Immediately upon his public ministry, Jesus began to perform miracles. Luke gives these accounts in his gospel to show that Jesus is the anointed one of God, the Messiah. Because people had seen him casting out demons and healing people, more and more people gathered to hear him preach.
Jesus had already healed Simon's mother-in-law of a high fever, when he sits in Simon's boat to preach to the people on the shore. Following the message, he told Simon to go out into the deeper water to fish. It was not the right time of day to fish and Simon knew it. But he went out anyway because Jesus asked him. They caught so many fish that one boat couldn't handle them all. So James and John bring out their boat to help (Luke 5:1-11).
This miraculous catch of fish, mid-morning, convinced Simon(Peter), James and John that Jesus was someone worth listening to. They hadn't asked Jesus to help them with fishing. Although they hadn't caught anything that early morning, and had no doubt missed out on a day's wages, they didn't complain. It seems Jesus arranged that miracle just to impress them. It worked. They began to follow Jesus.
For Reflection: Jesus may move in unexpected ways. After all, what does a carpenter know about fishing? Where will I see Jesus working today? If He calls me to do something I've already tried and failed at, will I try one more time?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the master of everything above the earth, on the earth and under the earth. All creation owes its existence to you.
Jesus took all of our sins onto himself when he was crucified. Even though we had not been born yet, even though we had not sinned yet, he died for us (1 Peter 2:24). He forgave all of our sins at that time. St. Paul assures us, "He forgave us all our sins" (Colossians 2:13). Further, by his death he cancelled the penalty due to those sins which was our eternal death.
Jesus took on himself our sins, our hatred, our cruelty to one another. He also took on what others have done to us - the injustices, the theft, the cursing. He accepts the garbage of the abuser and the hurt of the one who was abused.
These assurances from Peter and Paul are past tense. Already done. But we have to appropriate them in our lives. We have to admit our sins to God and accept the forgiveness that Jesus offers. Then we need to let go of the sin, the guilt, the shame, the hurt. We can trust God with it and not hang on to it. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). If we hang on to these things, we deny that Jesus was capable then and still is capable now of saving us. He won the victory.
For Reflection: Have I truly admitted my sins and accepted forgiveness for them? Am I hanging on to the guilt, the shame or the hurt?
Let us pray. Jesus, I realize now that I've been hanging on to the guilt and the hurt. You are more than capable of carrying these, so I give them to you. I don't want them any more. I want to take a victory lap with you.
The disciples continued to heal people as they preached the Gospel after Jesus ascended into heaven. Healing and working miracles were quite common and are well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a man who had been lame all of his life. The man was not asking for healing, he was begging for food or money. So there doesn't seem to be any faith present on his part. Yet Peter and John healed him anyway. This was a very public miracle because the man begged every day at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Acts 5 is even more dramatic. Beginning with verse 14 we read, "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed."
As with Jesus, all of them were healed. None were turned away. We could continue to heap up citations from Acts as from the Gospels. The clear fact is that the disciples continued to heal and work miracles in support of preaching the Gospel. They didn't heal people just for the sake of healing people; they healed people to show the truth of the Gospel message. And the basic Gospel message is this: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who became a human being, who suffered, died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins. Repent of your sins and believe this good news. Be baptized and spread the kingdom of God further.
Let us pray and meditate today on Peter's words to the High Priest and the Jewish Council: "We must obey God, not men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. God raised him to his side as Leader and Savior, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. We are witnesses to these things - we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29-32)
The first few stories of healings and miracles in the Acts of the Apostles are not just to show us that the healings and miracles continued. They are also to show us that the Gospel message is for everyone. Peter and the other disciples thought that the Messiah was only sent to the Jews. But Peter has a vision about unclean foods and goes to speak to a Roman officer, who receives the Holy Spirit and then is baptized. The Messiah is for Jews and Gentiles alike.
Another point in these early stories is that the Gospel message was being spread far and wide even through the disciples had not traveled many miles from home. Philip witnessed to and baptized the Ethiopian, who took the message back to Ethiopia. Peter healed Aeneas and raised Tabitha in port towns, where travelers and sailors would hear about the healings and tell the stories wherever they went. Peter witnessed to the Roman centurion Cornelius, who had 100 men under him, and who could be re-posted elsewhere when needed. Paul had been sent home to Tarsus (another port town) to keep him from being killed by the Jews in Jerusalem. The initial disciples were simple men who did not have contact with the movers and shakers of the day. So God moved them where he wanted them so that the message would spread.
Peter and Paul both realized that God wanted all to be saved and none to be lost. Peter said, "He (the Lord) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Paul told Timothy that God our Savior "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).
For reflection: God always knew about the "six degrees of separation". The person we talk to no doubt knows someone else God is wanting to reach. Who might need to hear of God's love today or tomorrow?
Let us pray. Father, I haven't always been as diligent about your work as I should have been. Please forgive me and give me more opportunities to tell others about what you have done in my life.
We interrupt our story of Cornelius, the Roman officer, to let you know what is happening with Peter. We skipped over Acts 9:43 about Peter staying in the home of a tanner named Simon. Since a tanner handled dead animals, Simon would be considered "unclean". So Peter was breaking a Jewish tradition, and making himself ritually unclean, by staying with Simon.
About the time Cornelius is sending his men to bring Peter to his house, Peter has a vision wherein a voice tells him to "kill and eat" all the kinds of unclean animals he is seeing. Peter refuses because he has never eaten unclean foods before. The voice says, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Peter carries on this exchange three times (Acts 10:9-16). Peter comes out of the vision, and while he is still thinking about it, the Holy Spirit tells him three men are coming to fetch him (the ones sent by Cornelius) and he should go with them.
The next day Peter and a group of disciples set out for Cornelius's house. Going into the home of Cornelius, a gentile, also breaks another Jewish tradition which would again make Peter ritually unclean just as staying in the home of Simon the tanner did. But now Peter realizes the message God was giving him in the vision - he should not call any person unclean (Acts 10:27-29).
For reflection: Am I judging others as being "unclean", beneath me or not worth my time? (By the way, I saw Woody Allen's movie "Blue Jasmine" over the weekend, and it has this same theme. The truths of the Gospel are always current.)
Let us pray. Father, forgive me for the times when I have looked down on others, turned them away, passed them by. Help me to see all people as persons you have created and whom you love. Help me to see them and love them as you do.
After Peter brought Tabitha back to life, he stayed in the port city of Joppa for a time. Meanwhile a Roman officer named Cornelius, stationed in Caesarea, another port city north of Joppa, has a vision. An angel appears to him and tells him to send to Joppa for a man named Peter. The angel tells him in whose house Peter is staying (Acts 10:1-7).
This story is similar to the story of Saul who hears Jesus audibly speak to him and than Ananias has a vision telling him where to go to find Saul.
What strikes me today is that God spoke to people in multiple ways: audibly, through visions and through angels. Were they unusual - and so they were recorded? Were they just for certain leaders? Were they occurring to many people, but these were recorded because of their notable outcomes?
It is hard to know for sure. These means of communication were not unique to the time of the apostles because we see them throughout the Old Testament also. And since the time of the apostles there have been people throughout the history of Christianity who heard an audible voice or saw visions or had significant dreams. The records exist of what they heard and saw.
But who is Cornelius that he should see an angel? in this Cornelius is not a Jew, not a believer (yet) in Jesus. He is an officer in the Roman army occupying Israel. However, he is a God-fearing man who prays and gives generously to those in need. This story is told, we eventually discover, because of the lesson Peter and the others learned through it (the story continues through Acts 11:18).
For reflection: Do I think visions, angels and audibly hearing God were unusual in the time of the apostles? What about now? Have I or someone I know experienced one of these? Would I be open to God speaking to me in one of these ways?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, author of the universe, I want to be open to whatever means you use to speak to me. I would rather you speak to me through some unusual means, than that you not speak to me at all. I want to know you in all the ways you can be known.
(Comments are open. Do you have a story to tell of how God has spoken to you? If you don't want to post it publicly, you can send a private email through the prayer request form on the home page or call 301.760.7744 to talk.)
"Please come at once!" the messengers urged Peter. The beloved Tabitha had died (Acts 9:36-43).
Why send for Peter when someone has died? What did they expect him to do? Did they want him to be there to mourn with the community, or lead a memorial service? Or did they hope he would raise her from the dead?
Peter expelled the crying mourners from the room. He knelt, prayed, and then commanded Tabitha to get up. As with Aeneas (Acts 9:32-36) we see Peter use the command, "Get up." We don't know what Peter prayed while kneeling. Perhaps he was seeking the Lord's direction on whether to raise the woman back to life or let her go. And hearing that direction, he simply commands her. The faith to command, as we mentioned last week, comes from knowing the Lord's will.
The purpose of healing Aeneas and raising Tabitha was two-fold: it was for the benefit of the person and it was for the benefit of the many people who heard about it and believed. Many more people came to believe in Jesus because of Aeneas and Tabitha.
For reflection: People are still being healed and raised from the dead today. They may live next door to us or they may live half-way round the world and we find their stories on YouTube. The question, though, is still the same as it was in the time of Jesus - will we believe?
Let us pray. Lord Jesus, I pray with the father in Mark 9:24 - "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
Healings continue to be reported in the Acts of the Apostles as we return to Peter's life and ministry in chapter 9:32. Peter healed a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed. How? Simply by saying to him, "Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat." There is no long drawn out prayer. There is no, "Oh Lord, if it be your will." Instead there is a statement of faith, "Jesus Christ heals you" followed by a command, "Get up and take care of your mat."
Who knows how many people Peter witnessed Jesus healing? No doubt quite a few, so he learned from the master. Jesus healed simply by command. Jesus knew it was the Father's will to heal people; so Peter knew it was the Father's will to heal people. Both acted out of complete faith, with no doubt of what the Father wanted done.
For reflection: How often am I able to act confidently, out of complete faith? Do I know that it is the Father's will to heal?
Let us pray. Father, sometimes I lack the faith to do the things I know you want done. Sometimes I am afraid of being ridiculed. Or I am just afraid of doing things "wrong". I am the one in need of healing today, Father. Heal me physically, spiritually, emotionally. Heal my unbelief.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.