The Healing of a Crippled Beggar

Acts 3:1-11










Mag. Claudia R. Wintoch










Spiritual Development II: Biblical Interpretation

Shirley Smith






World Revival School of Ministry

Spring Trimester 2002


1. Introduction


Peter and John go to the Temple to pray, when they see a crippled beggar and heal him. Pentecost has occurred not very long before, where they were empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the works of Jesus. The purpose of this paper is to get a fuller understanding of this event in the early church and learn how to apply these principles in our own lives.


2. Literary Structure


The book of Acts is a historical narrative. Its author Luke describes the events taking place after Jesus’ ascension, when the Holy Spirit did the works of Jesus through His followers. His point is to show believers what they are called to, at a time when the power of the Holy Spirit was declining in the church. While it is true that Jews taught theology through narratives, it is unfortunate that some denominations have built whole doctrines on passages in Acts. We have to keep in mind that Luke is not teaching how to heal a crippled beggar and then build a doctrine on it, but that we as His empowered disciples are to do the same works as them.


3. Observation


3.1. WHO

As stated earlier Luke, the physician, is the author of the book of Acts. He is specifically writing to Theophilus (Acts 1:1). In this incident, Peter, John[1] and the crippled beggar are the main characters. The people are only mentioned the first time, when they see the beggar “walking and praising God” (v. 9). However, we have no mention of people watching the healing itself.

The only verbal interaction going on is Peter speaking to the crippled man, after the latter had asked them for money. After his healing, he is not only “walking and jumping”, but “praising God” (v. 8), which attracts the people’s attention.


3.2. WHAT

This passage is about the healing of a crippled man who had spent all his life sitting at the temple gate begging for money. When he asks Peter and John, who are on the way to the 3 o’clock prayer meeting, for money, Peter speaks to him and commands him to walk. After that he helps him up and they go together into the temple courts, where the healed man’s praise and jumping draws the attention of the people, who start gathering around Peter and John and the beggar holding on to them. This opens the door for Peter to preach to them (v. 12ff).


3.3. WHERE

The whole event takes place in the temple area. The beggar is sitting at the “temple gate called Beautiful”, when John and Peter are “about to enter” the temple courts (v. 2). After his healing, they enter the courts together and reach “Solomon’s Colonnade” (v. 11), where the people gather to listen.


3.4. WHEN

Luke writes his account some time between 69 and 96 A.D.[2]. The beggar’s healing takes place soon after Pentecost, which is described in Acts 2, and leads to the salvation of 5000 people (Acts 4:4). Peter and John go to the Temple because of the time of day: it was 3 p.m., the time for the evening sacrifice and prayer. They had just been empowered with the Holy Spirit, received boldness, and continued following their Jewish customs, while grasping opportunities to preach Jesus. They had not experienced any persecution yet, but were arrested after having healed the beggar and preached the gospel in the Colonnade.


3.5. HOW

Peter and John would have passed the beggar like they had done every day, if he had not asked them for money. When he did, “Peter looked straight at him”, asking him to do the same. The beggar therefore expected to get a positive response to his request for money. However, what he received was different from what he expected. Peter immediately destroys his false expectancy by declaring that they do not have what he wants. However, he commands the beggar “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” to walk. We do not know what the beggar thinks at that moment. Peter reaches out his hand and helps him up. “Instantly” the beggar is healed. In verse 16 we learn that “it is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him”.


3.6. WHY

First of all, it was “an act of kindness shown to a cripple” (Acts 4:9). In the gospels we often read about Jesus having compassion on people, and the same was now true for his disciples. But He also had a greater purpose in mind, knowing that the result would be that “many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). He was building His kingdom by growing His church.


4. Word Study


Peter “looked straight” (v. 4) at the beggar, before speaking to him. The Greek word άτενίζω[3]

means “to gaze intently, behold earnestly”. He was gazing at the beggar, seeking the Lord’s heart, so he would do what the Father wanted to do.

The “silver or gold” Peter mentions in verse 6 stands for the silver and gold coins used as currency at the time.


5. Historical Context


The Greek for verse 1 reads literally “at the hour of the prayer, the ninth”. The Jewish New Testament reads “one afternoon at three o’clock, the hour of minchah prayers”. While a Jewish day began at sundown, the Roman day began a sunrise. The ninth hour was therefore at 3 p.m., at the time for the afternoon service. Stern[4] states that “the three prayer services were instituted after the fall of the First Temple to replace the sacrifices. The three services are called Shacharit (“morning”), Minchah (“afternoon”; the word means “gift, offering”) and Ma’ariv (“evening”).”

The “gate called Beautiful” is believed to be the Nicanor Gate (mentioned in the Mishna), “which led from the Court of the Gentiles to the Women’s Court of the Temple”[5]. Bruce states that “the name here given to it may be more readily understood if it is further identified with the gate of Corinthian bronze described by Josephus, of such exquisite workmanship that it ‘far exceeded in value those gates that were plated with silver and set in gold’”[6].

Peter, John and the healed beggar then entered into the inner courts of the temple, ascending steps to pass through the barrier, which separated them from the outer courts. It was after the service that they returned to the outer court, going to Solomon’s Colonnade, which was “the eastern part of the walkway surrounding the outer court of Herod’s Temple”[7].


6. Interpretation


In the previous chapter Luke had just written that “many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles” after Pentecost. He now picks out one that “everybody living in Jerusalem” (Acts 4:16) knew about and had a great impact on the Jews, increasing the number of believers by 5000 people. But Luke not only tells us about the beginning of the church, but we as believers are called to do the same works as Jesus. He is showing us what the Holy Spirit can do through ordinary men like Peter and John, which encourages us to do the same.

Surely the disciples remember the occasions when Jesus healed paralytics, like in Mark 2 and Matthew 9, and simply commanded the paralyzed men to get up. However, while Jesus did not touch the men, Peter reaches out to help the beggar up. He might have reached out to help the beggar’s faith who might not have thought about ever being healed at all. After all Jesus had passed him frequently. And while the paralyzed men had come to Jesus, hoping to be healed, it is Peter approaching the beggar in this case.

It is astounding that the people are not mentioned before verse 9. Many people were on their way to the prayer service, probably crowding around Peter and John. Yet they were oblivious to the miracle that was going on right there where they were. They did not take note of the healing itself, but only saw the result once the man was jumping and praising God in the inner court.

Many people go in and out of the Temple courts, especially at the time of the sacrifice. It was then that they recognized the man they had passed so many times and they were “filled with wonder and amazement” (v. 10). They probably wondered throughout the prayer service what had happened and “came running” (v. 11) to them afterwards to find that out. Their wonder and amazement opened them up for the truth Peter preached to them and led to 5000 new believers that day. For Peter and John it resulted in imprisonment and the opportunity to witness to the highest religious leaders.


7. Application


Today as then people walk by while God is doing a great miracle, totally ignorant of what is going on. Multitudes miss God’s great deeds because they are on their way to the prayer service and won’t be stopped. They are bound by religion and tradition. When they realize that God has done a miracle, they are amazed and wonder. However, they are the ones that should know their God and know His deeds, and should not be surprised. Even more so, they should not only not be surprised, but they should be the ones doing the works of Jesus He has called them to. Now, as was starting then, the church has largely lost the power of God. Luke is as relevant to the church today as it was back then. He is shocked to see the decrease in the Holy Spirit’s activity and compels believers to remember their high calling. It is unfortunate that people would rather change the Scriptures and their theology, than accepting its plain teaching and searching themselves.

If Peter and John could heal a man crippled from birth by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the same today. It is a challenge for us and myself to go, listen to His leading and heal those He has compassion on, to advance His kingdom in this earth.


8. Conclusion


After the Holy Spirit descended on the 120, Luke records one of the many miracles the Lord was doing through the disciples in Jerusalem. The works Jesus had done, his followers were now doing. And the miracles led to many coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. This was not meant to be “birth pangs” only, but the calling of all believers thereafter. Luke challenges believers to follow in the disciples’ footsteps and carry on the great work of Jesus to the end of the age.


[1] John is believed to be the son of Zebedee, who is also Peter’s companion in Acts 8.

[2] According to Bruce, Frederick Fyvie, The Book of the Acts, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI 1988, p. 12

[3] Strong’s Concordance number 816.

[4] Stern, David H., Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications: Clarksville, ML 1999, p. 228

[5] ibidem

[6] Bruce p. 77

[7] Stern p. 188