12 Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they would all meet in Solomon's Colonnade. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people praised them highly. 14 Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result, they would carry the sick out into the streets and lay them on beds and pallets so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 In addition, a multitude came together from the towns surrounding Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers—crowds of both men and women.
“Burgeoning.” It’s an old-fashioned word that means growing or developing quickly, flourishing.
In what was probably a matter of days, or at the most weeks, the church of Jesus Christ had increased from a small group of believers huddled together in an upper room (Acts 1:15 mentions a count of 120) to thousands of enthusiastic converts.
With great joy, they demonstrated their commitment to God and each other by dramatic changes in both their priorities and their lifestyles. But soon they also encountered the strong turbulence of their sin-darkened world.
Peter and John were arrested by the Jewish leaders for their bold public testimony to the Lordship of Christ. Even more sobering, the new believers watched two of their own number draw their last breath at the feet of Peter—God’s judgment on an ill-advised attempt to deceive the community of faith.
In today’s snapshot of the action in Jerusalem, we only see a hint of fear—“none of the rest dared to join them.” That is, none of them were willing to openly stand with Peter and John and the other leaders in their fearless proclamation of the gospel message. But we’re told that in spite of the looming opposition of the Sanhedrin, these men were being highly praised by the people. It was an exhilarating time to be alive.
There’s no wonder. There’s nothing like a mighty wave of miracles to ignite massive public enthusiasm. This passage is full of superlatives: crowds of new believers, multitudes coming from the surrounding towns—and perhaps most amazing, all the sick and tormented were healed.
Even more, there’s the implication that some of these sweeping demonstrations of divine power were accomplished without even the laying on of hands, but simply through the impact of a passing shadow.
But at some point, the high priest and his colleagues could no longer contain their jealousy and again arrested the Christian leaders. After an angel let them out of prison, they promptly returned to the temple and continued their ministry. When the guards brought them back before the Jewish council, this time the men were flogged before being released.
It was only a foreshadowing of the suffering to come. Soon the first martyr’s blood would be spilled (Acts 7:54-60).
We’re then told, “On that day a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria.” Would the believers still be as faithful in this season as they were when the miracles of deliverance flowed so freely?
Yes! In Acts 8:4 Luke gladly reports, “Those who were scattered went on their way proclaiming the message of good news.” Even though their lives had been painfully disrupted, these ordinary men and women carried the extraordinary faith, love, and endurance that not only caused the church to grow in new parts of the world, but ultimately reached across time to touch you and me with their testimony of God’s power and grace.
- Modern-day conversions only occasionally result from someone witnessing a dramatic display of the supernatural power of God. More often they occur in relatively ordinary contexts. To what extent did their confidence in God’s ability to do miracles prepare the early Christians for their upcoming persecution? Do you think 21st century believers have that same confidence? Do you think we may soon need it?
- It is possible for people to believe in Jesus but not to follow Him. John 12:42-43 describes one such situation. “Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” In the parable of the sower, some seeds spring up with joy and “believe for a while,” but do not last in hard times (see Luke 8:13). What more is there to being an authentic follower of Christ than simply believing?
- There are some stories in Scripture that seem to be put there just to challenge our assumptions. We might agree that a person can be healed by a touch, but it’s harder to accept the power of God carried through nothing but a shadow, or a piece of cloth (see Acts 19:11,12). Why is it important for us to admit that God can do—and does do—completely unexpected things?