God’s Word for You
Acts 3:1-7 a man crippled from birth
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, September 10, 2019
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at three in the afternoon, the hour of prayer. 2 And a man crippled from birth was being carried in. Every day people would put him at the temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so that he could beg for money from those going into the temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for money.
We don’t know precisely where the Beautiful Gate was, since few of the ancient structures of Jerusalem still exist, including the entrances. It’s possible that it was the same as the gate on the eastern wall of the Temple area. Also called the Golden Gate, this was the entrance Jesus used on Palm Sunday (Matthew 26:9-10). However, another popular entrance may have been one on the west side of the Temple, near the present-day Cotton Merchants’ Gate. And there were surely other places besides these which had plenty of traffic for a beggar.
There are very few references to beggars in the Old Testament. In a society based on agriculture, there are very few who need to beg. Either a man has his own land, or he works for someone with land. It isn’t until the arrival of big cities that begging becomes commonplace. Although a word translated “beg” appears in requests to God (Judges 13:8) or to kings (2 Kings 8:3; Esther 4:8), only in Lamentations is there even a passing reference to anyone begging like this man did: “The children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them” (Lamentations 4:4, see also Psalms 37:25 and 109:10). Then, almost suddenly, we find beggars all over the place in Jerusalem in the New Testament. The troubles that come with urbanization are not unique to the modern world.
4 Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and he said, “Look at us.” 5 So he paid close attention to them, expecting to get something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” 7 Then he took him by the right hand and helped him up. Immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
Luke relates the events with simple precision and a little irony. The beggar was told to look at the apostles, and he did. He thought he would get something valuable from them, and he did. He was expecting gold or silver, but he got something far better. Solomon reported the voice of our Savior: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver” (Proverbs 8:17-19). We don’t know whether the beggar was a believer, a Jew who knew and trusted in the promises of Moses or not, or whether he was an atheist who was out to make some money for himself. (Most beggars use an average of 25% of what they’re given for food, clothes, and housing. If they can avoid a drug or alcohol habit, they can make a comfortable living.)
Peter does the only thing necessary to perform a miracle. In faith, he invokes the name of Jesus, and for the sake of the gospel, he commands the crippled man to walk. At the time, the Holy Spirit was permitting many direct miracles of this kind. These miracles seem to fade during the early days of the church; Paul’s final recorded miracle occurred on the island of Malta, as we will see, where he healed many people (Acts 28:7-9).
Why did the time of miracles pass away? I think that it was because God’s holy word was completed. As the gospel got into more and more hands and was translated into more and more languages, the word did its marvelous, miraculous work, changing hearts and turning them to Jesus. You and I understand the means of grace, the gospel in word and sacrament, which creates and builds up faith and brings the grace of God directly into our receiving hearts. Put away any wistful, regretful longings you might have about not being able to perform miracles and understand what you have that is more powerful than any miracle. You wield a part of the means of grace, the part that is most accessible at any given moment: the word of God. Don’t worry about your ability to convince anyone. Use the word itself. The word of God, the Bible says, is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Paul said, “You shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). The famous miracle-workers of the Bible did amazing things. Elijah and Elisha, Daniel, Peter, John, and Paul, all healed people and did other spectacular things. But which is better, to reverse an illness, or to reverse the curse of sin? To rescue from premature death, or to rescue from everlasting death? An atheist will still scoff at that question, denying that hell is a danger to anyone. But only living atheists don’t care about hell. People who are in heaven want us to join them in heaven. People who are already in hell would do anything to prevent their loved ones from joining them in torment (Luke 16:27-28). We Christians who are alive still do whatever we can to rescue souls. Of all people in heaven, in hell, and on earth, it is only the living unbelievers (a tiny minority of all humanity) who are deceived into their cavalier attitude. They would not be turned away by miracles. “They will not be convinced,” Jesus said, “even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). But the gospel of forgiveness changes hearts. Keep holding it out. And pray that the Holy Spirit would do his spectacular work—just like he did with me and you.
Pastor Timothy Smith