Ready for Paul?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Testament Tales - Miracles in Acts

Miracles in Acts
1. Which apostle performed the first healing miracle in Acts?
2. Who said “Silver and gold have I none”?
3. Whose shadow was said to heal people?
4. Who healed Saul’s blindness?
5. What happened to a woman whose name means gazelle?
6. Which disciples raised the dead?
7. Who was called a god for healing a crippled man?
8. Who handled poisonous snakes?
9. Who was mistaken for an angel?
10. Who stayed in jail after his chains had fallen off?

Christian traditions differ about the place of miracles in the expanding church, some claiming that miracles were needed in the earliest days to verify God’s plan but died out later, others claiming they have never died out. The Catholic church even goes so far as to investigate potential miracles to verify which ones might be true, while other churches claim God prefers to work through modern medicine, and still others deny the value of any medicine other than prayer.

The Book of Acts is full of miraculous events, far more than we often realize. Straight after Pentecost we hear that many signs and wonders were performed by the apostles (Acts 2:43), and at the start of the next chapter, Peter heals a crippled man at the Beautiful Gate, inspiring the song “Silver and gold have I none,” and resulting quickly in the arrest of Peter and John. After their release, all the apostles are again performing miracles, and Peter’s shadow gains a reputation for miraculous power (Acts 5:12,15). After Stephen’s death, Philip preaches and heals in Samaria (Acts 8:7). Ananias heals Saul’s eyes (Acts 9:18). Peter is recorded healing a paralyzed man in Lydda and a dead woman in Joppa (Acts 9:36). (Paul also raises the dead later in the tale, when a young man falls out of a window, Acts 20:9-12.)

Paul starts healing people on his first missionary journey, A cripple is healed in Lystra (Acts 14:9) because of his faith and people start calling Paul a god, though he and Barnabas (both called apostles, with Barnabas in the lead) preach the story of Jesus to them. Paul ends up being beaten and left for dead outside town, but miraculously recovers when the disciples pray over him. On Paul’s second journey, while travelling with Timothy, Silas and Luke, Paul heals a girl from a spirit that has called her to shout out fortunes (Acts 16:17). By the time of Paul’s third trip, we’re simply told “God continued” to do many miracles by his hands (Acts 19:12). And when Paul is shipwrecked on Malta during his trip as a prisoner to Rome, he again becomes known for healing the sick (Acts 28:9).

There are other miracles besides healings recounted in the book of Acts. Peter and John are miraculously rescued after being thrown in jail by the religious authorities (Acts 5:19). This is their second arrest by the Jewish authorities—they were released the first time and prayed for boldness to continue witnessing. When recaptured, Peter famously declares he must obey God rather than men. Another miraculous jailbreak occurs when Peter is imprisoned by Herod, at the same time as James is killed. The believers pray, but not with much faith it seems, since they’re so startled by Peter’s return that they forget to open the door (Acts 12:1-16), telling Rhoda it must be Peter’s angel. (Incidentally, the description of the chains and different sets of guards is considered to be very authentic for how such prisons were run.) Paul and Silas are miraculously unchained in prison after healing the prophetic girl (Acts 16:26), but they stay around and convert the jailer and family, baptizing them before proceeding to argue with the magistrates. On his journey as a prisoner to Rome, an angel visits Paul who then encourages and guides the sailors through shipwreck disaster and storm (Acts 27:23-26), then Paul miraculously handles a poisonous snake (Acts 28:4-5). There’s no proof that miracles continued beyond the end of the book of Acts, but there’s plenty of non-Biblical evidence of belief. And our lives are full of small miracles as God cares for and spares us, whatever we think of the big.

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