Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed. – Acts 5:12-16
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. – 2 Corinthians 4:6
God’s gifts are meant to be shared. Some Christians have a belief that the goal of Christian faith is to achieve a belief in God, salvation from Jesus Christ, or perhaps an anointing of the Holy Spirit. Still others might amend that statement by claiming that we receive rather than achieve those things from God – that it is His work, not our own that brings about our salvation. I am inclined to agree. However, our story with God does not simply end there. God intends us to take the gifts we have received and share them with the rest of the world.
The New Testament has a number of lessons on sharing God’s gifts. Jesus told parables about servants who were given money from their master for the purpose of investing. Two of those servants took their gift and increased it by putting it to work for them. The last servant though, too worried about losing his gift, simply hid it away. When the master returned, his gift was taken away from him and given to one of the other servants. Likewise, Jesus also curses a fig tree that bears no fruit and tells a parable about a barren fig tree that gets one more year… one more chance to bear fruit, after which, it will be cut down and uprooted, and likely replaced by a tree that will bear fruit. The gospels themselves do not end with a resurrected Messiah telling his friends not to worry, that they are saved, that it is all over now they can relax. No instead they are given a mission: take what you have and share it with the rest of the world.
That is exactly what Peter, Andrew, John, and the rest of the disciples did. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they took that gift of God and spread it everywhere they went. Indeed, some of the healing accounts we have from the Apostles almost seem to show the power of the Spirit pouring out of them and touching everyone they pass, whether they are intending to give them anything or not. We can see that Peter and the other Apostles did not consider themselves healers primarily, but preachers and teachers of Christ, and yet, the people of Jerusalem have the distinct impression that they can be healed just by having Peter’s shadow pass over them in the street. Why is that?
I believe that this incredible acts of healing, perhaps without the specific intention of the Apostles shows us the very thing Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding the gifts of God. They are not ours. Those gifts, that power of the Holy Spirit, belong to God and He can use them (and us) sometimes without our seeing or understanding everything. Peter could have let all this power go to his head and set himself up as a healer and miracle worker in the city. He would have had a huge following, both among the Jews and the Romans, and would likely have become very famous and popular, and perhaps even wealthy. Peter could also have panicked at the people lined up to be near him and these healing miracles, choosing to flee from these crowds in the streets and shunning public except for the occasions he had preaching and teaching in the Temple. After all, healing miracles are wonderful, but Peter’s first spiritual gift at Pentecost was preaching, not healing. Also, he could have rationalized that there was little point in healing people physically when he could be teaching them how to gain eternal life instead.
Yet, Peter did none of these things. He healed when he had opportunity. He preached when he had opportunity. He led the church when he had opportunity. When God worked miracles around him that He had not planned on, He let God do it. For a person with so much influence and the courage to stand up to the chief priests of Jerusalem, Peter had a remarkable amount of humility when it came to allowing God to work through him, in whatever way God chose.
We all could learn from Peter’s example. Too often we hold so tight to our salvation that we fail to share it, fulfilling our purpose as God’s ambassadors in our fallen world. Too often we choose one or two ways we feel comfortable serving God and neglect anything else under the reasoning that we do not have those particular spiritual gifts. Too often we become so focused on doing God’s work according to our best laid plans, that we miss out on important opportunities to share God’s grace through ways we simply consider too insignificant for God to possibly use. In all of these instances, we miss the mark of what it means to be a Christian, and together we miss the mark of what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. Instead of trying to serve Christ according to our fears, ambitions, comfort levels, or comprehension, we should follow Peter’s example and serve Christ by faith. I expect Peter found his own inspiration from Jesus Himself, who told his disciples that He only did what the Father asked of Him. There was no special formula to decide when to heal and when not to heal, when to preach and when not to preach, what to do, what to say… Jesus did it all by being connected to His Heavenly Father, through the Holy Spirit, and Peter did the same thing. Let us carry on where they left off, in the same spirit, with the same Holy Spirit, to lead and empower God’s work, through us, in our world.