The ninth hour, about 3:00 in the afternoon, was the designated time for communal prayer. Peter and John were then walking up to the elevated temple site. (3:1; see the Notes section and http://holylandphotos.org for a model of the temple [type “second temple model” in the search box]. Also see http://bibleplaces.com/templemount.htm for pictures of the Temple Mount and accompanying comments.)
Also at this time, certain ones carried a “man lame from his mother’s womb” to the temple precincts. Each day they would lay him at the temple gate known as the “Beautiful Gate,” where he could ask for alms from those who would be entering. Nothing definitive is known about this gate that led into the temple area. (3:2; see the Notes section.)
Seeing Peter and John, the disabled man begged for alms, as he did customarily from others who passed through the gate to go into the temple area. (3:3; see the Notes section.) In response, Peter, as did John, looked intently at the man and said, “Look at us.” (3:4) He focused his full attention on them, “expecting to receive something from them.” (3:5)
“Silver and gold I do not have,” said Peter, “but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk.” Upon hearing that Peter could not give him what he expected to receive, the man may well have experienced a feeling of disappointment. But that initial feeling would have vanished quickly. (3:6; see the Notes section.)
As the one who had lived and worked as a carpenter in Nazareth of Galilee, Jesus was the Nazarene. He is, however, more than the man from Nazareth. Peter clearly identified him as the promised Messiah or Christ. So it was in the name of Jesus Christ, meaning on the basis of the authority and power associated with this name (or the person of Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords), that Peter asked the lame man to stand up and to walk. Ailments and afflictions are subject to Christ’s authority and power, which made it possible for the cure to take place in his name or in recognition of him as the one whom the Father had vested with such authority and power. (3:6)
Peter took hold of the lame man’s right hand and pulled him up. Instantly the man’s feet and ankles came to have normal strength. He jumped up, stood, and walked. With Peter and John, he entered the temple area through the Beautiful Gate, leaping, walking, and praising God. His expressions of praise doubtless included thanksgiving for being liberated from his affliction. The reference to the man’s being able to leap indicates that he had been completely cured, with absolutely no sign of his previous lameness. (3:7, 8; see the Notes section.)
In the area of the temple precincts that Peter, John, and the cured lame man entered, “all the people saw him walking and praising God.” (3:9) On catching sight of him, they recognized that he was “the man who used to sit at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,” begging for alms. This realization filled them with “astonishment [thámbos] and amazement [ékstasis] at what had happened to him.” The Greek word thámbos can convey the astonishment resulting from witnessing a suddenly occurring extraordinary development, and the term ékstasis can be descriptive of the intense amazement of persons who are beside themselves on account of what they see or experience. (3:10)
Continuing to attach himself to Peter and John, the cured man accompanied them when they entered the section of the temple precincts known as the “Portico [Colonnade] of Solomon.” According to Josephus, Solomon had a portico built on the east side of the temple. (War, V, v, 1) The Babylonians destroyed this portico, but the one Herod the Great rebuilt centuries later continued to be designated as the Portico of Solomon. While the man held fast to Peter and John in the Portico of Solomon, “all the people” in the vicinity “ran together toward them, astonished” to the point of being beside themselves. The man’s holding on to Peter and John could be understood to mean that he literally clutched them. Another possibility is that he made sure to remain at their side. In either case, he wanted to be in their company, doubtless in appreciation for the cure that had been effected through them in the name of Jesus. (3:11)
Seeing what had taken place, Peter addressed the people. “Men, Israelites, why are you marveling at this, or why are you staring at us, as [if] by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” By means of this question, Peter shifted attention away from himself and John, focusing instead on the one who had made the astonishing miracle possible, the one who had God’s approval. (3:12)
Peter continued, “The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers [ancestors], glorified his servant Jesus.” His reference to God as the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have been intended to remind them of the promise about the “seed” to come, laying the basis for pointing to Jesus as this one, as the servant whom God had glorified. In view of Peter’s later words about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his future role in restoring all things, the glorification appears to relate to his exaltation at his Father’s right hand as the one entrusted with all authority in heaven and on earth. (3:13; see the Notes section.)
Through the representative leaders of the nation, the Israelites whom Peter addressed had handed Jesus over to the Roman governor Pilate. Finding nothing in him that merited death, Pilate wanted to release him, but they “disowned him before Pilate’s face.” When given the choice of having either Jesus (to whom Pilate referred as their Messiah and king) or Barabbas (a seditionist who had committed murder) released, they chose Barabbas and demanded that Jesus be crucified, disowning him with the words, “We have no king but Caesar.” (3:13; Matthew 27:1, 2, 15-26; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:1-24; John 18:38-40; 19:14-16)
Repeating what had happened in the case of Jesus, Peter continued, “You, however, disowned the holy and righteous one and asked that a man, a murderer, be granted to you.” The contrast between the one whom they rejected and the one whom they chose to be released could not have been greater. In all respects, Jesus lived a life of holiness or purity and conducted himself uprightly, doing positive good and bringing relief to many who were suffering. Barabbas, on the other hand, proved to be a man of violence and committed murder. He defiled himself with blood and acted unjustly when resorting to violence. (3:14)
They chose the one who took life, and rejected the one through whom they could gain life. By pressuring Pilate to have Jesus crucified, they killed the “chief leader [archegós] of life.” The Greek expression archegós may here be understood to identify Jesus as the one who leads people to life or the one through whom the real life of an enduring relationship with him and his Father is made possible. Peter added, “God raised Jesus from the dead.” He and John were witnesses to the reality of the resurrection, for they had on repeated occasions seen and conversed with Jesus after his having been raised from the dead. (3:15)
On the basis of “faith” in the “name” of Jesus, the lame man (whom the people knew from having seen him begging at the Beautiful Gate and whom they then saw as able to leap and walk about) had been “made strong.” There is nothing in the account to suggest that the man knew that Peter and John were disciples of Jesus Christ. He expected to receive money from them and not to be cured of his affliction. So it is reasonable to conclude that Peter meant that he and John had faith in the name or person of Jesus. They believed that, on account of the authority Jesus had and which he had granted to them, the lame man could be freed from his disability and come to enjoy full bodily strength. So, as Peter explained, the faith that is “through” Christ made the man whole before all of them. In being referred to as “through” Christ, this faith appears to be identified as the faith for which Jesus provided the basis by his words and deeds. (3:16)
Reassuringly, Peter acknowledged those listening as his “brothers,” fellow Israelites or God’s people and did not condemn them as deliberate sinners. He spoke of them as having acted out of “ignorance,” just as also their leaders had. Their ignorance involved not recognizing Jesus’ true identity. This suggests that Peter believed that the opportunity to repent and to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ and as the Son of God remained open to all of them. (3:17)
Their rejection of Jesus served God’s purpose to fulfill what he had made known beforehand “through the mouth of all the prophets.” A prominent feature of the prophecies about the promised Messiah or Christ was that he would “suffer.” (3:18; Isaiah 28:16; 50:6; 53:4-12; Micah 5:1)
Peter urged his listeners to repent, which would have included repenting of the sin against Christ that they had committed in ignorance, and to “turn” from the wrong course to God by accepting his Son. Repentance and turning away from their former course would result in having their sins wiped away. (3:19)
With their sins forgiven, they would come to experience “times of refreshment from the face of the Lord.” The expression “face of the Lord” signifies God himself, the person or presence of YHWH, the God of his people. Refreshment would come to them from being restored to God’s favor and continuing to have his aid and guidance. They would be liberated from the burden of sin and the accompanying loss of peace or of a sense of calmness and well-being that only a good relationship with God can produce. (3:20)
Speaking of what would occur in the future respecting the Messiah or Christ whose coming they had been awaiting, Peter said that God would send to them the Christ, the one “appointed” for them, Jesus. His being appointed for them appears to relate to his future coming in glory “with the clouds of heaven” to begin exercising kingly authority over all peoples and nations. (3:20; Daniel 7:11-14; Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69; see the Notes section.)
His coming as the highly exalted one with all authority in heaven and on earth, however, would not occur until the divinely appointed time. It was necessary for him to be retained in heaven until the “times of restoration of all things,” concerning which God long ago “spoke through the mouth of the holy prophets.” The restoration included the reviving of the royal house of David in the person of the promised Messiah and the renewal of all things through his just rule. Among the holy prophets who, in various ways, pointed forward to a restoration for God’s people were Isaiah (11:1-9; 65:17-25; 66:22, 23) Ezekiel (37:24-27), Daniel (7:9-14; 12:12), Hosea (14:4-6), Joel (3:17-21 [4:17-21]), Amos (9:11, 12), Obadiah (verse 21), Micah (5:2-5), Zephaniah (3:14-20), Haggai (2:21-23), Zechariah (14:6-21), and Malachi (4:1-3). (3:21)
As far as the coming Messiah was concerned, Peter pointed to words he attributed to Moses, “A prophet like me the Lord [YHWH, Hebrew text] God will raise up for you from your brothers. To him you must listen in everything that he may speak to you. It will be, however, that every soul that does not listen to that prophet will be utterly destroyed from the people.” (3:22, 23)
The words basically paraphrase what is recorded in Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and reflect what one familiar with the passage might say when relating the thoughts from memory. By referring to the words of Moses, Peter indicated that Jesus, the promised Messiah or Christ, was the prophet like Moses, the direct representative of God vested with full divine authority. Moreover, to refuse to listen to Jesus Christ as the prophet God would raise up from among the people of Israel would have serious consequences — destruction. Therefore, by implication, Israelites who refused to recognize Jesus as the one who had come from God and deliberately chose to pay no attention to his words would no longer be counted as being among God’s people. (3:22, 23)
Not just Moses, but “all the prophets,” starting with Samuel, “announced these days.” After Moses, Samuel was the first prophet of YHWH to be recognized as such in Israel as a whole. (1 Samuel 3:19, 20) No specific prophecy of Samuel about the coming Messiah is contained in the existing biblical record. But when Samuel, in his capacity as YHWH’s prophet, anointed David as king, the royal line that terminated in Jesus had its beginning. From this standpoint, it could be said that, in word and deed, Samuel provided a foregleam respecting the coming Messiah, Anointed One, or Christ. Other prophets likewise provided glimpses of “these days,” that is, the time associated with the coming of the promised Messiah and the future restoration of all things. (3:24; see the references in the comments on verses 18 and 21.)
Peter addressed those who were listening as “sons of the prophets and of the covenant” that God concluded with their ancestors, “saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed.’” They were “sons of the prophets” because of having a relationship with them, for the prophets had been raised up from among the Israelites and were primarily sent to them. Just as children should be obedient to their fathers, the Israelites should have heeded the words of the prophets. Since the prophets spoke of the coming Messiah and Jesus proved to be this one, those who heard Peter’s words would demonstrate themselves to be devoted “sons of the prophets” by acting in harmony with their words. The people were also “sons of the covenant,” for the covenant promises were made to their forefathers. Accordingly, they were under obligation to act in agreement with the covenant, which required that they conduct themselves as God’s devoted servants. Peter’s use of the words to Abraham (which words paraphrase what is found in Genesis 22:18 and 26:4) served to focus on Christ as the “seed” through whom “all the families of the earth” would be blessed. (3:25)
In view of the special relationship of the Israelites to the prophets and the covenant originally concluded with Abraham and repeated to their ancestors Isaac and Jacob, they were the first of the families of the earth to be extended the opportunity for the blessings that would come through Christ, the “seed” of Abraham. So, “after raising up his servant [Jesus], God sent him first to bless [the Israelites].” They, in turn, could become recipients of the blessing upon individually “turning away from [their] evil deeds.” The “raising up,” as in the reference to the words of Moses (3:22), could refer to what God did in raising up Jesus among the Israelites as his special representative or prophet. During the course of his ministry, Jesus concentrated his activity on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) Another possibility is that the “raising up” applies to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that case also, God sent him forth to bless his people. The apostles, starting on the day of Pentecost after Jesus resurrection, urged fellow Israelites to repent and to become reconciled to God by putting faith in Jesus as the promised Messiah or Christ. If they followed through, they would come to enjoy all the blessings that were made possible through God’s servant, his unique Son, the one whom he first had sent to them. (3:26)
In verse 1, fifth-century Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) includes an expanded introduction, “But in those days Peter.” After hierón (“temple”), this codex adds, “toward evening” (tó deilinón).
In verses 1, 2, 3, and 7, the reference to the “temple” is to the temple precincts or the temple area. It does not mean the temple building itself, for only the priests were allowed to enter the temple to perform their specific sacred duties.
After the introductory kaí (“and”) in verse 2, Codex Bezae (Cantabrigiensis) has the word idoú, meaning “see” or “look.
In verse 6, the words “rise and” are missing in a number of manuscripts, including fourth-century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus.
In verse 13, many manuscripts omit the words “the God” before Isaac and Jacob.
To Moses, at the burning bush, God likewise revealed himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Exodus 3:6) So, in the case of the miracle, Peter’s use of the expression (verse 13) made it clear that what his fellow Israelites had witnessed revealed the working of the God whom they worshiped and whom their ancestors had worshiped.
According to the Vulgate and a number of late Greek manuscripts, verse 20 says “preached to you before” (not “appointed for you”).