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"The Lame Man Leaps for Joy!"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
September 26, 2007
Theme: This passage describes the sermon that Peter preached as a result of the healing of a man in the temple—and of the beginnings of the opposition of the Jewish authorities that led to the gospel being spread to the Gentiles.
The proclamation of the gospel, according to God's good plan, is "for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans1:16). Jesus Himself, before He ascended to the Father, said that the gospel would be preached first in Jerusalem, and then in all Judea and Samaria, and finally to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). It had already been preached in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 2:22-39); and now we see it preached in the temple proper. As we'll see in the progress of the story of Acts, the rejection of the gospel on the part of the Jewish leaders leads to its spread to the Gentile world. But God never forgets His promise to the Jewish people. The gospel—meant first for the Jews—has gone out to the Gentiles "to provoke" the Jews to jealousy (Romans 11:11-36).
Here, we see the story of a great healing in the name of Jesus Christ—right in the very temple itself. This miraculous healing leads to a great opportunity for the preaching of the gospel. And it also leads to the arrest of the preachers; and to the beginnings of Jewish opposition that will accompany much of the gospel's spread to the gentile world. Praise God that His gospel wins in the end—and among those things that He promises to win is the Jewish people! (Romans 11:25-26).
I. THE MIRACLE (vv. 1-10).
A. The story begins with Peter and John going up to the temple for the hour of prayer—that is, the ninth hour (3 pm). Peter and John were friends before they met the Lord (Luke 5:10); and we find them together much of the time in the Scriptures (Luke 9:28; 22:8; John 18:15-16; 20:2-8; 21:18-22). Good friends are even better friends when they are friends in Jesus! Here, we see them going into the temple together in a manner that was in keeping with their practices as good Jewish men.
B. They enter through the gate called "Beautiful". Alfred Edersheim wrote that this gate was made from Corinthian brass and took twenty men to open and close (The Temple: Its Ministry and Service [1994, Hendrickson Publishers] p. 24). It lead to the Court of the Women. Apparently, a man who had been crippled from birth (over forty years of age at this time, according to Acts 4:22), had been regularly laid there—daily—to ask for alms. It was probably a strategic place to lay; because few would feel comfortable in their spirit entering the temple to worship if they had turned their eyes away from the crippled man. Everyone would have known him. As the two apostles entered, the man asked them for alms.
C. We may be inclined at times to turn our heads away from beggars when we don't have anything to give them. Peter and John, however didn't. They had the confidence of the riches of Jesus Himself. They called the man to look intently at them—which excited him with the hopes that he would receive something from them. He did receive—but not what he expected. They had no silver or gold to give him; but they gave him something better. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth", Peter said, "rise up and walk." Peter spoke of Jesus as "of Nazareth", perhaps, to show that he felt a continuity with the history of Jesus' walk on earth. The same Jesus who healed others was raised from the dead; and was now alive to heal this man as well.
D. Peter was bold. He took the man by the right hand—the man who had never stood in his life!— and raised him up. As the man was lifted, the Lord immediately healed his feet and his ankles. It may have been the first time that he stood shoulder to shoulder with any other man. As a result, he walked and leapt and praised God. The fact that this occurred at 3 pm would suggest that a large number of people were passing in and out of the temple gate. They would have heard the man's praises to God and saw him leaping and dancing with joy; and they would have immediately recognized him as the beggar at the Beautiful gate. He became God's megaphone to his Jewish brethren; and they were all filled with wonder at what had happened.
II. THE MEANING (vv. 11-16).
A. Peter and John continued to enter into the temple—with the lame man praising God and clinging to them. They apparently went to Solomon's porch—the cite where Jesus once confronted the Jewish people with their unbelief in His identity (John 10:22-39). It was there that the amazed crowds gathered; and as Peter saw them collecting around to marvel at Peter and John and the healed man, he made it clear to them that it was not by their power or godliness that the man was healed. Peter stands as a great example. He never fails to point to Jesus.
B. Because he is speaking to his Jewish brethren, Peter points to God first as the healer of the man. He uses a remarkable way of describing God (v. 13)—the very way that God once described Himself to Moses (Ex. 3:6); and that King David petitioned God for his son Solomon—the promised son through whom his reign would be passed (1 Chron. 29:18). Every Jewish man would have recognized that way of introducing God; and perhaps their minds would begin to make the connection between God's promises to Moses and David, and the Jesus who was now being preached to them.
C. Peter isn't shy about affirming that the Jewish people to whom he spoke delivered up Jesus to Pilate and asked for a murderer to be given to them instead. He even goes so far as to say that they killed "the Prince [or Originator] of life". But he also affirms that God had raised Him from the dead; and that he and the other apostles are witnesses (Acts 10:41). The meaning of the great miracle that the people were beholding was made clear: it was proof that the very Jesus whom they crucified had been raised up from the dead by God and was glorified by Him. It was in the name of this Jesus—through faith in His name—that the man had been healed. It was an absolutely undeniable miracle (Acts 4:14-16); and the only explanation was the truth that Peter and John were proclaiming concerning the resurrection of Christ. The key point of this story is not about the healing of the man—as wonderful as that was. Rather, it was about the resurrection of Jesus and the affirmation of the gospel preached in His name.
III. THE MESSAGE (vv. 17-26).
A. Peter speaks graciously to his Jewish brethren—even calling them "brethren". He acknowledges that what they and their rulers did to Christ, they did in ignorance (Acts 13:27; see also John 8:19; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:13). They should have known God's promise that the Messiah would be a suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). But God also promised that the truth would be hidden from those who heard it (Isaiah 6:9-13). Nevertheless, Peter affirms that God fulfilled everything that He had promised through the prophets concerning Jesus (Luke 24:46-48).
B. The call, therefore, is to "repent" and "be converted" unto the washing away of their sins, and so that the "times of refreshing" may come from the Lord. This is a reference to the return and messianic reign of Jesus as the promised King of the Jews. Peter makes it clear that this Jesus is the very "Prophet" that Moses promised would come (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). They were to "hear" Him; because it was Him that all the prophets spoke of (John 5:39). Heaven must receive Him (a reference to His ascension) until the times of "restoration of all things" (a reference to His millennial reign).
C. Peter affirms that the Jews who were then hearing him were the "sons of the prophets" and of the Abrahamic covenant. They were the fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 12:3; for it was through them (the Jewish people) that the Messiah had come; who would be the blessing of all the earth. It was to them first that the very same blessing was offered in the presentation of Jesus as the fulfillment of all the promises from God to them. We should continue to pray for the Jewish people. The Bible recognizes no idea of the Gospel being for "Christians" and Judaism for the Jews. The Gospel is not only for the Jews also—it is for the Jews first!