DRAMA IN THE TEMPLE ACTS CHAPTER 3
As the brethren strengthened their association together, and enjoyed their new-found belief and commitment to the service of Jesus Christ, two of the apostles, Peter and John, faced a remarkable experience in the temple, whilst Peter boldly presented his second message of salvation to the public. His words continue the outstanding address given at Pentecost, and include a dramatic prophecy of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ
The First Miracle — vv. 1-11.
A further gift of the Spirit is about to be revealed through the work of the apostles: that of divine healing. In the temple at the hour of prayer, Peter and John are involved providentially in a wonderful experience that provides evidence of the goodness of God. This becomes the first apostolic miracle, a token of the great work of healing the physical disabilities of mankind that will be accomplished through the ministration of the saints in the kingdom Age.
"Now" — Connecting the record of the apostles' experiences in the temple with the events of chapter 2, to show the relationship between the public witness to those in Jerusalem and the miracle that occurred in the temple. However, there is no word in the Greek for "now." The word epi indicates "at that time together." Thus it should read: "Peter and John at that time went up..."
"Peter and John" — There was close affinity between these two, stemming from their first partnership (Lk. 5:10; cp. Jn. 18:15; 20:4). With James they had witnessed the transfiguration (Mat. 17:1); had listened to the Lord's outline of prophecy (Mk. 13:3); gone together to prepare the passover for the disciples (Lk. 22:8); ventured into the palace of the high priest at the interrogation of the Master (Jn. 18:15); and were with Christ in his trials in the garden (Mk. 14:33). Now they are associated together in the great work of witnessing to the healing power of the Truth.
"went up" — Gr. anebainon has the significance of proceeding as on a military campaign; to leap up as does a horse; to trample on an opponent. This incident was to be a deliberate development in the divine purpose, by which the "goodness and severity" of God (Rom. 11:22) was dramatically demonstrated. Thus the two apostles would (1) heal the needy: vv. 2-11, and (2) judge the guilty: vv. 12-18.
"together" — The Master had instructed his disciples to co-operate in the work of preaching the Truth, and to provide support for each other (Mk. 6:7). The word is not actually in the text, but the two apostles were probably at the point of the ascending terraces to the temple entrance.
"into the temple" — The first work of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem was to visit the temple (Jn. 2:13), and to provide opportunity to heal the nation from the impotency of empty ritual. He cast out those who bought and sold, showing that "judgment begins at the house of God" (1Pet. 4:17; Eze. 9:6), and demonstrated the means of cure. Now Peter and John follow the same principle as events unfolded.
"at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour" — The Jewish "morning" begins at 6am; hence it was not 3pm, when the incense of the evening sacrifice was offered (Psa. 141:2).
Significantly, this was the same hour at which the Lord died (Mat. 27:46). Evidently this time of prayer was an important feature in worship observed by Peter (Acts 10:9; 6th hour) and Cornelius (v. 30).
"And a certain man" — One well known because of his daily appearance in the temple. He was a living illustration of the sad condition of humanity: "lame from his mother's womb," and therefore utterly unable to walk in the way of righteousness unless he received the blessing of the power of God. The Law was unable to provide any means whereby this man could be healed, or to alleviate his condition in any way. He is unnamed; hence represents the unknown multitude who find divine assistance through the proclamation of the Truth.
"lame from his mother's womb" — This evidence is included to indicate that there could be no deception in the miracle (cp. Jn. 9:1, 20). Figuratively, the disease suffered by this man represents the condition of mortality, borne by all humanity.
"was carried" — Diaglott and Rotherham have: "was being carried," in the imperfect tense. It was at this precise moment, as the impotent man was carried by, that he came into contact with the means whereby he might be healed. The "ways of Providence" often bring a person into circumstances whereby the power of the Truth can be experienced. For Peter and John this may well have revived memories of similar situations in the past (cp. Lk. 7:12).
"whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple" — Since he was over 40 years old (ch. 4:22), he may well have witnessed the Lord's dramatic action in the temple, and heard his expositions. Now he was to experience he remarkable power of the Truth.
"which is called Beautiful" — Gr. horaian, "seasonable" (at its loveliest; fruitfulness). The word signifies the Nicanor, or Great Gate, located on the east of the temple, and so-called because of its size (50 cubits high; 40 wide) and beauty, being richly decorated. The gate was flanked by two magnificent Corinthian brasen pillars. So massive were the gates that it took twenty men to shut them and drive their iron bars and bolts into the foundation rock. At the sides of the gates were the treasuries where thirteen receptacles, shaped like inverted trumpets were built into the wall for the reception of money. In the courts of the Gentiles sat butchers, poulterers and money changers. These sold their cattle and sheep to the wealthy; their doves and pigeons to the poorer worshippers, and exchanged Gentile coinage for Jewish in order to preserve the treasury from "pollution" by Gentile tokens. It was at that place of worship, which had become a monument to Jewish hypocritical pride, that an outstanding miracle occurred, and the preaching of the Truth was to be presented. "to ask alms of them that entered into the temple" — His ailment forced him to beg for livelihood, thus he could only live from day to day. The word "entered" is in the imperfect tense, indicating those "who were entering."
The Beautiful Gate and the Lame Man
What an astonishing contrast between the symbology to be seen in this building, and the beggarly creature who sat at its entrance. The gate was enormous, strongly built, and beautiful to behold. The work of skilful men, it was an object of awe and admiration— an apt symbol for the "temple made without hands;" a temple made up of men and women in whom the Word of God dwells richly, who are being transformed mentally and morally, to be glorified in the future Age with the wonder of divine nature.
And sitting at the foot of this magnificent structure, a poverty-stricken, crippled creature, helpless in his deformity. He was an appropriate symbol to represent the spiritual condition of the nation of Israel; but more than that: he typified the state of the entire human race. The tragic future of such a man was:
- Doomed in his helplessness;
- Incurable, by any means that man could provide;
- His condition worsening with every passing year;
- Unable to help himself or others.
To this pathetic bundle of humanity, as though speaking to all Israel, and all of humanity, Peter and John said: Look on us! — for they were custodians of the Word of life, able to open the eyes of all willing to look upon the saving light which was to be seen in the Son of the Living God.
"Who" — He had not benefited from the Lord's previous healing work in the temple (Mat. 21:14), perhaps to allow for the incident about to occur (cp. Jn 9:3). He was to be assisted by the Lord's apostles: representing the saints of all ages who bear the saving message to those in need (Jn. 17:20).
"seeing Peter and John about" — This word (mellantas) means "to think upon; to meditate." Before entering the temple, Peter and John deliberately stopped to consider certain matters — giving opportunity for the lame man's appeal.
"to go into the temple asked an alms" — He took the initiative, but the answer to his appeal came in an entirely unexpected fashion.
"And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John" — There was an immediate response by the two apostles. The word "fastening" (atenisas) indicates "to hold intently and consider with strained attention; to fix one's eyes on; to stare." It is translated "set his eyes" in Acts 13:9. Peter felt within him the guidance of the Spirit, and fixed a steady gaze on the man, as though to scrutinize him. The term rendered "fastening the eyes" is almost exclusive to Luke, who mentions it twelve times; Paul, as the only other writer to use it, applies it twice (2Cor. 3:7, 13).
"said, Look on us" — The man was now required to respond, by returning the concentrated gaze of the apostles. The word (blepson) is in the imperative mood and literally means "we would that you will look with a steady look." It has the idea of looking with intensity; to consider attentively. Faith had to be developed in this man, out of a conscious recognition of his own disabilities. The impotent man and the apostles looked intently at each other, to the exclusion of all about them. This needs to be the attitude of all who seek redemption—to fix their gaze on the "face of Jesus Christ" (2Cor. 4:6). The "eyes of Yahwen" are "over [Gr. epi, "upon; towards"] the righteous" (1Pet. 3:12), providing for their welfare.
The eye is a symbol for intelligence, representing that which is received into the brain, thereby implying intellectual understanding. Christ is "the light of the world," and all who wish to be drawn to the light of divine truth must do so through a knowledge of him, and an acceptance of him as Lord and Saviour. "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Mat. 6:22). Speaking of those who have been blessed to receive the Truth, Paul wrote: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and... the riches... of his inheritance in the saints" (Eph. 1:18). The ecclesia at Laodicea, having lost "sight" of the reality and hope of their calling, were exhorted by Christ to "anoint" their "eyes" with eyesalve, that they might once again "see" the pure light of Yahweh's saving Truth, and walk in the ways thereof (Rev. 3:18).
"And he gave heed unto them" — He responded, but as yet his understanding of the power of the Truth available in Christ was deficient. He was seeking mere temporary benefits.
"expecting to receive something of them" — His hope was aroused by anticipation of a contribution to be received. It is through applying the Word to the circumstances of life that faith is developed.
Silver and Gold
In this materialistic society it is commonly thought that money or wealth will provide the answers to the problems of life. Even amongst the Brotherhood, such a philosophy often prevails, causing even greater difficulties. Some feel that if they had more possessions, or better financial security, their lives would be more productive in the Truth! Such reasoning is a highly dangerous fallacy. Through such rationalism brethren are led to change their direction in life, veering towards a pursuit of greater worldly gain. Anything that draws an individual closer to the world will draw them away from God.
The gospel does not offer mankind what they think is best for themselves, in their own estimation of their "needs." It does not offer any guarantee of
advantageous social conditions. It does not provide a promise of immediate materialistic benefits. It does not extend an assurance of immunity from the trials and pressures of life.
The gospel does offer to fulfil the one essential need of all men and women: "Rise up, and Walk!" (v. 6). This is achieved by acquiring a sound knowledge and understanding of the Truth, accepting it in humility, and setting our feet firmly in the direction that leads to eternal salvation, walking by faith in hope of the promises. The way of faith is not demonstrated by neutrality, nor can it be maintained through inattentive-ness. It will not develop out of list-lessness or inactivity, nor will it become a reality without commitment. Faith will come into existence when individuals are prepared to look, listen, hearken, and do, as God requires.
"Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none" — The man faced his first lesson of faith! That which he expected was not to be received; what he might receive was far greater than material benefits. Wealth could never alleviate the man's sufferings, nor cure his lameness. In fact, a gift of "silver and gold" would have merely confirmed him in his desperate plight. Yet it is for material benefits that most seek, even in spite of the grand opportunities provided by the Truth. Isaiah declared to apostate Israel: "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness" (ch. 55:2). The only means by which this might be achieved is in the understanding and acceptance of the principles of the Davidic covenant (v. 3). The accumulation of wealth was the downfall of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:12); it caused him to become spiritually lame, and it was only after he "set his face" to return to his father (v. 18), that he found true restoration.
"but such as I have" — Peter had only one thing to give, yet it was the most priceless gift anyone could hope to receive!
The word "have" occurs twice in this verse, but they derive from two entirely different Greek words. The first (Gr. hyparchei) denotes "original condition," emphasising that Peter had never been anything but a poor man insofar as this world's goods were concerned, and therefore was not in a position to give "silver and gold" to any man. However, the word in this phrase (Gr. echo) means "to have, to hold," and implies a lasting possession. Though lacking in material wealth, Peter had the power and authority to grant to men and women the incalculable riches of the gospel of Christ "give I thee" — Peter possessed the "keys of the kingdom" (Mat. 16:19), the means to the great wealth of eternity. He later wrote that we are "not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold" but "with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
"In the name" — Gr. en to onomati, "authority; character." This name would have been well-known in Jerusalem. It was associated with other acts of healing: at the pool of Bethesda (Jn. 5:2, 14); the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:1-7). But now it was to be a matter of faith to this lame man, for just
recently Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified as the man who "deceived the people" (Jn. 7:12).
"of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" — What majestic words are these—being at Branch) once a challenge to unbelief and confirmation of the saving power seen in his work. They were placed by Pilate on the cross (Jn. 19:19), and were now to be used in the scheme of redemption—a principle upheld by the apostles in their writings (Col. 1:20; Phil. 2:8; Eph. 2:16).
The name "Jesus" (Yah Saves) proclaims his mission of salvation. The title "Christ" (Anointed) illustrates the means by which salvation is accomplished: by divine overshadowing power. The place "Nazareth" (Preserved; from Netzer, the highlights his association with flesh. The Diaglott has "the Nazarene," emphasizing his humble origin, being from flesh of mankind (Jn. 1:46; Isa. 53:1-3).
This "Name" embodies together both the