t even ask if the man wanted to be healed. Peter just told the man to get up in the name of Jesus and then Peter helped the man up and he was able to walk. Clearly the point of the story is that the ‘name of Jesus’ carries the restorative power of God.
The people recognized him as the cripple who normally begged at the temple gate and they were ‘filled with amazement’. They gathered around looking at Peter and John as if by their own power and godliness they had healed the crippled man. Peter wanted them to look to Jesus who the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had glorified. They had turned Jesus over to Pilate who was willing to release Jesus but they had Pilate release a murderer instead. According to Peter, they killed the ‘author of life’ but God raised him from the dead. Peter and John were witnesses of this and the healing confirmed their testimony. It was not that Peter and John had special power or that the name of Jesus is magical. They trusted in Jesus who had the power and it was through faith in the name of Jesus that the man was made whole (3:16).
The God of the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had glorified Jesus, who the people of Israel handed over to Pilate. They killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. Peter and John were eye-witnesses and the healed man validated their testimony. Peter said that Israel and their leaders had acted in ignorance but they were without excuse since the ‘prophets’ had foretold that the Christ would suffer. Therefore they were to ‘repent and turn to God’ and they would be forgiven and ‘refreshed’ by God sending the appointed Christ Jesus. For now Jesus would remain in heaven until his return at the time when God would restore all things. After his ascension, Jesus waits for the time to return to renew all creation and to make heaven and earth one as foretold by the prophets.
The Israel story was culminating in the Jesus story. Jesus was the prophet like Moses who would usher in an age foretold by all Israel’s prophets. The story of Jesus was the unexpected fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless ‘all peoples on earth’. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus was the culmination of the story told by all of Israel’s prophets. The appropriate response was to repent of their wicked ways and turn to the resurrected Jesus. Israel and their leaders had killed the Christ in ignorance, but they were without excuse for all the prophets had foretold these days.
The religious leaders heard Peter’s preaching of the resurrection of Jesus and they were greatly disturbed. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, responded boldly by saying the crippled man had been healed in ‘the name’ of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Many believed the message and the number of believers increased to over 5000. The religious leaders, however, put Peter and John in prison overnight. The next day the religious rulers questioned Peter and John about the healing. Then Peter ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ made it clear that all Israel needed to know that it was by the ‘name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth’ that the man stood healed. Moreover, the whole incident showed that there was salvation in no one else and that there was no other man by which we can be saved, other than the name of Jesus.
The religious leaders were astonished by the boldness of these two ‘unschooled ordinary’ men. They knew that their courage came from being with Jesus. Now they couldn’t deny that a miraculous healing had occurred because the man was standing right there. Peter had said that the miracle had been done in the ‘name of Jesus’; who they had crucified but whom God raised from the dead. To try to stop the message from spreading they threatened the apostles and forbid that they teach or preach in the name of Jesus. However, for Peter and John to obey the religious leaders would mean they would have to disobey God. So Peter and John said that they couldn’t stop speaking about what they had seen and heard. Now the crowd was praising God and the leaders didn’t know what to do. They threatened the apostles and let them go.
They were ‘untrained, ordinary men’ but they had the first-hand experience of being with Jesus and that was the source of their bold witness. They had a clear and focused way of understanding Israel’s story as culminating in Jesus. They proclaimed the risen Christ who had transformed them and they were not going to stop testifying about the Jesus they had seen and heard. The crowd was praising God and not knowing what to do the leaders further threatened them and then released them. Peter and John went and told their fellow believers all that had happened. They went to God in prayer and asked Him to continue to do miracles in Jesus’ name and to enable them to speak the word with boldness. God answered their prayers by shaking the place where they were and filling them with the Holy Spirit, so that they spoke the word of God boldly.
Ironically they don’t pray that the Lord would judge those who were threatening them. They didn’t pray that the opposition and the persecution would stop. They prayed, ‘Lord, please continue to work miracles in Jesus’ name and enable us to speak boldly and work powerfully among us.’ What they wanted was for God to miraculously work among them and that they would be enabled to speak of Jesus boldly and confidently. They wanted God’s powerful presence, shaking them up, filling them with the spirit, and giving them boldness. How should we respond to their example? Do we want and pray for what they wanted?