Just before the opening of today’s first reading, Peter and John were going to the temple for afternoon prayer. And a man who was lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the ‘Beautiful Gate’ of the temple … so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John … he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
While he clung to Peter and John, the people ran together to them, utterly astonished.
Significantly, Peter worked this miracle in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
This passage explains the opening words of the first reading for Sunday, Acts 3:12-19 ,which follows.
When Peter saw this, he said to them: “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? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.
Peter’s reference to the patriarchs, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers roots his description of Jesus in Jewish history and theology. It was a relevant reference for people who were on their way to afternoon prayers. By naming Jesus in the same context as their spiritual fathers, and identifying him as glorified by God, Peter made a significant – even a shocking – reference.
Moreover, Peter does not claim that the power came from him but from God, who has glorified his servant Jesus, in whose name he worked the miracle.
He then launches an accusation. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.
This accusation probably stung. The crowd may have included people who had seen Jesus who had been crucified and raised only a short while before. Some of them may have been in the crowd that had shouted, “Crucify him” since the chief priests would have wanted to fill Pilate’s courtyard with people whom they knew they could whip up.
Peter’s accusation may well have been personal. He may have recognized faces he saw from his own time in the courtyard. (Taken out of context Peter’s words have been misapplied to the Jewish race and used as the basis of discrimination and persecution.)
At this point Peter gets to the heart of his good news. We are witnesses of this (glory). 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. There is no indication that the lame man believed in Jesus. This section makes sense if it is read as Peter’s faith in the name Jesus.
Next Peter releases the people from their guilt. “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
The most prominent prophecy of Jesus’ suffering was Isaiah 53..
3 He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; …
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases…
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people….
11 … The righteous one,[h] my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
… he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
• Note the many titles that Peter uses for Jesus: servant, Holy and Righteous One, the author of life, Messiah, Lord. Consider his audience, on their way to pray. What did he intend to convey with these very different titles?
• How do you imagine the crowd reacted, first to Peter’s healing the man lame from birth then being accused of killing the one in whose name he healed? Confused? Angry? Guilty? Ashamed? Willing to repent, as Peter had told them?
• Can you recall a situation in your own life when someone made a prediction that seemed outlandish at the time, but which subsequently came true? And you wondered about the whole sequence of events that turned the improbable into the possible then the reality. (Donald Trump as a presidential candidate?) Now imagine how Peter had processed the experience of seeing Jesus whom the prophets had predicted would die and rise again.