34 And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. 35 And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:34-35 ESV)
The Spirit guides Luke to continue the narrative of the early church in Acts by directing the attention away from newly-converted-and-accepted Saul and back to the Apostle Peter. Saul was sent to Tarsus, running for his life, and a great peace came upon the church at Jerusalem, the headquarter church for Peter.
The story follows Peter northwest of Jerusalem as he approaches the coastal towns; first Lydda and then Joppa. What Luke records for us in verses 32-43 of Acts, while miraculous, might seem rather incidental. After all, we’ve seen the Apostles go around and do miracles before. We might be tempted to ask, how do these stories advance the overall narrative?
Peter’s miracles have much significance for our studies. First, and most generally, these stories record yet another account of how the church continued to expand rapidly. In accordance with Jesus’ commands and predictions, the church would extend beyond Jerusalem and make its way into the whole world. Second, Peter’s example in these two stories are very close parallels to Jesus’ own ministry, once again reminding us that Christ’s disciples simply imitate him. And third, the location and circumstances of this narrative are intentional, because they set up the next big development in the life of the early church: the inclusion of the Gentiles! We’ll consider that point in more detail in our next sermon.
For this Sunday, we’ll largely focus on the second aspect: Peter’s Christlike imitation. In preparation for worship, read the passage carefully and substitute “Jesus” for “Peter” in your mind. You will notice striking parallels between these stories of healing and of raising the dead to what Jesus himself did!
Christians are called, above all else, to be Christlike. God saved us and has given us the Holy Spirit in order that we might be conformed to the image of Christ. We will fall short, of course, but Christlikeness is always the goal. When Christians as individuals and the church as a whole seek to be Christlike in all we say and do, then we will have the greatest impact, for the glory of God.