Acts 3:1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon.
Peter and John were leading a large church, but they still took time for prayer. They could have been planning events, feeding the poor, or doing outreach. Instead, they went to a prayer meeting at three in the afternoon. This may have been due to something Jesus said the night before his death. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
The apostles understood that the most important thing they did each day was to strengthen their relationship with Christ through prayer. The effectiveness of their ministry was not determined by the strength of their personality, but by their relationship with Jesus Christ. Likewise, the better we know him, the more others will see him in us, and take him seriously. We can do nothing of spiritual value apart from Jesus Christ.
Acts 3:2 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.
We do not know the man’s name, but we know he was lame from birth, and was over forty years old (Acts 4:22). He was put at the temple gate because people are more inclined to be generous when they are on their way to worship. There he sat, year after year, a nameless beggar on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
But there was another benefit to sitting near the temple. Since Jesus and the apostles were often there, he may have heard their sermons. When Peter and John approached, the man asked for money (Acts 3:3). Peter replied, Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6). Taking him by the hand, Peter helped him up, and his feet and ankles became strong. He began walking, jumping and praising God (Acts 3:7-9). It was a miracle.
There are about a hundred miracles in the Bible, depending on how you count, and they tend to cluster around a few specific people such as Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, Peter, and Paul—with Jesus doing the most by far.
Miracles point ahead to a time when prayer will be answered immediately. Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear (Isaiah 65:24), said God. In the age to come, prayer will be answered before it is even offered. But what about today?
God can do miracles anywhere and anytime he pleases. You are the God who performs miracles (Psalm 77:14), wrote the Psalmist. But miracles are not the only way God works. He also works through ordinary means such as doctors, friends and family. The providential acts of God are just as much from him as when he acts miraculously. We ought to pray for a miracle whenever one is needed, but we should also thank God for his providential care, since that is how he normally works.
Acts 3:11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them.
Since Peter had a crowd, he began to preach to thousands, like on the day of Pentecost. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you (Acts 3:14), he said. Jesus’ crucifixion was still fairly recent, and Peter referred to an event that many people knew about. Since it was the custom to let a prisoner go free at Passover, Pilate offered the people a choice: they could have the Holy and Righteous One or they could have a murdering insurrectionist named Barabbas.
Which of the two do you want me to release to you? . . . Barabbas, they answered. What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah? Pilate asked. They all answered, Crucify him! (Matthew 27:21-22). This was a terrible stain on the people, from which we can learn three things.
First, many prefer murderers to the Messiah. Sinners love sinners more than the Savior, as long as they are living in sin. As long as we think little of sin, we will never think highly of Christ.
Second, the crucifixion of Jesus allowed Barabbas to go free. He was on death row, without any hope. But because of Jesus Christ, he was set free from the punishment that he deserved. Likewise, Jesus took the punishment that we deserve, so we could be set free from the terrible judgment to come.
Third, Barabbas means son of the father. And the reason Jesus died was to make us sons and daughters of the Father. See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1), wrote John. Jesus takes the worst of us, and gives us a glorious future.
Acts 3:19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.
Suppose that Judgment Day has finally come, and you are in God’s courtroom, awaiting trial. All your sins are listed on a whiteboard for everyone to see. God is out of the room, but when he comes in, and sees what you have done, it will not go well. So you go to the whiteboard and try to erase your very worst sins, only to discover they have been written in permanent ink. They will not come off, no matter how hard you try.
Then Jesus enters the courtroom and pulls out an eraser dipped in his own blood. The moment it touches the whiteboard, all your sins disappear, and the board is left without a mark (1John 1:7). Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, said Peter. With an offer like that, the number of believers grew to five thousand men (Acts 4:4), plus women and children.
Reflection and Review
Why is it important to spend time in prayer?
What can we learn from Barabbas?
How thoroughly does Jesus forgive?