Acts 4:1-12

Readings for this week June 1 – 5
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Day 1 – Subverting the Status Quo

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:1-7

Resurrection is subversive, because resurrection is promise. To believe in the resurrection is to believe that the living God, the one who raised Jesus from the dead, is going to put everything right again one day, restore all things and put the world to rights. The resurrection says that the way things are, the status quo, is not the way things are destined to stay. Such a doctrine is obviously a threat to those in power. If God can suddenly do an incredibly drastic thing like raise Jesus from the dead, then there is no guarantee that in the wake of such a radical event those in power before will still be in charge afterwards. Resurrection was not – and in many ways is still not – something that the authorities wanted to hear about.

This is what so incensed the religious leaders: not just that Peter was preaching the resurrection of Jesus, but that this was the sign that heralded God’s eventual restoration of everything, the beginning of God’s good new thing. As part of this God was calling a people to himself to be his resurrection people, to be his representatives on earth, his kingdom people, bringing hope and restoration and healing to the world. That is who we are called to be. We are the people of the subversive promise, of the miraculous, unexpected sign, of God’s love and concern for his world. We stand on the side of the discouraged and downhearted, the marginalized and the forgotten; we stand with those at the bottom as God turns his world – and theirs and ours – back the way it should be.

Questions to Consider
How does the power of the resurrection feature in your life? How does the presence of the resurrection in your life subvert the powers of this world?

Prayer
Lord God, help me live the counter-cultural life you call us all to. Show me ways to go against the grain of the rebellious powers of this world and live an upside down kingdom for your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Healing, Then and Now

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:8-9

God is steadfast. He is constant, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can rely on him to be there for us even when we are not there for him. He is faithful. Which makes it all the stranger that over time there have been various followers of Jesus who have said that God doesn’t heal any more. The time of healing is past, the time of miracles was just for the establishment of the original church, that the gifts that God gave, like healing, speaking in tongues and prophesying, were just for the early church and with the end of the Apostolic age, so too those gifts ceased. This stance, unfortunately, turns God into someone who takes his gifts back, who cannot be trusted to keep his word, who reneges on his promises, and who only offered gifts in the first place as an advertising incentive, not as an integral offering of his heart to his people.

Now while it is true that miracles and healings are indeed enticing signs and tokens of the coming reign of God and the breaking in of the ultimate restoration of all things, the God who healed the lame man back then is the same God who heals today; the God who gave gifts to his people for the carrying out of his work is the same God who offers those gifts today for the continuing work of his kingdom. It is in the name of Jesus, crucified and raised by God as his anointed one, that healing power is at work now just as much as it was then.

Questions to Consider
What is your view of God’s healing power? Have you experienced it in your own life? What happened? How did things change afterwards?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, you are a good, gracious, loving Father, who loves pouring your love and blessings upon people, healing and restoring them. May I be a beacon of such love and grace in all I do. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – A Series of Unexpected Events

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:10-11

Peter reiterates that this very person that the religious leaders had put to death, the one they had rejected, was the one whom God had raised from the dead. The one the leaders had cast aside, condemned to death and declared to be of no consequence was the one God had raised to life, vindicated and enthroned at his right hand. Peter then reinforces this point and makes a very barbed criticism of the leaders in the process: he identifies the builders in the psalm, the ones who discarded the stone, with the religious leaders in front of him, the ones who had handed Jesus over to be crucified. Jesus himself had also referred to this psalm, hinting that he was the one prophesied in Psalm 118:22 (see Luke 20:17).

God tends to use the unexpected route, and to choose the least expected vehicles for his work. A country boy from the backwoods of Israel, holding no established or recognised position, with a motley band of followers, who dies the humiliating death of a condemned criminal was the Saviour, Redeemer, Son of God – a most amazing gift in the most unlikely, unlooked for, unrecognised trappings. Peter himself was also living proof of the unremarkable vessels used as conduits for the power of God and the work of his kingdom among us: fisherman, family man, called Satan to his face and a three-time denier of Jesus, yet here he was having healed a man in the name of Jesus and now a leader in the fledgling Jesus movement. God can and does use the most unlikely people and circumstances in his name and for his work.

Questions to Consider
How has God used the unexpected in your life? How has he surprised you in the way he has appeared to you and used your life for others?

Prayer
Loving Father, keep me from becoming stuck in a rut, or from thinking I have you all figured out. Surprise me. Keep me on my toes. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Jesus Alone

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 4:12

Have you noticed what Peter is subtly doing in this passage? What started as an issue about the lame man being healed (“this man stands before you fit and well”), something that Peter claimed was only because of the name of Jesus, has subtly morphed into a claim about salvation (“salvation is found in no one else”). Peter claims both that there is healing in the name of Jesus and also, following on from this, that there is salvation in his name – and only his name. Peter tells the crowd that only Jesus can offer salvation in the fullest sense of the word. Healing, yes, but salvation, rescue and restoration as well. The name of Jesus is the only name that has received power from God to give salvation to people.

If God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, then obviously it is a position that can be shared with no one else. If Jesus has been declared savior, then it follows that he is the only one who saves, the only one with the power of salvation in his hands. There is no one else alongside Jesus, no other name so imbued with power than his. He is the one we call on. He is the one in whose name we act, in whose power we move and with whose love we go to meet the world. It is in the name of Jesus that all that we do and all that we are called to do will be accomplished. It is for the glory of his name and his name alone – no other name will do.

Questions to Consider
What is society’s view of any claim that salvation is found through “Jesus alone”? Why might this claim be dismissed or ignored or even seen as offensive?

Prayer
Almighty God, thank you for sending your son, in whom such love for us was so wonderfully embodied. To you alone we look, for guidance, for power, for strength, for salvation. In the precious, powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Psalm 118

It is highly appropriate that the psalm that Peter quotes from is Psalm 118 as this psalm of thanksgiving is directly relevant to what Peter and John were saying. Most obviously, it’s a psalm of the Temple, of people going to the temple to celebrate the new day that God is bringing and to claim his salvation (verses 21, 24, 25) – just as Peter and John have been doing at the Temple now. The psalm refers to the way God brings his people out of trouble, rescuing them through his power (verses 15-18) – something that Peter and John have been proclaiming and that has been illustrated through the healing of the lame man. The psalm also extols God’s mercy (verse 4) and celebrates the victory that God has won over all the powers of the world opposed to him (verses 10, 14) – something ultimately achieved through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The psalm also talks of how it is better to trust in the Lord than in the human rulers – good, fortifying advice for Peter and John as they face down the religious leaders.

This psalm is one that celebrates the power of God to defeat his enemies and restore his people, and that calls for people to trust in God no matter the circumstances they may find themselves in. It illustrates the steadfast love that God has for his people and that he is the ultimate rescuer – indeed the only one who can truly be trusted to rescue people from danger. This psalm is one that we would do well to remember in times of trouble, as a reminder of the true, constant, loving nature of the God we serve.

Questions to Consider
What psalms mean the most to you and reveal God to you in the most direct ways? Why?

Prayer
Lord God, remind us of your steadfast love when we forget, or cannot see it, or are struggling to find you in our days and circumstances. You are always there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)