We were told in general (Acts 2:43) that many signs and wonders were done by the apostles, which are not written in this book; but here we have one given us for an instance. As they wrought miracles, not upon every body as every body had occasion for them, but as the Holy Spirit gave direction, so as to answer the end of their commission; so all the miracles they did work are not written in this book, but such only are recorded as the Holy Ghost thought fit, to answer the end of this sacred history.
I. The persons by whose ministry this miracle was wrought were Peter and John, two principal men among the apostles; they were so in Christ’s time, one speaker of the house for the most part, the other favourite of the Master; and they continue so. When, upon the conversion of thousands, the church was divided into several societies, perhaps Peter and John presided in that which Luke associated with, and therefore he is more particular in recording what they said and did, as afterwards what Paul said and did when he attended him, both the one and the other being designed for specimens of what the other apostles did.
Peter and John had each of them a brother among the twelve, with whom they were coupled when they were sent out; yet now they seem to be knit together more closely than either of them to his brother, for the bond of friendship is sometimes stronger than that of relation: there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Peter and John seem to have had a peculiar intimacy after Christ’s resurrection more than before, John 20:2. The reason of which (if I may have liberty to conjecture) might be this, that John, a disciple made up of love, was more compassionate to Peter upon his fall and repentance, and more tender of him in his bitter weeping for his sin, than any other of the apostles were, and more solicitous to restore him in the spirit of meekness, which made him very dear to Peter ever after; and it was good evidence of Peter’s acceptance with God, upon his repentance, that Christ’s favourite was made his bosom friend. David prayed, after his fall, Let those that fear thee turn unto me, Ps. 119:79.
II. The time and place are here set down. 1. It was in the temple, whither Peter and John went up together, because it was the place of concourse; there were the shoals of fish among which the net of the gospel was to be cast, especially during the days of pentecost, within the compass of which we may suppose this to have happened. Note, It is good to go up to the temple, to attend on public ordinances; and it is comfortable to go up together to the temple: I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go. The best society is society in worshipping God. 2. It was at the hour of prayer, one of the hours of public worship commonly appointed and observed among the Jews. Time and place are two necessary circumstances of every action, which must be determined by consent, as is most convenient for edification. With reference to public worship, there must be a house of prayer and an hour of prayer: the ninth hour, that is, three o’clock in the afternoon, was one of the hours of prayer among the Jews; nine in the morning and twelve at noon were the other two. See Ps. 55:17; Dan. 6:10. It is of use for private Christians so far to have their hours of prayer as may serve, though not to bind, yet to remind conscience: every thing is beautiful in its season.
III. The patient on whom this miraculous cure was wrought is here described, Acts 3:2. He was a poor lame beggar at the temple gate. 1. He was a cripple, not by accident, but born so; he was lame from his mother’s womb, as it should seem, by a paralytic distemper, which weakened his limbs; for it is said in the description of his cure (Acts 3:7), His feet and ankle bones received strength. Some such piteous cases now and then there are, which we ought to be affected with and look upon with compassion, and which are designed to show us what we all are by nature spiritually: without strength, lame from our birth, unable to work or walk in God’s service. 2. He was a beggar. Being unable to work for his living, he must live upon alms; such are God’s poor. He was laid daily by his friends at one of the gates of the temple, a miserable spectacle, unable to do any thing for himself but to ask alms of those that entered into the temple or came out. There was a concourse,—a concourse of devout good people, from whom charity might be expected, and a concourse of such people when it might be hoped they were in the best frame; and there he was laid. Those that need, and cannot work, must not be ashamed to beg. He would not have been laid there, and laid there daily, if he had not been used to meet with supplies, daily supplies there. Note, Our prayers and our alms should go together; Cornelius’s did, Acts 10:4. Objects of charity should be in a particular manner welcome to us when we go up to the temple to pray; it is a pity that common beggars at church doors should any of them be of such a character as to discourage charity; but they ought not always to be overlooked: some there are surely that merit regard, and better feed ten drones, yea, and some wasps, than let one bee starve. The gate of the temple at which he was laid is here named: it was called Beautiful, for the extraordinary splendour and magnificence of it. Dr. Lightfoot observes that this was the gate that led out of the court of the Gentiles into that of the Jews, and he supposes that the cripple would beg only of the Jews, as disdaining to ask any thing of the Gentiles. But Dr. Whitby takes it to be at the first entrance into the temple, and beautified sumptuously, as became the frontispiece of that place where the divine Majesty vouchsafed to dwell; and it was no diminution to the beauty of this gate that a poor man lay there begging. 3. He begged of Peter and John (Acts 3:3), begged an alms; this was the utmost he expected from them, who had the reputation of being charitable men, and who, though they had not much, yet did good with what they had. It was not many weeks ago that the blind and the lame came to Christ in the temple, and were healed there, Matt. 21:14. And why might not he have asked more than an alms, if he knew that Peter and John were Christ’s messengers, and preached and wrought miracles in his name? But he had that done for him which he looked not for; he asked an alms, and had a cure.
IV. We have here the method of the cure.
1. His expectations were raised. Peter, instead of turning his eyes form him, as many do from objects of charity, turned his eyes to him, nay, he fastened his eyes upon him, that his eye might affect his heart with compassion towards him, Acts 3:4. John did so too, for they were both guided by one and the same Spirit, and concurred in this miracle; they said, Look on us. Our eye must be ever towards the Lord (the eye of our mind), and, in token of this, the eye of the body may properly be fixed on those whom he employs as the ministers of his grace. This man needed not to be bidden twice to look on the apostles; for he justly thought this gave him cause to expect that he should receive something form them, and therefore he gave heed to them, Acts 3:5. Note, We must come to God both to attend on his word and to apply ourselves to him in prayer, with hearts fixed and expectations raised. We must look up to heaven and expect to receive benefit by that which God speaks thence, and an answer of peace to the prayers sent up thither. I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
2. His expectation of an alms was disappointed. Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, and therefore none to give thee;” yet he intimated that if he had had any he would have given him an alms, not brass, but silver or gold. Note, (1.) It is not often that Christ’s friends and favourites have abundance of the wealth of this world. The apostles were very poor, had but just enough for themselves, and no overplus. Peter and John had abundance of money laid at their feet, but this was appropriated to the maintenance of the poor of the church, and they would not convert any of it to their own use, nor dispose of it otherwise than according tot he intention of the donors. Public trusts ought to be strictly and faithfully observed. (2.) Many who are well inclined to works of charity are yet not in a capacity of doing any thing considerable, while others, who have wherewithal to do much, have not a heart to do any thing.
3. His expectations, notwithstanding, were quite outdone. Peter had not money to give him; but, (1.) He had that which was better, such an interest in heaven, such a power from heaven, as to be able to cure his disease. Note, Those who are poor in the world may yet be rich, very rich, in spiritual gifts, graces, and comforts; certainly there is that which we are capable of possessing which is infinitely better than silver and gold; the merchandise and gain of it are better, Job 28:12; Prov. 3:14 (2.) He gave him that which was better—the cure of his disease, which he would gladly have given a great deal of silver and gold for, if he had had it, and the cure could have been so obtained. This would enable him to work for his living, so that he would not need to beg any more; nay, he would have to give to those that needed, and it is more blessed to give than to receive. A miraculous cure would be a greater instance of God’s favour, and would put a greater honour upon him, than thousands of gold and silver could. Observe, When Peter had no silver and gold to give, yet (says he) such as I have I give thee. Note, Those may be, and ought to be, otherwise charitable and helpful to the poor, who have not wherewithal to give in charity; those who have not silver and gold have their limbs and senses, and with these may be serviceable to the blind, and lame, and sick, and if they be not, as there is occasion, neither would they give to them if they had silver and gold. As every one hath received the gift, so let him minister it. Let us now see how the cure was wrought. [1.] Christ sent his word, and healed him (Ps. 107:20); for healing grace is given by the word of Christ; this is the vehicle of the healing virtue derived from Christ. Christ spoke cures by himself; the apostles spoke them in his name. Peter bids a lame man rise up and walk, which would have been a banter upon him if he had not premised in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth: “I say it by warrant from him, and it shall be done by power from him, and all the glory and praise of it shall be ascribed to him.” He calls Christ Jesus of Nazareth, which was a name of reproach, to intimate that the indignities done him on earth served but as a foil to his glories now that he was in heaven. “Give him what name you will, call him if you will in scorn Jesus of Nazareth, in that name you shall see wonders done; for, because he humbled himself, thus highly was he exalted.” He bids the cripple rise up and walk, which does not prove that he had power in himself to do it, but that if he attempt to rise and walk, and, in a sense of his own impotency, depend upon a divine power to enable him to do it, he shall be enabled; and by rising and walking he must evidence what that power has wrought upon him; and then let him take the comfort, and let God have the praise. Thus it is in the healing of our souls, which are spiritually impotent. [2.] Peter lent his hand, and helped him (Acts 3:7): He took him by the right hand, in the same name in which he had spoken to him to arise and walk, and lifted him up. Not that this could contribute any thing to his cure; but it was a sign, plainly intimating the help he should receive from God, if he exerted himself as he was bidden. When God by his word commands us to rise, and walk in the way of his commandments, if we mix faith with that word, and lay our souls under the power of it, he will give his Spirit to take us by the hand, and lift us up. If we set ourselves to do what we can, God has promised his grace to enable us to do what we cannot; and by that promise we partake of a new nature, and that grace shall not be in vain; it was not here: His feet and ankle-bones received strength, which they had not done if he had not attempted to rise, and been helped up; he does his part, and Peter does his, and yet it is Christ that does all: it is he that puts strength into him. As the bread was multiplied in the breaking, and the water turned into wine in the pouring out, so strength was given to the cripple’s feet in his stirring them and using them.
V. Here is the impression which this cure made upon the patient himself, which we may best conceive of if we put our soul into his soul’s stead. 1. He leaped up, in obedience to the command, Arise. He found in himself such a degree of strength in his feet and ankle-bones that he did not steal up gently, with fear and trembling, as weak people do when they begin to recover strength; but he started up, as one refreshed with sleep, boldly, and with great agility, and as one that questioned not his own strength. The incomes of strength were sudden, and he was no less sudden in showing them. He leaped, as one glad to quit the bed or pad of straw on which he had lain so long lame. 2. He stood, and walked. He stood without either leaning or trembling, stood straight up, and walked without a staff. He trod strongly, and moved steadily; and this was to manifest the cure, and that it was a thorough cure. Note, Those who have had experience of the working of divine grace upon them should evidence what they have experienced. Has God put strength into us? Let us stand before him in the exercises of devotion; let us walk before him in all the instances of a religious conversation. Let us stand up resolutely for him, and walk cheerfully with him, and both in strength derived and received form him. 3. He held Peter and John, Acts 3:11. We need not ask why he held them. I believe he scarcely knew himself: but it was in a transport of joy that he embraced them as the best benefactors he had ever met with, and hung upon them to a degree of rudeness; he would not let them go forward, but would have them stay with him, while he published to all about him what God had done for him by them. Thus he testified his affection to them; he held them, and would not let them go. Some suggest that he clung to them for fear lest, if they should leave him, his lameness should return. Those whom God hath healed love those whom he made instruments of their healing, and see the need of their further help. 4. He entered with them into the temple. His strong affection to them held them; but it could not hold them so fast as to keep them out of the temple, whither they were going to preach Christ. We should never suffer ourselves to be diverted by the utmost affectionate kindnesses of our friends from going in the way of our duty. But, if they will not stay with him, he is resolved to go with them, and the rather because they are going into the temple, whence he had been so long kept by his weakness and his begging: like the impotent man whom Christ cured, he was presently found in the temple, John 5:14. He went into the temple, not only to offer up his praises and thanksgivings to God, but to hear more from the apostles of that Jesus in whose name he had been healed. Those that have experienced the power of Christ should earnestly desire to grow in their acquaintance with Christ. 5. He was there walking, and leaping, and praising God. Note, The strength God has given us, both in mind and body, should be made us of to his praise, and we should study how to honour him with it. Those that are healed in his name must walk up and down in his name and in his strength, Zech. 10:12. This man, as soon as he could leap, leaped for joy in God, and praised him. Here was that scripture fulfilled (Isa. 35:6): Then shall the lame man leap as a hart. Now that this man was newly cured he was in this excess of joy and thankfulness. All true converts walk and praise God; but perhaps young converts leap more in his praises.
VI. How the people that were eye-witnesses of this miracle were influenced by it we are next told. 1. They were entirely satisfied in the truth of the miracle, and had nothing to object against it. They knew it was he that sat begging at the beautiful gate of the temple, Acts 3:10. He had sat there so long that they all knew him; and for this reason he was chosen to be the vessel of this mercy. Now they were not so perverse as to make any doubt whether he was the same man, as the Pharisees had questioned concerning the blind man that Christ cured, John 9:9, 18. They now saw him walking, and praising God (Acts 3:9), and perhaps took notice of a change in his mind; for he was now as loud in praising God as he had before been in begging relief. The best evidence that it was a complete cure was that he now praised God for it. Mercies are then perfected, when they are sanctified. 2. They were astonished at it: They were filled with wonder and amazement (Acts 3:10); greatly wondering, Acts 3:11. They were in an ecstasy. There seems to have been this effect of the pouring out of the Spirit, that the people, at least those in Jerusalem, were much more affected with the miracles the apostles wrought than they had been with those of the same kind that had been wrought by Christ himself; and this was in order to the miracles answering their end. 3. They gathered about Peter and John: All the people ran together unto them in Solomon’s porch: some only to gratify their curiosity with the sight of men that had such power; others with a desire to hear them preach, concluding that their doctrine must needs be of divine origin, which thus had a divine ratification. They flocked to them in Solomon’s porch, a part of the court of the Gentiles, where Solomon had built the outer porch of the temple; or, some cloisters or piazzas which Herod had erected upon the same foundation upon which Solomon had built the stately porch that bore his name, Herod being ambitious herein to be a second Solomon. Here the people met, to see this great sight.