God’s Word for You
Acts 5:12-16 Peter’s shadow
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, October 9, 2019
12 Now by the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were being performed among the people. They all used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, even though the people held them in high regard. 14 However, more and more people believed in the Lord, multitudes of men and women,
Once again Luke steps out of the narrative to give us an update on the overall health and growth of the early church. At this time, which was around 31 or 32 AD, the church was still meeting as a large multitude in Solomon’s Colonnade, the massive covered walkway, perhaps three stories tall, on the south side of the Temple area of Jerusalem.
How shall we harmonize the end of verse 13 with the beginning of verse 15? The account of Ananias and Sapphira probably explains it for us. Before this, many people who were not believers, people we might call curiosity seekers, gathered around to witness the growth of the movement. But after Ananias and his wife were struck down by the Lord, these curiosity seekers were too terrified to come back, and so “none of the rest dared to join them.” At the same time, quite a few people were coming to faith, and so the number of believers continues to increase more and more. Luke again uses the term plethos “multitude,” as he did in Acts 4:32, but now in the plural. The Christian church was growing into multitudes, many thousands of people.
Even the Jews of Jerusalem who did not join them were impressed by the preaching and teaching of the Christians, and for the most part they were so impressed by the conduct of this emerging group that they held them “in high regard.” The Ananias incident did not taint their reputation.
15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and stretchers, so that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.
“They” here is connected with the people who believed in the Lord in verse 15. Trusting in the gospel of Jesus’ forgiveness, they were confident that Jesus’ apostles could heal as Jesus had healed, and this miracle was done over and over again in the streets of Jerusalem. People brought their sick family members and neighbors out to be healed by Peter, placing them on little cots (κλιναρίων) and the sort of bedroll a soldier used in a tent (“pallets,” κραβάττων), which I have translated as “stretchers.” This was the same as the mat upon which the paralyzed man was lowered down through the roof to Jesus in Capernaum (Mark 2:4, 9-12). The people arranged their sick in the streets so that Peter, who was seemingly regular in his habits and in the streets he took, would happen upon them and heal them. In some cases, people even hoped that his shadow would pass over them and they would be healed. This shows a remarkable faith, sometimes disingenuously described as superstition. But if it were not true that even Peter’s shadow brought healing (by the power of Christ) then the notion would have disappeared from people’s minds quickly. Since it is included here by our physician-author Luke, it must be taken as truthful, as factual, and as historically accurate. Isaiah had performed a miracle with the way a shadow fell in the days of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:9-11); now the Lord performed many miracles wherever Peter’s shadow fell. We are also reminded of people begging Jesus to let them touch the fridge of his cloak (Mark 6:56), when “all who touched him were healed.”
16 Crowds gathered from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those harassed by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The word spread quickly. Christ was crucified, risen and ascended, but now his followers were performing the same spectacular miracles that Jesus had once wrought throughout Galilee and Judea. People came from all around, from the surrounding villages of Jerusalem’s vicinity. Here Luke falls to a unique word, used nowhere else in the Bible, perix (πέριξ), which means “surrounding, all around.” The villages might have included Anatoth, Adasa, and Caphar Salama to the north, Emmaus, Kiriath-Jearim and Beth-Haccerem to the west, Bethlehem, Netophah, and Tekoa to the south, and Hyrcania, Herodium, Bethany and Bethphage to the east.
As in the early days of Jesus’ ministry, there was another surge in demon possessions at this time. Luke says that people were “harassed” by them. But the demons were driven away as a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly, people saw the value of putting their faith in Jesus, since the miracles were a testimony to his power, but the message was that of the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection to eternal life. This is the message we still preach; this is the power of Christ that still motivates us and gives us the assurance that all of our needs are filled up to the top by Jesus our Savior.
Pastor Timothy Smith