Why Do You Wonder?

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” Acts 3:11-16 ESV

When reading the book of Acts, it is easy to focus on the miracles that are described within it: The tongues of fire and the sound of roaring wind that accompanied the coming of the Spirit, the disciples speaking in foreign languages, and the remarkable acts of healing and casting out of demons that took place on a regular basis. In this chapter, Luke records Peter’s healing of a man who had been unable to walk since the day he had been born. He had been relegated to begging for alms at the Temple gate. But, in the name of Jesus, Peter restored this man’s ability to walk, right in front of the crowds gathered for the hour of prayer at the Temple. And as the news of this incredible miracle spread and the crowd grew, Peter took advantage of the situation. He used the miracle of the man’s healing as an opportunity to speak to the crowd that had gathered, and this becomes the real focus of Luke’s retelling of this event.

The context is extremely important. Luke makes it clear that they are on Temple grounds, and that Peter delivers his message in Solomon’s Portico. This is important, because it clearly establishes the fact that the makeup of the crowd to which Peter is going to speak is predominantly, if not, exclusively Jewish. There may have been Gentiles in the audience, but the majority would have been converts to Judaism. Solomon’s Portico encompassed what was called the Court of the Gentiles, a large open area the surrounded the Temple precinct. Gentiles, or non-Jews, were allowed in this area, but were forbidden to enter the main Temple area, under penalty of death.

Luke states that Peter, recognizing the huge crowd that had gathered, and their astonishment at the news of the lame man’s healing, spoke these words: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” (Acts 3:12 ESV). His entire attention was focused on his fellow Jews who, like him, had come at the ninth hour for prayer. They had come at the regularly scheduled hour to offer their prayers to Yahweh but, instead, they had witnessed the unexpected. Their normal habits and daily duties had been interrupted by something miraculous and out-of-the-ordinary. And Peter knew what they were thinking. He was fully aware that the crowds were whispering and pointing at he and John, wondering who they were and how they were able to heal the lame beggar. But Peter makes it clear to the crowd that the miracle they had just witnessed had not been their doing, but God’s. He refers to “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers” (Acts 3:13 ESV), attributing to their own God the power behind the miracle. And he reminds them that this same God had “glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him” (Acts 3:13 ESV).

Peter takes an abrupt, but fully intentional turn in the focus of his talk. He gets the attention off of the healing of the lame man on onto the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And, it’s at this point, we must recall another occasion, when Jesus and His disciples found themselves at this very same spot in the Temple grounds, speaking to a gathering of Jews,

22 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”

33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” – John 10:22-32 NLT

Jesus had proved His claim to be the Messiah through the many miracles He had performed. But the people of Israel had refused to accept Him as their Messiah. He had accused them of not being His sheep. He had declared that only those whom God had given to Him would receive eternal life. And this had infuriated the crowds that day. So much so, that they had picked up stones to kill Him.

And the amazing thing is that they eventually did kill Him, but not with stones. They turned Him over to the Roman authorities and had them do their dirty work for them. And Peter pulls no punches in accusing the Jews in the crowd standing before him that they were guilty of killing their own Messiah – “you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:15 ESV). The crucifixion of Jesus would have still been fresh on the minds of all those in Jerusalem. It had been a well-documented and well-attended event. Jesus had become a popular and well-known figure throughout the land of Israel. And news of His triumphal entry and subsequent death would have spread to every corner of the city. There would have also been plenty of rumors regarding the supposed resurrection of Jesus. News of the mysterious disappearance of His body would have circulated and the claims that He had been seen alive by His disciples would have spread like wildfire. And Peter takes advantage of the situation to boldly claim that Jesus was indeed alive and it was by the power associated with His name that the lame man had been healed.

“And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” – Acts 3:16 ESV

Do you see what Peter is doing? For the Jews gathered in Solomon’s Portico, Jesus had been exposed as a fraud and a fake. While they may have at one time believed He was the Messiah, those beliefs had died along with Him as He hung on the cross. He was not what they had been expecting. He didn’t come in power and set up His kingdom on earth. For all intents and purposes, this Jesus had been nothing more than a man who made bold, even blasphemous claims, to be the Son of God. But He had died. And Peter reminds them that, “you denied the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14 ESV) and “you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:15 ESV).

And yet, here were Peter and John, two of this dead man’s disciples, performing the very same kind of miracles He had done. Here they were, standing in Solomon’s Portico, where Jesus had been accused of blasphemy and threatened with stoning for claiming to be God. And Peter and John must have recalled the words of Jesus, spoken to the crowds that day.

36 “why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” – John 10:36-38 NLT

Jesus had proven who He was. His miracles had given ample evidence of His deity. He had adequately proven His divinity and God-given role as the Messiah. But the Jews had refused to believe. They had put Him to death for being exactly who He had claimed to be. And Pilate had prophetically ordered that a sign be placed over His head on the cross, that read, “King of the Jews.” Jesus had been put to death for being the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But Peter points out that God raised Him from the dead. He restored Jesus to life and glorified Him by returning Him to His rightful place at His Father’s side. And it was because Jesus had gone that the Spirit had come. And because the Spirit had come, the disciples had received power from on high. They were able to perform the same miracles Jesus had done while He lived on this earth. They preached the same message of repentance. He was not gone. He was alive and well, revealing His presence and power through the lives of His followers.

Peter asks the crowd, “Why do you wonder?” He wants to know why they are surprised at what they had just witnessed. This was nothing more than a continuation of the works of Jesus that He had performed while He had lived among them. And it was all in keeping with Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the living fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. One day, in the city of Nazareth, reading from the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus spoke these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 NLT

Then, Jesus had made this bold claim: “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21 NLT). He was the Messiah. And Peter and John were once again providing ample proof that Jesus was exactly who He had claimed to be. He was alive and His name alone provided power to comfort the poor, provide release for the captives, healing to the blind, freedom for the oppressed and the favor of God among men.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Greater Expectations.

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze 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 and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10 ESV

The last chapter ended with an upbeat description of how things were going just days after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:46-47 ESV

Now, in chapter three, we are given a glimpse into what one of those typical days looked like. Because the early church was made up predominantly of believing Jews, these individuals, including the disciples, were still attending the Temple and practicing their Jewish faith as they did before. As this chapter opens, we find Peter and John going to the Temple at 3:00 p.m., to take part in the prescribed prayer time held at that hour each day.

Luke tells us that Peter and John entered the Temple compound through “the Beautiful Gate.” This was evidently meant as a description, not as the actual name of the gate. There were three primary gates into the Temple grounds: The Shushan Gate, the Corinthian Gate and the Nicanor Gate. We are not sure which of these three gates Luke is referring to, but at this particular gate Peter and John come into contact with a lame man. Perhaps Luke uses this description as a way to emphasize and contrast the man’s impoverished and physically hopeless condition. He had been born with this infirmity and, each day, he had to be carried to the Temple in order to beg for alms. Alms-giving was a common practice in those days, involving the voluntary gift of money or goods to those in need. It was not an obligation or part of the Mosaic law, but giving to the destitute was seen as a righteous act. In fact, Jesus addressed this very topic in His Sermon on the Mount.

When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matthew 6:2-4 NLT

This lame man, upon seeing Peter and John entering the Temple, asked them for alms. He had chosen his spot well, because those entering the Temple were there to worship and would have been predisposed to generosity. The first thing Peter said to the man was, “Look at us!” Most likely, the man made a habit of keeping his eyes down, a sign of his humble estate and in keeping with the Jewish mindset that those suffering from infirmities were being punished by God for their sins. Poverty, disease, physical infirmities and even widowhood were seen by most Jews as signs of God’s punishment for sin. On one occasion, Jesus and His disciples encountered a blind man, and one of the men asked Jesus, “‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’” (John 9:2 NLT). And Jesus answered them:

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:3-5 NLT

Then John records that Jesus performed a miracle, giving sight to one who had been blind since birth. Jesus revealed the power of God in the life of this man, doing for him what he could have never accomplished on his own. The blind man, like the lame man in Luke’s story, was relegated to begging for temporary relief from his suffering. But Jesus came to give something far more lasting and life-changing than alms. He gave sight to the blind. And when the lame man begged Peter and John to give him money, Peter responded, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6 NLT). And Luke records what happened next:

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. – Acts 3:7-8 NLT

Peter and John both must have recalled the words of Jesus: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” They had received a commission from Jesus and they had received the power of the Holy Spirit, so they knew they had work to do. Peter gave the man something of far greater value than that for which he had asked. The man had begged for the gift of spare change, but Peter gave him a changed life. Notice what Luke writes, “Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.” He was a changed man. For the first time in his life, he was able to go into the Temple to worship. In his previous condition, he would have been banned from entrance into the Temple. That’s why he was forced to sit at the gate each day, hoping for some form of financial relief to assist him in his daily struggle with his physical disability and the social ostracism it caused. But now, his disability was gone. He was running, jumping and worshiping with abandon. Not only that, once the crowd recognized him as the lame man whom they passed daily outside the Beautiful Gate, they were blown away.

When Jesus had healed the blind man, it had also caused quite a stir. The people could not believe what they were seeing. And the Jewish leaders were incensed, especially because Jesus had chosen to heal on the Sabbath, breaking their religious codes. So, they had confronted the man and then his parents, demanding to know what had happened.

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” – John 9:24-25 NLT

A blind man could see. A lame man could walk. That was as deep as either man’s theology went. They had been radically changed by an encounter with Jesus. The blind man had been touched by Jesus. The lame man had been healed in the name of Jesus.

This unnamed man had come to the Temple that day expecting nothing more than a handout from some generous stranger. Perhaps he had regular contributors, who knew him and made a habit of giving to him each day. He probably had a vague idea of how much money he could expect to take home by day’s end. But there is no way that he came to the Beautiful Gate expecting to walk home on his own two legs. He never dreamed he would be leaping, dancing and worshiping in the Temple when he woke up that morning. His would be a day just like any other day, filled with the same old tasks of getting up, begging a lift to the gate and beginning his humiliating day of begging for coins from those who viewed him as little more than a sinner who deserved his sorry state in life. But his less-than-ambitious expectations were shattered that day. He came to the Temple, lying on a mat, but went home leaping on his own two legs. He came a beggar, but became a worshiper. He showed up a sinner, but suddenly found himself free to walk into the Temple grounds unhindered and unafraid of God’s judgment.

It’s important to note that Peter and John saw this man as more than a nuisance or a common sinner to be ignored. He was an opportunity for the power of God to be revealed and the name of Christ to be lifted up. While Jesus had been in the world, He had been the light of the world. Now it was the disciples’ turn. They had work to do. As far as Peter was concerned, this man was there for a reason: That God might be glorified and the gospel of Jesus Christ might be proclaimed. Just as the miracles of Jesus validated His claims to be the Son of God and the Messiah, the signs and wonders performed by the disciples would prove that they had been sent by God and had the authority to speak on His behalf. And they would take advantage of this opportunity to tell the good news regarding Jesus Christ to all who had gathered. The man’s miraculous restoration would become a platform to share about salvation. The same power that made a blind man see and a lame man walk, could bring the spiritually dead back to life.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson