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The Spreading Flame - Series 1: Episode 5

Healing at the Temple gate

| Martin Charlesworth
Acts 3:1-26

A remarkable healing miracle takes place in the Temple courts. Peter uses the opportunity of preaching to the crowd about Jesus and how through him the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant to bless all nations of the earth is made possible.

A remarkable healing miracle takes place in the Temple courts. Peter uses the opportunity of preaching to the crowd about Jesus and how through him the fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant to bless all nations of the earth is made possible.


Hello and welcome to Episode 5 in Series 1.We come now to a crucial event in the book of Acts, which is an example of how a single event caused further growth and development in the Church.

Introduction and Background

The story so far has been breathtakingly fast and dynamic. Things have moved at a great pace, especially since the Day of Pentecost, when the Spirit came, and we looked at that two episodes ago, when the coming of the Spirit produced a sudden miraculous birth of the Church. Three thousand were added in a single day after Peter’s astonishing sermon that we studied. In the last episode, we looked at some of the key elements that caused the formation of a very strong and dynamic church there in Jerusalem. We looked at teaching, at fellowship, at breaking of bread or communion, or the Lord’s supper, and prayer. Luke, in that description, was painting a general picture. One of the things he just puts in those last few verses that we studied last time, Acts 2: 42 - 47, was about the signs and miracles that the Apostles were performing and how that created a great sense of awe and wonder and amazement in the Church and drew people to the faith. He made that general statement at the end of chapter 2. But here, in chapter 3, he gives a very interesting and powerful example. It’s probably put in the text here just by way of illustrating the dynamics of the growth of the Early Church. He probably had several other stories like this that he could have put in the book but Luke is a skilful author and he uses his illustrations well to make some important points. Here we have a day in the life of the Church. We have Peter and John, two of the leading Apostles, heading up to the Temple.

We discussed the Temple in recent episodes because it’s a very important part of the story in these early chapters of the book of Acts. There are a couple of things to say about the Jewish Temple. We are in Jerusalem, that’s the location of this story. The Temple is the central building, the place of worship. It’s a very large site with a huge building. The Temple itself is visible from miles around, hugely well known, but there’s also a compound around it; lots of open space, which we described in the last episode, is being used strategically by the Early Church for public meetings, prayer meetings, preaching, fellowship and for praying for the sick. One of the things they used it for was to gather people for prayer. That is significant for our story today. This Temple doesn’t come into significance all of a sudden now. It’s been a key part of the story for a long time. It’s here in the Temple compound that Jesus would come every time he came to Jerusalem. That’s the place where he could gather a crowd and he could speak, and he did this on several occasions. Most notably, on his last and final visit to Jerusalem, where this Temple compound, which we’re going to discuss now as the site of a remarkable miracle that Peter performed, this Temple compound was also the place where Jesus taught, where Jesus answered difficult questions and was harassed by his enemies. It’s also the place where he performed many miracles. It’s also the place where he overturned the tables of the market traders who were operating in the Temple and caused a significant disruption and conflict at that point. It’s also the place where he denounced the religious leaders in the most strongly worded terms, as recorded in Matthew 23. This Temple compound has been the scene of some very significant events already. Now it’s becoming the home of this Jerusalem church in its public gatherings. Another interesting point about the Temple is that, when Jesus died, the curtain that separates the inner sanctuary of the Temple from the priestly area, which was a very large curtain that hid the inner sanctuary called the most holy place, or the holy of holies, from view so no one could look in there, because it was said that God’s presence was there. The High Priest could go there once a year and that was that. That curtain, according to Matthew’s Gospel, was torn in two, miraculously at the exact time that Jesus died. So, this building is very significant in our story. This is the place that Peter and John come to for an event that turns out to be a surprise and a remarkable miracle.

A Miraculous Healing

Let’s read Acts 3: 1 - 11

1 ‘One day Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the Temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the Temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us! ” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the Temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the Temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.’

Acts 3:1-11, NIV

What a dramatic story. They’re going up to the Temple at the time of prayer. That probably means that they’re going for a church prayer meeting and they’re gathering the church to pray because, as we mentioned last time, the church gathered regularly to pray. Peter and John may be going to go and lead hundreds of people in a prayer meeting. They chose 3pm because it was a convenient time within the Jewish schedule of prayer. But that prayer meeting never took place because something else happened in the intervening period.

Here is a lame man. We hear from Acts 4: 22, where this story is being retold, that he was over 40 years old. He had never walked. He had been disabled from birth and he had to be carried to get to the Temple. Why did he go to the Temple to beg? Because it’s the best place to get money. There’s more people going through those gates into the Temple than almost any other thoroughfare in the city, apart from the external gates. Secondly, they’re going into a religious worship environment, so the people would have a heightened sensitivity to the fact that they should be helping the poor. He’s positioned himself in an amazing place to get the money that he needs. How many years has he been doing it? If he’s over 40 and he’s been lame from birth, he could have been begging at the Temple for say 30 years. Much of his life. He was a well-known person, not the only beggar but a well-known person. Everybody in the city would recognise him because they went in and out of the Temple regularly. Here is someone who has no other known source of income; he probably doesn’t have family support by the age of 40: his parents may well have passed away by then. He’s got some friends who take him up to the Temple, and he depends on begging, like countless thousands of people do all over the world today. That applies in your country, no doubt, and in many parts of the world. People who beg are on many, many street corners and they will choose the places where most people go past, and are likely to stop, just like this man chose the gate that goes into the Temple compound which went by the name of the Beautiful Gate. There were several gates into the Temple compound, from different angles and different entrances, and this was one of them where people would be pressing through in large numbers, and there was good money to be made.

The request for money was an everyday experience. He’d be calling out to Peter as he went past, probably not knowing who he was, just calling out for money, for mercy, for help. But Peter sensed in that moment, by the Holy Spirit’s presence, that he should not pass him by; he should not just take a coin from his pockets and put it in the man’s hand. He sensed a need to stop. In that moment, we can assume, as the Holy Spirit was working within him, faith rose for God to do a miracle. Peter had seen many miracles in Jerusalem already because we heard in the previous chapter that the Apostles were performing signs and miracles regularly.

This is what happened. He called the man to attention. He said he didn’t have any money of any significance, and then he commanded him to walk. We can all tell what a significant miracle this would be, because he had no capacity to walk and had never walked. How is he going to get up on his feet and walk in the way he did? Isn’t it interesting, he doesn’t just walk, but he jumps! He’s probably dancing and he’s crying out in the Temple compound, causing a scene, causing a commotion, causing attention to be drawn to him in a very dramatic way. No wonder a crowd gathered and they gathered in a place in the Temple courts known as Solomon’s Colonnade. We know from John 10: 23 that Jesus healed the sick at that very place, in Solomon’s Colonnade. We know from Acts 5: 12 that the Early Church gathered there regularly. Maybe that was their corner in the Temple compound that they used for their meetings. Here is this man coming into that corner. People were filled with wonder and amazement.

Peter’s Opportunity to Preach

But what happens next? It would be very easy for the story to end there wouldn’t it? That’s a big story. Everybody gathers around; they congratulate him; they ask him what’s happened. He says, “I’ve got to go back home and tell my family.” and he goes and tells his family and friends. That would be a great story, wouldn’t it? But an even greater story took place because Peter had the presence of mind to quickly seize the opportunity. That’s the second time in the story that Peter has made a snap decision. It’s very similar to the snap decision he made on the day of Pentecost once the Spirit had fallen, and the tongues were being spoken by the Apostles and their friends, and the crowds were gathered very quickly. He stood up and spoke. We see Peter here, well-prepared and very sensitive to the Holy Spirit to seize the moment, because moments come and moments go. If that man had disappeared off somewhere else and said, “I’ve got to go see my friends”, that would have taken the momentum out of the situation, but there he was, in the crowd, in the mix, and Peter immediately spoke.

Peter’s Sermon

Now we’re going to give attention to what Peter said, Acts 3:12 - 26:

12 ‘When Peter saw this, he said to them:(that is, the crowd that was gathering) “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. 17 Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ 24 Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised uphis servant, he sent him firstto you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

Acts 3:12-26, NIV

He didn’t have much time to prepare that sermon, did he? It was spontaneous preaching based on a miracle. Peter engages these Jewish people in their history. He goes back to a prophecy from Moses; he goes back to the prophets; more generally, he goes back to God’s covenants, (which we’ll come to in just a moment) in order to try and connect their history with this reality. He also reiterates the fact that what happened to Jesus in Jerusalem, right there in the city, is the crucial thing; he was rejected by the Jews but raised again from the dead. Peter preaches the Gospel to them in a very Jewish kind of way, relevant to their culture and their background. He points to Jesus’ death on the cross, his resurrection and his ascension. Remember we’ve discussed his ascension significantly as part of the story all the way through, up to this point, and it comes again in verse 21. He encourages people that it’s faith in Jesus’ name that makes the difference. The faith that raised this man from being in a disabled state, is the same sort of faith that we need to have to be saved - trusting, reaching out to God.

The Abrahamic Promise

Then he anchors his message in something that I want to pause and look at in more detail. Going to the end of the passage and looking at verse 25, I want to ponder the question of his reference to Abraham.

25 ‘He said to Abraham, “Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.”’

Acts 3:25, NIV

This is important. In order to understand the Christian message. We have to understand the framework of what God was doing in the Old Testament. Put very simply, what God was doing was choosing an ethnic group, the Jewish people, for the purpose of preparing them to be the means by which his salvation could be released and sent to all the nations of the earth. He did this through Abraham, who is the founder of the Jewish people. The first person called Abraham, his wife Sarah, his son Isaac, became the foundational family for the Jewish people. If we go right back to the beginning, to the very first thing God said to Abraham, we find a hint of something which is being fulfilled right here in Acts. God said to Abraham in Genesis 12: 2 - 3, in the very beginning of his revelation to him; the very beginning of the covenant framework, the Abrahamic covenants, which is the foundation for everything else. He said,

2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;”.

 Genesis 12:2-3, NIV

That speaks of the development of the nation through Isaac, but the last two phrases are important. “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Here we have the key to God’s purposes. Every single ethnic group in the world will be blessed through Abraham and his family, the Jewish nation, as it emerges. From Peter’s point of view, and Paul has the same view which we see in his writings, the blessing to the nations through the Jewish people is released only at this moment, through Jesus. The Jewish nation has been the framework through which Jesus, the Messiah, could come, and now all nations of the earth are going to receive the Gospel from a Jewish foundation. Peter is saying to the people: the coming of Jesus fulfils these foundational realities in your religion. How are we going to bless the nations of the earth? We haven’t been a great blessing to them in all our thousands of years of history so far; there’s been a lot of conflict with the nations. But now, through Jesus, all peoples on the earth will be blessed. He is encouraging the Jews to come to faith in Christ, and then give themselves to sharing the faith with other nations from that basis. That’s what’s happening at this particular time in the development of the Church, where it’s primarily still a Jewish reality. Almost all the people who have believed in the Messiah up to this point, are ethnically Jewish and the people listening to Peter in the Temple are ethnically Jewish. But Peter is saying to them, “to fulfil your Jewishness, you need to believe in the Messiah, be saved, and then be committed to sharing this Gospel message with the rest of the world.” It’s a radical message.

Shortly after this, as we’ll see in the next episode, the story takes another surprising turn. While this great commotion was going on in Solomon’s Colonnade in the Temple courts, they were being watched by their religious enemies. The Temple guard, the Sadducees, the priests, and the others, were worried about what was happening, and they wanted to take action against Peter and John. And that’s our next story and there are some remarkable outcomes. At the moment, Peter’s riding a wave of popularity and support, and seizing the opportunity to get the message out to as many people as he can.


As we come to the final part of this episode, here are a few things to think about by way of reflections. The first one is about opportunity. Peter seized the opportunity twice in this episode. There was this man who needed help, he seized the opportunity. Secondly, the crowd gathered, he seized the opportunity and preached. In the life of every Christian, whether we’re living a very ordinary life, or whether we have remarkable circumstances in our normal lives, the fact is that there are opportunities to share our faith. There are opportunities also, particularly to pray for people. Notice this started with a prayer encounter, where Peter is praying and then asking the Lord to come and do a miracle. I want to talk to you just for a moment by way of application, to think of your life as a constant series of opportunities. Many opportunities come suddenly and they’re surprising. Peter was a little bit surprised by some of the things that happened here; they happened very suddenly. But he was ready. The question is, are we ready? It’s very easy to miss the opportunity. If Peter had walked on twenty paces beyond that man, he probably would never have come back. He would have found it hard to come back, because of all the crowd travelling in that direction at the time because there was a crowd coming in at that time because 3pm was a meeting time. Have you ever been in that situation, where you think, ‘if only I’d taken that opportunity then, rather than thought about it, 5 or 10 minutes later and regretted it?’ That’s a common experience of all Christians. We can learn from this passage about being ready, being on the front foot. Peter’s a fantastic example of somebody who’s on the front foot, willing to step out.

The second thing we can learn here is about the unique power of miracles. When a miraculous circumstance occurs in your church, or in your life, it has a dynamic effect on people around. There’s an implication; there’s a spreading out of expectation to other people; there’s an openness that comes. That will happen in many different cultural situations, and particularly if you’re in a cultural situation where your country has laws against Christianity, or restrictions on religion, or restrictions on public meetings. Very often, the way that God will work is through miracles that happen, but aren’t contained within those restrictions; they just happen because we pray for people on the street corner, or in our home, or at work. I want to encourage you to believe in God, the miracle worker, who doesn’t just want to use the great leaders like Peter, but he wants to use you and me. Peter was leading the way where the Church needed to follow.

What a fantastic story and what a great illustration of the power and the focus that is described in the previous passage, Acts 2: 42 - 47. I think Luke tells us this story just to illustrate what was going on in that situation. I hope we’ll see you for the next episode, because this story isn’t finished yet. There’s another surprise and although it’s a tricky situation that emerges, God also turns it round for good. We begin to see, in chapter 4, opposition rising up. It’s not all one-way traffic. The Church is going to face some challenging times and Acts is a great way of learning about how to deal with opposition and challenging times, which many of you will face in your faith, in your countries, and in your churches. As we move into Acts 4 and beyond that, we’ll see a gradual increase of the opposition, and we’ll see God triumph, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. So, I hope to see you back for the next episode.

Study Questions

The following questions have been provided to facilitate discussion or further reflection. Please feel free to answer any, or all the questions. Each question has been assigned a category to help guide you.

  • Exploring Faith
    Exploring Faith
    1. What part of the Good News does your society need to hear?
  • Discipleship
    1. Peter spoke into his culture. How would you speak the Good News into your culture?
    2. Opportunities to witness can happen suddenly. How can you prepare for this?
    3. Share experiences of miracles. Thank God for them and pray for more
  • Further Study
    Further Study
    1. What miracles happened in the life of the Early Church? Use tagging to help.
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