Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
If you remember, the previous chapter had Peter and John headed to the Temple at the ninth hour, 3 PM, to likely meet with the disciples to lead them in the afternoon prayers. On their way, led by the Holy Spirit, Peter performs a good work on a man who had been lame from birth. There was something wrong with his feet. Grabbing him by the hand, Peter hauled the man up unexpectedly, proclaiming him healed in the name of Jesus Christ. Much to the man’s shock, he did not fall over. The last verse of our passage tells us, “the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.” (Acts 4:22). This is the first time he had ever walked. This is also likely the first time he will enter the Temple. Special needs persons were not allowed entrance into the Temple for worship during this period, in the same way that lame animals were not accepted as sacrifices.
18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand,
The above passage is specifically about the Aaronic priests being unable to perform their duties if they were born with special needs. But the Pharisees were all about what one might term “hedge laws.” Their thoughts about worship followed this pattern. If God doesn’t want lame priests or lame sacrifices, it’d be best if lame people were kept outside for ‘safety’ reasons. What if they touched a priest or a sacrifice by accident? They’d make them unclean. So it was best in their minds to set them outside the gates to beg for their livelihood, not inside the Temple complex itself. This mindset drove Jesus nuts. A way you can think of these regulations is like a fence around a fence. They viewed them as a safety barrier to keep people from violating the Law of God. The Jews referred to them as the tradition of the elders. (See Mark 7:1-8)
Jesus was against the tradition of the elders for two reasons. First, many of the traditions violated the spirit of the Law of God. In the Law, Israel was commanded to care for the poor. Keeping the poor out of the worship of Jerusalem clearly violated the spirit in which the Law was given. And second, the Jews came to think of the traditions of the elders as equal to the Law of God. In Mark 7:7-8 Jesus says, “in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” This is similar to how the Roman Catholic Church thinks of its canon law as equal to Scripture. The books of rabbinical tradition, such as the Talmud, still play an important role in Judaism today. But we should not overlook that it was more than Jesus’ challenging of their tradition by His words that upset the Pharisaical apple cart. It was for a good work done to a man in the synagogue at Capernaum that started the ball rolling towards His crucifixion.
10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Look for Part 3 tomorrow.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you,