Reading Luke and Acts in 2020
Week 29 | Acts 5
Acts 5 Reflections and Questions
By Rev. Sam Halverson
The Book of Acts is full of amazing and powerful signs and wonders of the apostles, and what we read in Acts 5 continues to amaze us, as it did those who witnessed such actions when they occurred. Before continuing, read through the entire fifth chapter of Acts. Try to put yourself in various places of those in the stories — the crowd, seeing things as they happen, the apostles, and even the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
Many point to the story of Ananias and Sapphira as an example of God's retribution on those who would deceive the church. We've been reading about how God blessed the early church and its growth when all of a sudden a husband and wife who lie about giving all they had to the church die on the spot. It's a shocking story in the midst of such good news. It is important to note, though, how God is not given the "blame" in the story of the death of Ananias and Sapphira. Peter only points out the errancy of their ways; death is their own response. Perhaps their realization, guilt, and shame bring on their immediate deaths. Let us be careful not to blame God for the results of our guilt and shame. The gospel has always been about forgiveness and transformation, and here is a story of a couple who could not allow God's forgiveness to heal them as they participate in God's reign.
Healing continues to be a wondrous sign of the apostles. They met in Solomon's Porch — the same location where Peter and John healed the crippled beggar in Acts 3. As stories of such miraculous healings spread, the lame would lay on mats with expectation of Peter's shadow falling on them and bringing the healing they sought. The sick and lame were brought from surrounding towns to hopefully see the apostles and be healed.
Such a response from the public eventually would reach the ears — and the concerns — of the religious leaders. The apostles continued to teach Jesus and the Gospel even after being told not to and after being arrested. Though they were miraculously (and secretly) freed from jail, their conviction to the story and its telling is key in this chapter. Once they have escaped jail, the apostles do not hide away with fears of being caught again. They go right back to preaching in the public places. Peter's response is noteworthy as the only time in all these signs and wonders where Luke tells us Peter's words - and they are words lifting God up as the highest authority: "We must obey God rather than any human authority." It is the Pharisee, Gamaliel, who points us to the wisdom around all these signs and wonders. "If it is of God," he says, "you will not be able to overthrow them — in that case, you may even be found fighting against God."
Rev. Sam Halverson is Associate Director of the Center for Congregational Excellence with a focus on youth and young adult ministries.
- Think of a time when you were faced with the certainty of witnessing God's powerful presence. How did you respond? Were you fearful? Strengthened? Did you try to hide out of guilt or were you repentant?
- Have you ever felt so convicted of the message God has given you that you knew telling it was more important than your comfort - than perhaps even your safety? How did you respond to such a calling?
- When have you allowed your guilt and shame to hinder your own forgiveness and healing by God? We all deny God in some way. (Peter denied Jesus when he was arrested, yet look how God uses him in the early church.) Are there things from your past you still focus on that hold you back from doing all God has in mind for you?
- In your prayers today ask God to illuminate your own struggles with being used for amazing signs and wonders. Ask God to use you as God continues to use the actions of the church in bringing God glory and continuing to transform the world.