Easter Wednesday – First Reading

Commentary on Acts 3:1-10

Today we see the first healing performed by Peter and John. By this, they show that the work of Jesus is continuing in them. The fact that two of them are involved in the healing also indicates that the work of Jesus is being done, not so much by individuals (although that may happen), but by the community which he left to carry on his mission.

Our reading is the beginning of a longer passage with a dramatic public healing which results in a large group of people gathering to hear Peter make a gospel proclamation. Some Sadducees, taking exception to what is being said about the resurrection of Jesus (they denied any life after death), will have Peter and John, and apparently the cured man as well, arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. There is also the matter of Peter and John teaching publicly in the Temple – something they had no authority to do. When Peter refuses to back down on the basis that he was speaking in a prophetic role, he and John should have been jailed. But because of healing the man who was well-known as “lame from birth”, a healing witnessed by many, the authorities retreated with just a warning.

We are told that Peter and John were on their way into the Temple in Jerusalem for the afternoon prayers. The three stated times of prayer for Judaism were midmorning (the third hour or 9 am), the time of the evening sacrifice (the ninth hour, 3 pm), and sunset. At this early stage in the Church’s life, the disciples maintained many of their former Jewish customs and practices. They did not see themselves as breaking away from their past, still less setting up a new religion.

Peter and John are among the most prominent of the apostles. Together with John’s brother, James, they formed an inner circle with Jesus (attending the healing of the daughter of Jairus, witnessing the Transfiguration, brought along to give support to Jesus during his agony in the garden). Peter and John will be arrested together, and later we will see them evangelising in Samaria.

For them, Jesus was the continuation and the fulfilment of God’s promises to his people. Jesus was the Messiah long awaited by the Jewish people. Later, we will see how they began to realise that Jesus had come, not just for the Jews, but for people everywhere.

As Peter and John enter the Temple, they see this man who was unable to walk being carried in by friends. It appears that they brought him every day so that he could sit at the “Beautiful Gate” and beg for alms from passers-by. This gate was the favourite entrance to the Temple court. It was probably the bronze-sheathed gate elsewhere called the Nicanor Gate. It seems to have led from the Court of the Gentiles (open to everyone) to the Court of the Women, located on the east wall of the Temple building.

When the man saw Peter and John, he begged them for money. Peter and John both fixed their gaze on the man (as Jesus used to do) and Peter said:

I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.

And Peter raised him to his feet (a symbol of resurrection, new life, also seen in Gospel healings). Again, we note that the healing is done not by Peter himself, but in the name of Jesus. Jesus himself only healed in his own name.

The man gingerly tries out his “new” legs, and is next seen bounding his way into the Temple, giving praise and thanks to God for his healing. The onlookers, many of whom were familiar with the man, were struck speechless by what they saw. The miracle has a dramatic impact: it symbolises the saving power of Christ and leads the now healed man to enter the Temple, where he hears Peter’s proclamation of salvation through Jesus.

The story clearly indicates that the power of Jesus has, as promised, been transferred to his followers.

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

This man who was healed can also be viewed, as in similar Gospel stories, as symbolic of each one of us. We are all permanently in need of God’s help, and we stumble in our efforts to follow him. But, once healed, we immediately join him on his Way.

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