BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT
"Peter went off on a mission to visit all the churches. In the course of his travels, he arrived at Lydda and met with the believers there. He came across a man -- his name was Aeneas -- who had been in bed eight years, paralysed. Peter said, 'Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!' And he did it -- jumped right out of bed.. Everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking around and woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them." Acts 9:32-35 (The Message).
With Saul safely out of sight for a while, Peter was back on centre stage. There was no getting away from the fact that he had spent three years in the company of Jesus. He may not have understood all the implications of what this Man had said and done, but Peter had been absorbing it all, none-the-less.
Healing seems to have been his speciality. He had watched Jesus, healed under supervision with Jesus and gone on preaching and healing tours with the other disciples with Jesus' authorisation. He was trained and equipped to do the works of the kingdom and he was not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Peter may not have been an educated man or a polished preacher but he did what he had been trained to do. Under the unction of the Holy Spirit, he put his Master's glory on display by applying the rule of God to suffering people. He never let an opportunity go by to dispense God's mercy to sick people and, by doing so, he could not escape the attention of the people around him.
Where Saul's fiery preaching aroused opposition, in a less confrontational way so did Peter's healing ministry. Jesus was alive in the transformation of people through the truth proclaimed and in the healing of the sick and disabled through the demonstration of the power of His name, and no one could dispute that.
The religious authorities had no answer for these phenomena and it put them in a very bad light. They were the ones who had discredited Jesus' claim to be the Son of God and put Him to death for blasphemy without a careful and honest evaluation of the evidence. As hard as they tried, they could not put out the fires of faith and loyalty to the risen Jesus. They had lost face and their grip on the people. It would not be long before their fury would break out again.
In the meantime the church was enjoying a lull in the storm. The apostles and the believers were making use of every opportunity to spread the Word. The movement was gathering momentum and churches were popping up everywhere. They were dependant on the propagation of this message by word of mouth. They had no convenient Bible to turn to for instruction.
Peter made it his business to move around from church to church to check on their progress and to teach them from his own knowledge and experience, and from his understanding of the Scriptures. Even at this early stage of the church's history, there were those who slipped in to sow lies and discord among the believers. It has always been so and will always be so.
Like newborn infants, these little groups of believers needed to be nurtured and protected, and the church leaders had their time cut out taking care of them. This was the nature of the first century church -- not large congregations meeting in ornate buildings and guided by theologically trained ministers, but little groups of people meeting in homes and doing life together.
Their leadership and lives were simple and unsophisticated. They worshipped and prayed together, shared their experiences and their resources, and encouraged one another as best they could according to their understanding of this new Way. They loved and protected one another in a hostile environment.
This way of life was so foreign to the average person that they were attracted to it and many joined the church in spite of the dangers. It was a place of safety and hope in a dangerous and uncertain world since living under Roman domination was no Sunday School picnic.
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