Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. – Acts 5:14-15, NRSV
Sometimes when I study the acts and miracles of the Apostles, I am envious. I marvel at the extraordinary signs and wonders accomplished in Jesus’ name, the great crowds they brought into the church, and the numerous people they healed.
The mainline church, in whose rocky vineyards I long labored, had already been in numerical decline for over a decade before I began my ministry. Every congregation I served struggled to attract new members and maintain adequate budgets for its ministries and mission.
The Apostles, on the other hand, seemed to have had the superpowers of Marvel superheroes. People held Peter in such awe and esteem that they brought their sick from miles around just in case his shadow might fall on them and heal them. That never happened to me.
Still, I did experience signs and wonders. They took place quietly in Bible studies, in hospital rooms, at gravesides, in worship, when lives were shaped and changed by the good news about Jesus.
Acts, according to the commentators, is “highly idealized.” I sure hope so! Otherwise their ministries and ours would bear so little resemblance to the Apostles’ ministries as to invite fatigue if not despair. I suspect it was otherwise. Like us, they didn’t have superpowers, just faith, and that was enough. It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It was never meant to be.
Grant us what we need, O Lord, to be your faithful servants, that others may experience your signs and wonders.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.