[believers] 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.
The power had been turned off in Jerusalem for a long time. After the silent darkness of a very long night, Jesus was born bringing life and light to the languishing. Before he ascended into heaven, our Lord did not promise that power would be restored to the Temple, but rather, that it would vested in His Church (Acts 1:8).
His power has signs. Like traffic signals, the desperately sick and afflicted lined streets from Jerusalem to the towns of Judea. Such power was resident in the apostles that broken-down souls hoped Peter’s shadow might touch and cure them. We should take note that the wonder-working power of the Holy Spirit is without social discrimination. Both the wealthy on their beds and the poor on straw mats, indeed all kinds of people with a wide variety of illnesses received healing. However, the signs did not point to believers, to the Church, nor even the apostles, but to Jesus in whose name and by whose power they ministered.
His power has history. “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it”, but recapitulating the history of Acts may sound more like blessing than doom. However, no matter how much we may idealize the first century, we can not—nor should we want to—return to it. Trouble usually begins when we apply the lessons of history with words like “we should” or “we ought to”. No small controversy exists in the Church today over the “ought” of Acts. Cessationism is the belief that the sign gifts of Acts ceased at the closing of the New Testament canon. By way of contrast, Continuationism holds that the charismatic gifts found in the early Church are still in operation today. Regardless of which view one may hold, there is common ground in the passage before us which must not be overlooked. Stated simply, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, He changed everything.
His power restores. Synagogue signs in the Old Testament did not read “come as you are” or “all welcome”. Whereas the sick and afflicted in the Old Covenant were socially marginalized and even denied access to communal worship, in the New Covenant they were—and are—embraced. What happened to cause the rejected to become the restored? The work of the risen Christ was applied liberally by the Holy Spirit to broken people living under sin’s curse (John 6:38-39, 17:4, Acts 2:33). And what Law, religion, good intentions, and “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” could not put back together again, Jesus restored—namely, God’s image.
While a university student many years ago, I had a part-time job as a “man Friday”. Basically, I was the right-hand slave to an independent businessman who, many years before, had briefly served in the United States Army and, therefore, frequently commanded me to “spit-shine” his every possession. One summer, he purchased an antique, king-sized, brass bed frame which he wished to present to his daughter for her birthday. However, the tarnished brass was covered by a thick coating of lacquer which made cleaning the bed frame difficult in the extreme. Three days was allotted for me to accomplish “Operation Spit-Shine”, but it took nearly a month of blood, sweat, tears, and Brasso. After the first week, my thumb prints were worn to near oblivion, and by the end of the third week, so were my nerves. In the end, the bed was a burnished beauty and at its unveiling, the daughter covered her mouth in silent, teary-eyed wonder as her adoring dad—my seldom-satisfied boss—glowed with spit-polished pride. But until the work was completed and the gift given, I had no appreciation of the power required for restoration nor the joy of the father who ordered it.
Until His work is completed and Jesus presents the Church as a gift to God, our faith strains to appreciate the power required to restore our souls, and the joy of the Father who ordered it.