Daily Archives: May 13, 2013

Resurrection Proof

RESURRECTION PROOF

“When this became known all over Joppa many put their trust in the Master. Peter stayed on a long time in Joppa as a guest of Simon the Tanner.” Acts 9:42-43 (The Message).

What was it that caused the message of Jesus to touch people’s lives in wave upon wave every time a miracle happened? Was it the miracles that attracted them or was it the proof that Jesus was alive that convinced them?

Miracles do not produce or sustain faith. We only have to read the story of God’s people in their deliverance from Egypt and their sojourn in the wilderness to recognise this. At no other time in their history did the Israelites experience more or greater miracles than when God rescued them from Pharaoh “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” and cared for them for forty years in the desert.

Plagues that destroyed a nation and its economy and finally wiped out its military might; natural phenomena like a wind so powerful that it cut a path through the sea; manna that appeared every six days out of seven; a flock of birds so vast that it covered their camp; water that flowed out of a rock enough to satisfy the needs of more than two million people; a pillar of cloud that gave the people shade from the desert sun by day and fire that warmed them at night — these and much more, were the order of the day. Could God have done any more for them than He did?

Yet they grumbled, rebelled, disobeyed and even set up a forbidden image in spite of all the miracles that attested to God’s invisible presence with them and power among them. A deeper investigation into the Old Testament actually reveals that the greatest miracles happened during the times of Israel’s greatest unbelief e.g., during the times of Elijah and Elisha.

No, miracles do not produce saving faith. What was it that convinced people everywhere that what the disciples were proclaiming was the truth? There were no billboards inviting people to “come and get your miracle” as we so often see today. Their message was simple. “Jesus is alive and He is Lord.”

It was the resurrection of Jesus that powered their faith. Miracles were the evidence of the presence of God’s kingdom on earth. People put their faith in the risen Jesus, not to get their miracle but because He is alive and He is who He said He is. They did not come to Him to get their needs met or to have a comfortable life or even a free ticket to heaven. They entrusted their lives to Him because He is Lord.

Not even the threat of persecution could stop the phenomenal growth of the church. Persecution weeded out the passengers and strengthened the faith and character of those who truly followed Jesus. And God continued to verify the truth of His Son’s resurrection by confirming His word with signs following.

Peter remained in Joppa. A new branch of the church was growing there. As a guest of Simon the Tanner, he stayed on to preach and teach about Jesus so that the faith of these new believers would be anchored in the truth of who Jesus is.

What if Jesus did nothing for us? He owes us nothing and is under no obligation to do anything for us. Would we still follow Him and put our trust in Him, or is our faith so mercenary that we only believe in Him for what we can get out of it? What He does for us flows from His infinite generosity and we are beneficiaries of pure grace.

It is His passion to put His glory on display that prompts His goodness to us. Let us never slip into the false notion that there is anything in us or anything we can do for Him that merits His favour.

Gazelle

GAZELLE

“Down the road a way in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, “Gazelle” in our language. She was well known for doing good and helping out. During the time Peter was in the area she became sick and died. Her friends prepared her body for burial and put her in a cool room.”

“Some of the disciples heard that Peter was visiting in nearby Lydda and sent two men to ask if he would be so kind as to come over. Peter got right up and went with them. They took him into the room where Tabitha’s body was laid out. Her old friends, most of them widows, were in the room mourning. They showed Peter pieces of clothing the Gazelle had made while she was with them. Peter put the widows all out of the room. He knelt and prayed. Then he spoke directly to the body. ‘Tabitha, get up,’

“She opened her eyes. When she saw Peter, she sat up. He took her hand and helped her up. Then he called in all the believers and widows and presented her to them alive.” Acts 9:36-41 (The Message).

Peter was at it again, but this time it was a little different. Healing had become a way of life for him but he had never raised anyone from the dead. I wonder how he felt as he made the short trip to Joppa with the two strangers. Was he rehearsing in his mind the times when he had seen Jesus raise the dead? Was he hearing the Master’s commission before He left them? Was he planning his strategy or was he listening to the voice of the Spirit?

No doubt Peter’s confidence in Jesus was strong because he had no reason to doubt either His power or His will to raise this woman to life again. Jesus had done it many times – even Lazarus whose body was already decaying in the tomb.

When he arrived at the house, he found the customary mourners in the room with the body, not hired professionals but old friends who were heartbroken over the death of their companion. She had been a true disciple of Jesus, showing her faith in Him by doing what she could to make the lives of her fellow believers better. They showed Peter the evidence of her love.

As an imitator of Jesus, Peter did what Jesus did when He was called to the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, to heal his daughter. Jesus sent everyone out of the room except the child’s parents and His three closest disciples. This was not a show for entertainment. This was a stand-off with death and Peter did not need any spectators, not even other believers, to distract him.

It was not his role to engage in battle with death. Jesus had done that on the cross and won. It was there that Satan’s power over death was forever broken. Peter’s role was to enforce that victory by standing on it in this situation. He knelt and prayed, signifying his submission to the Master, and then spoke to the dead woman, “calling those things which are not as though they were.” Just as Jairus’ daughter had done, Tabitha heard and responded and was restored to her friends alive.

There are some truths that we need to get hold of in this story. Tabitha had not died because of some sin in her life or because she did not have enough faith, which are the accusations often levelled at people who do not experience miracles. She was part of a fallen human race which is subject to sickness and death.

It was the Father’s will to display His glory in her healing. Is it still the Father’s will to heal? Yes! Does He still heal? Yes! Does He still raise people from the dead? Yes! Does He raise everyone from the dead? Not now, but He will when Jesus comes! Why does He not heal everyone? He will when Jesus comes! What He does now is only a foretaste of what is to come and must fit into the bigger picture.

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people and He Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”
Revelation 21:3-4 (NIV).

Back In The Limelight

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.