Commentary on Acts 3:1-10
Shaped by narratives, the story of Acts 3:1-10 is built around Peter’s and John’s life of prayer and the Jerusalem church’s performance in terms of healing a crippled and nameless beggar (Acts 3:1-11).
In Acts, believers are confronted with narratives and in this particular chapter, we encounter a beggar whose existence was only at the hands of others. The name, gender, age, and nationality of the beggar is not given to readers, but all we know is that a marginalized, homeless, and poor child of God was always at the entrance of the Temple. Each day, the paralytic expected people to help meet daily needs, and on this day, Peter and John demonstrated that healing through the name and in the power of Jesus brings new life. The work of the Holy Spirit in Acts undergirds all narratives in this book and believers should always remember that all the miracles of healing were done in the name of the risen Lord.
In the modern world, healing through the name of Jesus is hardly believed by many people, yet in Acts we see disciples performing miracles of all kinds. The church of the 21st century should be open to the work of the Holy Spirit and know that Jesus is still at work in and among believers, just as he was with the Acts church. Following the flow of the narrative, we see Jesus at work among his disciples as Peter and John did not have money as was expected by the beggar, but they knew what they had: they activated their faith and through the gift of faith and the Holy Spirit, they were able to give the lame human being a unique gift. In whatever form and shape, 21st-century clergy and lay members must be open to hear their own need of healing, as well as a need to find true identity based not on financial stability but whose foundations are in Jesus Christ. While we regard financial wealth as a sign of being blessed, we forget that we are spiritually and faithfully poor and we stand in need of being healed of our crippled and misplaced faith.
The actions of the healed person invite our attention in that we see that he/she was able to “walk, leap, and praise God” (3:8), which is indeed an authentic way of expressing inward instead of outward health. While the narrative itself is filled with ministry details, we should probably pay attention to the importance of the entrance where the beggar was sitting. The description of the “Beautiful Gate” in verses 2-3 is probably an indication that this entrance was reserved for special visitors, and beggars knew that rich people were allowed to enter into the Temple through reserved doors. On this particular day, Peter and John used this entrance and the beggar happened to be there; and he/she initiated the conversation on the grounds of need. The initiative opened a door for Peter and John to provide healing. The incident calls on both clergy and lay believers to think about moments they have been encountered by crippled persons asking for financial assistance. In all cases, we give some money and yet we forget to pray for healing upon their lives and this is not just physical healing but unlocking their potential to be self-sufficient in matters of life. In a word, we as Christians have missed opportunities for authentic ministry. Peter and John did not, for they were always present in their ministerial, evangelical, missional, and transformational world.
Narratives such as these tend to challenge our 21st-century ministerial practices, which are charity in orientation but empty of real life (John 10:10). The highways, streets, and communities of the world are perhaps the image of beautiful gates where crippled human beings are expecting healing from the church, yet the church has in many ways failed to deliver. HIV/AIDS is on the rise all over the world, and medicine is available only to those in the first world countries, and yet other people in the world are dying of sicknesses that can be healed. The mission of the church is to evangelize through all means and health care is a way of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is areas such as these that clergy leaders and lay Christians have fallen short of being disciples of Jesus for the transformation and renewal of the world. This Lukan narrative is vivid with ministry possibilities, as well as deep theological insights on the relationship between prayer and healing. Prayer has many functions and one of which is to open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to possibilities of healing the sick world. The world distributes medicine only to the rich and yet the poor are left out. The voice of the church is silent even when seeing sin in the distribution systems of all that concerns human life.
The narrative of Acts 3:1-10 has two sides; one is positive and the other is negative. The negative part is that the narrative seems to critique the postmodern church of which there seems to be ministry and missional fatigue, characterized by our numbness and immunity to the suffering and wounds of others in and around our world. Many rich churches are no longer in the downtown areas but are found in rich suburbs where the poor cannot afford or even be allowed to visit. It is in these downtown ghetto areas where the so-called expendables are dying with no hope of authentic living. The immigrants, widows, orphans, abused, drug addicts, elderly, and beggars are found in downtown places, where the church is probably absent. While the ministry of the Acts church was one of courage in the name of Jesus, the ministry of the 21st-century church is one of a superiority contest. Like the Roman empire, our 21st-century ministry is in competition with the capitalistic and political empires, where the outsiders, the poor, and the immigrants are labeled as the scum of the world.
Could it be that Acts 3:1-10 is a call for the church to be attentive to the needs of the sick and also a call to see all people as fellow beloved children of God’s kingdom?
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Holy Lord, your followers gave to your children something more powerful and more valuable than riches. They gave healing and hope. Bring healing and hope into our world and show us evidence of your presence in our lives. Amen.
The Lord’s my shepherd, Bobby McFerrin