Acts 3:1 “Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour”.
The newly baptised, Spirit filled, power endued Church of Jerusalem were full of excitement, enthusiasm and power. Moving in realms that they had previously witnessed only in and through the life ministry of Jesus, they were about to experience the same signs and wonder miracles of their master, teacher and Lord.
The two disciples were standing at the Temple Gate, in Jewish tradition, to attend the evening prayer meeting.
There were three such prayers services daily:
9am in the morning
3pm, which is referred to as the ninth hour, 3pm is also the time for the evening sacrifice.
Many Jews believed that, God must be worshipped, and that prayer was a significant way of conducting worship. Maimonides, who was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher that became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, wrote:
“there is no obligation by virtue of any command of God, unto any number of prayers, nor to any certain prayers, nor to any definite time of prayer. However, they usually pray three times a day, and believe that each of those three times was recommended unto them by one of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The time of offering up the morning and evening sacrifice was recommended or commanded by God, as a time of prayer; a sacrifice being an actual prayer, as the other is real or verbal.”
These times of prayer, including the morning and evening sacrifices, were greatly important to the Jews. We read in Psalms 141:2 [NIV] “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.”
In 1 Kings 18:29 we discover that the prophets of Baal continued to mutilate themselves up to the time of the evening sacrifice, but no one answered their prayers.
Ezra reinstated the tradition of morning and evening worship when the Jews returned to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 3:3).
Other divine activities and divine appearances and revelations are noted in both Old and New Testament. (Daniel 9:21, Acts 10:3 for instance)
What the disciples were to encounter was a dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit upon the life and body of a man unable to walk from birth. We don’t know whether the two disciples had had any pre-empting words of knowledge, visions or prophetic messages. What we do know is that the outcome was one of divine intervention, the prayer meeting was severely disrupted, and the temple was turned into a dance hall and the disciples ended up in deep trouble. By far, the greatest outcome was the miraculous way in which the Church was about to change with more than five thousand people being added to their numbers. (Acts 4:4)
What’s the significance of three o’clock? As already stated, 3pm is the time for prayer, it also the time of the evening sacrifice. Just a few weeks earlier on the very first Good Friday, we read in the gospels:
Matthew 27:46-50, Mark 15:33, Luke 23:44: It was at the ninth hour, three in the afternoon that Jesus’ life expired.
Matthew 27:51-54, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45-46, when the life of Jesus expired, at the same time the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The the tombs of dead people broke open, and many who had died were raised to life.
There was a disturbance in the natural world, as deep darkness and an earthquake came upon the land from 12 noon till 3pm. On this occasion, temple worship, the hour of prayer and the evening sacrifice would have been disrupted.
When the Lamb of God expired on the cross, the blood of the new covenant which sealed the redemption price of humanity took its full effect. No longer would we depend upon the sacrifice of lambs, bulls and goats as the means of bringing us into the presence of our Father God. The temple curtain was torn into signifying that the way to God is now open to all (Isaiah 1:11, Hebrews 9:12-15, Hebrews 9:24-28).
The foundation of our confidence is no longer standing on the foundation of animal sacrifice but is anchored in Christ (Hebrews 1019-22).
Fifty days after Easter Day, the Holy Spirit rained down upon the gathered disciples. God was no longer “afar off” but had come to live in the lives of those willing to receive Him, obey Him and follow Jesus’ directive to go and proclaim the Gospel. What awaits for us living today? The mandate to go and preach the gospel must continue to be our number one priority. The promises of God are “Yes and Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Miracles, signs and wonders still “following those who believe” (Mark 16:17).