When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “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!” 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.
All the people saw him walking and heard him praising God. When they realised he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astounded! They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John.Acts 3:3-11
- There seems something funny with the sequence of this.
- Why does the scene switch from the Beautiful Gate to Solomon’s Colonnade?
- Wouldn’t they still be at the Beautiful Gate where the man was still holding on tightly to Peter and John?
There has been much debate about this, prompting all sorts of theories, criticisms of the text and confusion. I am not going to spend the time telling you all the details of the discussions and solutions that have been put forward. If we go back to Gem 1392 we pick up a number of clues which I believe if we put them together they solve the problem for us. If in doubt read the text.
This happened when they were “going up” so the healing clearly takes place outside of the Temple complex. But we also know that the Nicanor Gate is the one leading to the temple buildings. Solomon’s Porch was inside the general temple area. The text before us indicates that these events took place in an ordered way.
- Peter and John came to the Beautiful Gate and healed the man there
- They went into the temple
- They became the centre of attention when the crowd ran to them at Solomon’s Porch.
Our difficulty comes if we try to explain the sudden jump from the Beautiful Gate to Solomon’s Porch at the initial time of the heallng. But if you look at the closing verses of this segment carefully there appears to be a gap in the action. It is quite likely that verses 9 and 10 describe what happened before the temple service at prayer time. After the healing the man clearly follows Peter and John into the service. The walking and leaping and praising God appears to take place as he is following Peter and John into the temple. His exuberance and demonstrative worship and apparent excitement attracts the attention of the those gathered to worship. Suddenly they realise it is the guy who usually begs outside. While they may not pay much attention to his requests when they see him out of context they suddenly realise who it is in the temple praising God.They realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, and they were absolutely astounded! Then they all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade.That is what Luke tells us in the text we have under the microscope.
But my question would be: are they all likely to rush out of the temple at the time when the afternoon prayer service is about to take place? I don’t think so. That would not be honouring to God. Besides it is entirely appropriate for this man to be in the worship service giving testimony to God’s goodness to him. It is possible that the last verse: They all rushed out in amazement to Solomon’s Colonnade, where the man was holding tightly to Peter and John (vs 11) takes place after the service. The first action takes place at the Beautiful Gate before the service and then after the service they depart from the service on the other side toward Solomon’s Colonnade or Porch. The gap between the two phases of action is filled by the prayer service at the temple. That makes perfect sense to me and resolves easily the apparent conflict in the setting. There is in fact nothing here that needs resolving. The action simply takes place in three phases. Solved!
It would also explain why there was such a rush to surround Peter John and man who had been healed after the service. They were sitting through the service filled with astonishment that this lame man should now be in the service walking normally. Correction: not only walking, but leaping and praising God. I am also pretty certain there would have been those among the crowd in the temple who were adopting a legalistic attitude to it all. “Why is he in the service with us?”
- “He is disrupting things here with his enthusiasm. He should be quiet and behave with dignity in the temple.”
- “He shouldn’t be in here. He should have gone first to the priest and officially be pronounced healed. This is not right.”
Following the service I am sure they would have rushed over to find out what happened. Those who were amazed at what happened were interested no doubt to hear the story of his healing. The last time many had seen him was on the way in where they had just left him as the beggar outside asking for money. The verb “recognised” is an iterative imperfect suggesting this happened over and over. No doubt as he was walking and leaping more and more in the temple were attracted by his joyful leaping that more in the temple saw him and were astonished and wanted to hear what had happened. After the service they flock around him as he clung to Peter and John. If John had wanted a passive role in this he was now implicated and thrown into the middle of the action. It was clear that Peter and John were responsible for this healed man. Sorry John, you are guilty by implication and association. The former lame man has seen to that.
This is a remarkable story. It is all so normally human. The lame man sits in the same spot day after day, known and yet not known by those passing by into the temple each day. Isn’t that so like us as people going about our every day procedures and seeing things that are incongruous with our lives. To the point of being shocking but we do nothing about it. They see him regularly but don’t know him. It is not like he is an acquaintance of the temple worshippers. He is just the lame man at the gate. Recognised by all but passed by all. In all the time he has been coming, no one it seems has interacted with him. Peter and John have also passed him by each day as they followed Jesus into the temple on those they were there before the Passover and on their earlier visits. They would have seen him and yet not seen him on each occasion. The strength of this passage written by Luke is the continued ordinariness of it all. Just like us when we relegate the sick and lame and infirmed to so nether world where we don’t have to respond. When we can pretend those with needs are not there because we either don’t know to meet their needs, or we don’t want to or we haven’t realised the part we could play if we would allow God to work in us on their behalf. Like watching the horror of what is happening in Southern Sudan or Iran or Afghanistan and excusing ourselves from getting involved because it is a world away or we feel so inadequate.
In the next Gems I feel it is time to address Suryadi’s and Laurel’s question together. I will also address the issue which strikes me the most about this story. How the dulling sedative of routine robs us of seeing the supernatural because we accept the status quo. More to come.
Right now I’m having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I’ve forgotten this stuff before.Anon
Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.Martin Luther
Seek to be worth knowing rather than to be well known.Anon
Say what you mean, mean what you say but don’t say it mean.Anon