Lesson 2 Acts of the Apostles

acts of the apostlesWe hope that you are enjoying our study this week of chapters 3-5 in Acts. There are so many wonderful things to ponder in these chapters, and I feel like we have begun an exciting adventure together in studying and discussing this beautiful work.
And thinking about Jesus telling the disciples that they will be His witnesses, reminds us that this enterprise includes us, as well. One of the things that really inspired me in these chapters is the comment that Peter makes in chapter 3 verse 6, when he and John are approached by a lame beggar for the gift of alms. I was impressed at how Peter has taken charge of his commission by Jesus to be a witness to His love and power in the world, and how he sees this experience with this beggar through the perspective of eternity. When he is asked for alms, he responds by making sure that the man who has approached him really looks at him, and will listen to what he has to say. Then he tells him “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk.” In the commentary for this chapter in our workbook on page 21 the authors tell us that Peter is offering this man a far greater gift in the healing of his body. They go on to say that one of the signs for the Messianic age was the healing of the lame, and that Peter does not heal the beggar in his own name, but “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth”. Peter has certainly taken his commission seriously, and trusts that God will work through him and in his cooperation.
It makes me think of times in my life when I felt like I didn’t have anything specific to offer to a loved one, or a troubled situation, or a painful surrender, that was “silver and gold”–something of tangible value that I felt would help in some practical or immediate way. And then–in the silence of our heart where we hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit–I can remember realizing that I was looking at things from such a short-term perspective, and that it is so easy to just focus on a pressing and immediate need, like the lame beggar and his need for alms for food or medicine. But I wonder how many miracles we have each participated in when we surrender that need with our prayers in Jesus’ name for God’s will to be done as He wants it to be done, with the perspective of eternity, which we know is always to heal and make whole and draw that person closer to Him. These miracles that we read about in Acts are still being performed today, and God is continuing to work through new witnesses in each generation.
There is a wonderful commentary by St. Gregory the Great on this topic, and it reminds me of this ongoing cooperation with God’s grace that Peter begins in these chapters of Acts. St. Gregory wrote:
“For the faith of believers to grow it had to be nourished with miracles…Let us take a closer look at these signs and wonders. Every day the Church works in the spirit what the Apostles once did in the flesh. When its priests lay their hands on believers through the gift of exorcism, forbidding evil spirits to dwell in their hearts, what else are they doing but casting out demons? And what else are we doing when we leave behind the language of the world for the words of the sacred mysteries, when we express as best we can the praise and power of our Creator, if not speaking in new tongues? When we remove malice from another’s heart by our good word, are we not, so to speak, picking up serpents? And when we hear the wisdom of the world, but choose not to act on it, surely we have drunk poison and survived. As often as we catch sight of our sister or brother stumbling on life’s path, and we gather round them with all our strength, and support them by our presence, what are we doing but laying our hands upon the sick to heal them? Surely these miracles are all the greater because they are spiritual; they are all the more significant since it is the heart and not the body which is being restored.”
I imagine that Peter was pretty daunted by this task he was given by Jesus, and especially to be the leader of this small band of witnesses who were sent to renew the whole world! And I think that we find Peter so believable and likeable because we can see ourselves in his earnest but sometimes misdirected efforts, his speaking before he thinks, and also his deep love for Jesus and his trust in Him. These chapters reminded me of how when we live and act and trust “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth” we can also participate in great and wonderful things that have consequences far beyond what we can imagine. May we be more aware of this as we witness to Jesus in our lives, and in our efforts to bring His love to others in our world.
As always, we can learn so much from our study and discussion together. Feel free to contact either Franciene or me if you have any questions or concerns. We hope that you all are enjoying a blessed week, and we look forward to seeing you next Tuesday.
You all are in our prayers,
Franciene and Karen