In Acts 3.1 we see Peter and John going up to the temple at the hour of prayer to pray. In their mind, the Messiah had been revealed, crucified, buried, had risen, appeared to them, ascended, and now their whole worldview and faith-framework for life was now into the next phase. They had been lucky enough to literally witness this all happening, and offering prayers to the God who orchestrated it all must have felt like the natural response.
On their way to the temple, outside the Beautiful Gate (perhaps named so because of the 75ft high Corinthians brass double doors worshippers passed through, or perhaps the ornately decorated ceiling they walked under, depending on where you think this entrance was) they see a man lame from birth. He is asking for support daily at the temple and does so to Peter and John (vv.2-3). Peter’s response is simple but profound:
“I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!”
(Acts 3.6, NET)
Peter and John had no money with them for this man, but offered him healing in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene. The man’s physical healing is instant, immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. He follows Peter and John into the temple and cannot contain his joy and thankfulness (v.8). People see him and cannot believe their eyes, and his healing has people filled with wonder and amazement (cf. 2.43).
Thinking about Acts being prescriptive or descriptive, are we to all go around offering physical healing to those who cannot walk? Is this something we are all called to do or something recorded for us all to read?
In Acts 2.43 Luke specifically records that many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. Peter and John here in 3.1-10 are certainly two of those apostles, those personally commissioned by the risen Jesus (Matthew 28.16-20, Acts 1.7-8) so for them, yes, this kind of wonder was prescriptive and pretty normal.
For you and for me, the account here in Acts 3.1-10 is descriptive, we are reading about what happened. Miraculous physical healing is still possible today through Jesus Christ, no doubt, we have seen examples in our church family in the recent past. The idea that we can look at someone and pronounce healing for them isn’t, however, available on tap as it seems it was for Peter and John here. Yes, Paul writes that some are gifted by the Holy Spirit to heal (1 Corinthians 12.9) but a quick look at life and the world around us tells us that there is nobody now for whom this is a gift as powerful and potent as it was for Jesus Himself, or even Peter and John here.
Rather, our attitude towards this kind of wonder should be one of humble reverence. Yes, God heals people spectacularly and miraculously through His Holy Spirit, but not on demand or command from you and I. There is always a method and meaning behind the miracle and so often we are so unaware of all that God is doing. Rather than command and demand a miracle of healing we should humbly present our heart’s desires to the Lord who is able to heal like this, but not go so far as to think we are Peter and John here in Acts 3.1-10. Have high expectations of God, but hold them with humility.