We heard in our first reading today Peter’s explanation of the healing of a man born lame, who used to beg at the gates of the temple. From the Acts of the Apostles, we know that this occurred not long after Pentecost. Peter and John were on their way to pray at the temple. The lame man had called out to them, begging for a gift of charity. Neither of them had any money to give, but Peter instinctively offered the man the one gift he did have: in the name of Jesus Christ and his resurrection, Peter gave the man the gift of healing and the ability to walk.

In Christ’s name, and by his death and resurrection, Peter did what Jesus had done. He had first preached the word of Jesus, and now he healed by the power of his name. It was true what Jesus had said to his disciples before his death: in my name, you will say what I said and do what I did.

We pick up the story at the point when Peter and John had been subsequently arrested by the temple authorities for preaching in the name of Jesus of the resurrection from the dead. As we heard today, Peter defended himself by saying, ‘If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, … it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.’

It’s really valuable for us to appreciate what Peter considered he was doing in that healing. Firstly, he was doing something in Jesus’ name, and not his own, because this was the only power by which the lame man could be healed: ‘[his] is the only [name] by which we can be saved.’

Secondly, and equally importantly, Peter understood what he was doing to be an act of kindness—not a miracle, not some impressive deed of superpower, but a simple act of kindness.

Peter wasn’t claiming something for himself or demonstrating some special gift he had received. He had simply given, with a humble word, what would bring life to someone in need. Peter had nothing else at his disposal to give, but he had all that was needed. Here is where the true power of the name of Jesus would be found, by doing that which was an act of love for someone in need.

In this sense, what Peter did in the name of Jesus was quite unspectacular yet powerful in an unexpected way. To do something in the name of Jesus, believing in his death and resurrection, is not to expect the miraculous but to trust in a name that brings life. This is the gift of all who are the children of God. As St John said, this is the sign of the love that God has lavished on us, that ‘we are already the children of God’, and that ‘we shall be like him’.

The key words that come with the name of Christ, by which we might live, and by which we give life, are not complicated: kindness and forgiveness; closeness and mercy; hope and healing. These are the words by which Jesus lived, and by which he gave his life to us. This is salvation in his name. They are not just the words of Jesus but the words given to us by Jesus. They are words by which we may live, and give our lives. In his name, and by his words, we are saved.

Banner image: Battista Franco Veneziano (1510–1561), after Raffaello Sanzio, St Peter and St John healing a lame man at the gate of the temple, etching and engraving, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.