While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. ‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out from the people.” And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.
The fortunes and misfortunes of Paul on his travels often overshadow the stories of other disciples as they struggled to follow in their master’s footsteps. Peter is a case in point with the story of the healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate. “I have no silver or gold but what I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stand up and walk”. It echoes the encounter with the man at the pool of Bethsaida (John 5): ”Do you want to be healed? Then take up your bed and walk” said Jesus. So too, the story of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5) is recalled in the raising of Tabitha/Dorcas in Acts 9. “Talitha koumi” says Jesus to the girl; “Tabitha koumi” Peter tells Dorcas. We see him learning to be the disciple his master intended. Acts charts Peter’s progress from denier to disciple, and encourages us to follow in his footsteps and learn the cost of discipleship.
Sometimes it comes in strange ways.
I was in Warsaw in the early years of Glasnost producing an edition of “Face the Press” for Channel 4. We had been advised to take dollars, soap and chocolate as the Polish zloty was having a bad time. During a break I went to see the Epiphany crib in the church of St John. I passed a group of beggars who occupied the porch, but on the way out a large lady seated on a step asked for a few “groschen” – small change. I put my hand in my coat pocket but could find only a large bar of milk chocolate. A miracle! The large lady sprang to her feet and the cripple in the corner on crutches cast them aside and sprinted towards us. “I have no groschen and Zloty but in the name of St Cadbury of Bournville eat your fill”. Like a good journalist I made my excuses and left, reflecting on the divine mystery of God’s sense of humour as we poor disciples try our best.
Though what I dream and what I do In my weak days are always two; Help me, oppressed by things undone, O Thou, whose deeds and dreams were one.
John Hunter 493 Rejoice and Sing
The Rev’d Peter Moth, Retired Minister/Broadcaster, St Andrew’s Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.