A Lame Man Healed - Part 2 of 5
by John Lowe
2 And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried,
“Lame from his mother's womb” means that there was no deception in this case. The man had always been lame; he was grateful to those who carried him to the gate every day, and carried him home every night; and he was well known to the Jews, since they had laid him in the same place for several years. It appears that he was unable to walk, and was what we term a cripple, since he was carried to the gate of the temple, and laid there in order to elicit compassion from passers-by. These circumstances are all mentioned by St. Luke, in order to show the greatness and incontestable nature of the miracle. Bear in mind, there were no hospitals for the sick, and no rescue missions for the poor. The poor were dependent, therefore, on the charity of those who were in better circumstances than they were. It was an important matter for them to be placed where many people would see them. For this reason, it was customary to place them at the gates of rich men—“And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate…” (Luke 16:20); and they also sat by the highway to beg where many persons would pass—“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging” (Mark 10:46). The entrance to the temple would have been a popular place for begging, for a couple of reasons:
1. Great multitudes were accustomed to entering there.
2. When people were going to the temple for the purpose of worshiping God, they would be more inclined to give alms than at other times; this was especially true of the Pharisees, who were always looking to make a public show of bestowing charity. It is recorded that the custom prevailed among the Romans of placing the poor by the gates of the temples; and the custom was also observed for a long time by the Christian churches.
The middle part of verse 2 adds, “whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.”The temple had nine gates, all of which were covered on every side with gold and silver; but there was one gate which was covered with Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those which were only covered with gold and silver. The other gates were the same size; but the one made of Corinthian brass was much larger and had richer and thicker plates of silver and gold upon them than upon the others. This last one was probably the gate which is called here, “Beautiful;” because it was on the outside of the temple, there was easy access to it, and because it was evidently the most costly, according to the account given by Josephus; but it must be conceded that Josephus text is by no means clear. There have been two opinions with regard to this gate, one of which supposes that it was the gate commonly called Nicanor, which led from the court of the Gentiles to the court of the women, and the other that it was the gate at the eastern entrance of the temple, commonly called Shushan. It is not easy to determine which is intended; except for the fact that what is recorded here occurred near Solomon's porch according to Acts 3:11—“And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering;” therefore it seems probable that the latter was intended. This gate was probably “The gate of the temple which is called beautiful” and it is described by the Jewish historian Josephus as a gate made of fine Corinthian brass at the temple, seventy-five feet high with huge double doors, so beautiful that it “greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold.”
The reason commonly given by the Jewish commentators for calling this particular gate “Beautiful” is this: Shushan, the metropolis of Persia, was depicted upon it which made it look very beautiful. As for why it was there is another story: when the Jews returned from captivity, the king of Persia commanded that they make a figure of the palace of Shushan upon one of the gates of the temple, so that they might fear the king, and not rebel against him; and accordingly they drew one upon the eastern gate: but some say, that the children of the captivity did this (when they returned) in order that they might remember the wonder of Purim, (their deliverance from Haman,) which happened in Shushan (Read about it in the book of Esther.).
The verse ends with,to ask alms of them that entered into the temple.
“To ask alms (charity)” indicates that the lame man simply wanted to be supported in the condition that he was in. (God wanted to completely change his condition.) When Peter and John gave him no money, we might have heard him complain: “You don’t care about me. You won’t support me. Look at the mess I’m in.” But Peter and John have no interest in supporting him in his mess. They want to transform his life by the power of the risen Jesus Christ. “It is not the Church’s business in this world to simply make the present condition more bearable; the task of the Church is to release here on earth the redemptive work of God in Christ.”
It is interesting to note that "it is forbidden to take alms from Gentiles publicly, except a man cannot live by the alms of Israelites; and if a king, or a prince of the Gentiles, should send money to an Israelite for alms, he must not return it, because of the peace of the kingdom, but must take it from him, and give it to the poor of the Gentiles secretly, that the king may not hear.''
3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
Just as “Peter and John” were entering through the gate where the crippled man had been laid, he looked at them; and though they were strangers to him, he concluded they were Israelites since they were going into the temple at that particular time. He “asked an alms” from them; that is, he begged them to give him something for his care and support. He thought his condition was incurable, so he was only asking for a sum to preserve his life. What is given to him was unexpected, and something he never asked for. He is an example of a man that is not yet illuminated by faith, and therefore he may not know how to pray for what he needs.
It was not many weeks ago that the blind and the lame came to Christ when he was in the temple, and He healed them there—“And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them” (Mt. 21:14). Perhaps he would have asked for more than an alms, if he knew that Peter and John were Christ’s messengers, and preached and produced miracles in His name?
4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
“And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him”or looking very intently at him—no doubt, Peter was under some unusual impulse of the Spirit of God to pay special attention to him, and cure him of his disease.
Though it does not expressly say so, John probably looked intently at the man too, because they were both guided by the same Spirit, and saw eye-to-eye in regard to this miracle; they said, “Look on us.” Our eye must always be fixed upon the Lord (the eye of our mind)—“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.2); and, when our minds are focused on the Lord, the eyes of the body may be fixed on those whom he employs as the ministers of his grace. This poor, crippled man did not need to be asked twice to look at the apostles; because he thought he had good reason to expect that he would receive something form them, and therefore he looked at them, as he was told.
John was doubtless under a similar impulse at the same time, and he appears just as concerned for the man’s unfortunate condition as Peter, which is obvious from the notice the man took of both Peter and John after he was healed—“And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John…” (Acts 3:11), and also by Peters words, “Look on us.”
Peter and John were probably about the same age (the idea that Peter was much older than John rests mainly on the pictures which artists have drawn from their imagination, and has no evidence in Scripture), and had been friends from their youth. They had been partners as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:10). They had been looking for the consolation of Israel, and both had been baptized by John (John 1:41).