A Commentary by John Stott
Acts 5:12-16. The apostles heal many people.
Luke is about to record the second wave of persecution by which the devil attempted to annihilate the church. As he does so, he will highlight various developing attitudes, especially ‘the deepening jealousy and antagonism of the Sadducees, the moderation of the Pharisees, and the increasing joy and confidence of the Christians’. But before this he refers to the fact that *the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people*, especially Peter (12a). Having given an account of their message, he now describes the extraordinary signs which authenticated it. They seem to have taken place in *Solomon’s Colonnade*, the eastern cloister in which Peter had preached his second sermon (3:11) and in which now *all the believers used to meet together* (12b). The miracles had two interesting and opposite results. On the one hand, *no-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people* (13). This might just mean that the opposition lacked the courage to ‘join in disputation with them’, but the context suggests simply that they preferred to keep aloof rather than to associate with them. On the other hand, *more and more* people, both *men and women*, having no such fears, *believed in the Lord and were added to their number* (14). ‘On the one hand an awestruck reserve’, as Haenchen puts it, and ‘on the other great missionary success’. This paradoxical situation has often recurred since then. The presence of the living God, whether manifest through preaching or miracles or both, is alarming to some and appealing to others. Some were frightened away, while others are drawn to faith.
As the movement grew, Luke continues, *people brought the sick into the streets*, presumably their sick relatives, friends and neighbours, *and laid them on beds and mats* in such a way *that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by* (15). Their action may have been somewhat superstitious, but I see no reason to condemn it as tantamount to belief in magic, any more than was the woman’s faith that a touch of the hem of Jesus’ garment would be enough to heal her. No, the people had been deeply impressed by the words and works of Peter, had recognised him as a man of God and an apostle of Christ, and believed that through close proximity to him they could be healed. It may be significant that the verb *episkiazo*, which Luke chooses, meaning to ‘overshadow’, he has used twice in his gospel of the overshadowing of God’s presence (Lk.1:35; 9:34).
Now *crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing* not only *their sick* people but also *those tormented by evil spirits* (Luke does not confuse the two conditions), and *all of them were healed* (16). It was a remarkable demonstration of the power of God to heal and free human beings, as the Ananias and Sapphira episode had been of his power to judge them.
Tomorrow: Acts 5:17-42. The Sanhedrin intensifies its opposition.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Acts. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.