What is the coolest or most supernatural thing you’ve ever experienced of God? Today’s passage is a bit of a crazy one. It tells of the incredible force that the newborn church had through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Can you imagine being a citizen of Jerusalem during this time? Not too many months ago, a man named Jesus, a rabbi, and some even called him Lord, had been crucified outside the city – some had claimed he had miraculously risen from the dead, but mostly things were fairly quiet. Until one day, probably a few weeks ago now, there was an awful lot of noise coming from the place where this rabbi’s disciples used to gather. They spoke many languages, there was rumbling and tongues of fire. And they preached with boldness. Since then, this movement has been close to unstoppable. 3000 people joined them on the first day and the numbers keep increasing.
You’ve seen them in the temple, everyday they meet in a section called Solomon’s Portico. They’re a radical community – living a very different life and sharing all their possessions together. Now people are starting to flock to them from Jerusalem and beyond to receive healing and freedom from unclean spirits. It’s starting to sound like Jesus all over again – the sick being healed, those with unclean spirits being set free. People are even hoping that if Peter’s shadow falls on their sick they might be healed – showing how much faith they have in that this really is a genuine work of God.
This is a powerful movement. There’s something more to it than just a few cool tricks. There’s like this strong force moving through the whole community. A holiness, something inexplicable. Attractive yet terrifying. This community demands a lot. You know you can’t just skirt on the edges – you need to be either in or out. What’s it going to be?
This is how I imagine a lot of people in Jerusalem felt at this time. There is this weird tension in the text between people not daring to join them, whilst at the same time they are being held in high esteem and people are becoming Christians everyday. Seemingly contradictory. But I think it might be referring to this inner tension in people – knowing that they’re experiencing a move of God and that joining this movement will involve substantial faith- and life changes. It’s a choice between being 100% in or out.
The text says that signs and wonders were done among the apostles. Signs are something John uses a lot in his gospel. Everytime Jesus does a miracle, John calls it a sign, and for a long time I thought that it was just a synonym for miracle. Just a cool thing Jesus does. But it’s not. A sign points to something – like a road sign pointing out the right way ahead. In the gospel of John the signs point to Jesus being the Son of God, and here, the signs point to the Spirit being at work among the apostles. The signs validated Jesus’ message, and continue to validate what the church is teaching – God is still at work.
Coming back to my original question. What’s the coolest or most supernatural thing I’ve ever experienced? I could give you an answer, but I think it might be the wrong question to ask. Even though I have seen and experienced a number of healings that I can’t explain in any other way than God doing something before my very eyes, what strikes me everytime is not how cool it is. My instinctive feeling is not to brag about my experience as if I’ve just seen a performance of a favourite artist. No, the overwhelming feeling is always a new appreciation of just how good God is, how great his love is for us. How I am in the presence of a holy God who loves his children.
The Holy Spirit isn’t just a cool add-on to perform tricks. No, the Spirit of God will point us, like a road sign, to the God who loves us, who died for us, and who is still working among us to spread his kingdom across this earth. His Spirit will transform our whole lives.
Lord, thank you for sending your Spirit to be among us and bring us into fellowship with yourself. Help us to live in holy reverence of your power at work among us and allow our whole lives to be transformed by your Spirit. In Jesus’ name.