The action of the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for this Easter Thursday takes place in Solomon's Portico, sometimes called Solomon's Porch. St. John's Gospel mentions this place as one in which Jesus taught during his lifetime. This area of the Temple formed the eastern wall of the Courtyard of the Gentiles and consisted of a roof supported by two rows of columns evenly spaced forming an ambulatory or walkway. Just as Jesus taught in this area of the Temple, Peter and John go to this part of the Temple to preach. According to the Acts of the Apostles, it was in this area that Peter healed the lame man and in which Peter and John were arrested.
This detail which St. Luke includes is interesting for two reasons. First of all, it seems to indicate that Jesus as well as Peter and John taught and preached to Gentiles as well as to the Jews. We know that going beyond this wall of the Temple would have meant death for any Gentile daring to venture into the next courtyard. Secondly, we also know that the chief priests sent the Temple guard to arrest Jesus when he was teaching in this area of the Temple. (cf. John 10:23-39) Peter and John must have realized that their actions in this place could have serious consequences. It is, one might say, a crime scene.
When we couple this information with the content of Peter's preaching in this area, we also come away with the conviction that Peter has undergone quite a change since Pentecost. He is forthright in his preaching, actually accusing those who are listening to him of being guilty of Jesus' death. At the same time, however, he emphasizes that God has visited His mercy upon them through Jesus' death. Finally, when the lame man is made whole, Peter credits the cure to God acting through Jesus rather than taking any credit for it himself. There are some valuable lessons to be learned from this episode.
Peter and John demonstrate great conviction in the Gospel message. While the two of them had run away from Jesus when he was arrested, they have now found the courage to speak publically of their faith in Jesus. When the lame man is healed, Peter is adamant in maintaining that the cure has been brought about not by him but by Jesus. He consistently preaches the same message that Jesus preached throughout his time among them; namely, that God's kingdom was at hand and that now was the time to repent.
These scenes from the Acts of the Apostles are obviously used during Easter Week because of the fact that Peter constantly mentions the death and resurrection of Jesus. However, they also stand as tremendous lessons of faith for those of us who ponder them today. As Jesus said in another instance in the Gospel, "Fear is useless; what is needed is faith." (Mark 5:36c)
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator