Acts 5:12-16 (NIV)
The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
In a very real sense, the ministries of the Church were simply a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, just expanded to work through more people. The apostles were in the vanguard, doing many signs and wonders, although these things were also being done by other spirit-filled members of the community as well (Acts 6:8).
The Church continued to gather daily in Solomon’s Colonnade, the only location in the city big enough to hold them all. There they spent time together, ate together, worshiped together, and listened to the apostles’ teachings, learning by heart the life, ministry and teachings of Jesus from those who had experienced it first-hand.
The reaction to this group included both a drawing and a repulsion, sometimes manifested in the same people. God was so palpably present in their midst that many people feared getting too close. They remembered the stories from the Old Testament about the dreadful fates of those who got too close to God’s presence with “unclean hands”. And the story of the fate of Ananias and Sapphira seemed to confirm the danger.
But at the same time, there was a tremendous draw to the Church. The Christians had obviously experienced something profound through their faith in Jesus. They were amazingly good people, often with stories of how they had been anything but good before they had come to believe in Him. And God’s power and glory were clearly visible among them when they met.
So, with fear and trembling, people listened from the edges. And, as they listened, they believed what they were hearing about Jesus, who He was and what He did for the people of the world, and they were saved, and transformed, and baptized, and finally brought into the living center of the community.
There were also those who needed a healing or release from the domination of demons, either for themselves or for others. Those who were brave enough or desperate enough came right into the center of the group with their requests and received what they needed. Others were too timid for that, and merely brought their loved ones into the streets in the hope that Peter’s shadow might fall on them as he passed by. And even among these, as timid and fearful of God’s actual presence as they were, were those who received the healing they needed in answer to the small faith that they displayed.
Father, it is encouraging as well as frustrating to see Your presence and power so tangibly present in Your Church at the beginning. Those kingdom people not only did a lot of good in the lives of those who had profound needs, but Your presence and power were such a powerful draw to those who hungered for something profoundly real, and who ultimately found it in Jesus. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost that tangible presence and power. A spark of it flares up in the Church from time to time, but it quickly dies out as the focus shifts to the signs and wonders and away from living in Your kingdom as conduits to bring more in. Lord, bless Your people with Your presence once again. Melt us, mold us, shape us, and fill us with Your presence so that we can truly live as the people of the kingdom, not in a philosophical or theological sense, but tangibly, powerfully, and effectively, to Your glory. Amen.
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