If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself filled with what feels like righteous jealousy when reading much of the New Testament – especially Acts. Reading about great men of the faith who spent so much time with Jesus in the flesh, who witnessed his crucifixion and ascension, who shook his hand and looked him in the eye, it can be so tempting to think “no wonder they were so bold and so faithful and so impactful and so…” (and so on and so on). They had a front row seat to see God in the flesh, living! It’s easy to feel a little cheated that we have to walk by faith when it seems like the apostles got to walk by sight. Thankfully, Acts is filled with signposts that point us to the truth – God is no less alive today than he was when Jesus walked the earth.
Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking a lot about plants this week as I consider redecorating our entry hall, and I realized today that I tend to think of God living in much the same way as I think of plants living. I know somewhere in my mind that a plant is a living thing when I buy it, and I certainly recall that it was a living thing when I inevitably kill it, but something about its life doesn’t fully register to me, because I don’t see it moving. That’s why – I suspect – learning for the first time about the Venus Fly Trap, a moving plant, is so discombobulating for most of us.
The lame beggar’s healing in Chapter 3 of Acts is something of a Venus Fly Trap moment in the early church – a perplexing sign of life that left witnesses in the temple “utterly astounded” (3:11). There was a clear element of anticipation following Pentecost, as the world was beginning to wonder what was next for the church with Jesus ascended and the rhythms of daily life resuming. This miracle is a signpost clearly declaring, then and now, “God is alive.” Jesus has bodily left the earth, but the Holy Spirit is present and moving to grow the kingdom.
Similarly, though we find ourselves now bodily and temporally separated from all the wonders we read about in Acts, we have the assurance that God is moving. When we read now about that “creation moment,” as Sean called it, of God restoring the lame man’s withered body to perfect health and his heart to perfect joy in Christ, we read it as part of our own history and heritage, as part of the continuing narrative of God at work in his people, and as a signpost of the new life available to us in Christ. God is alive in the acts of the apostles, just as God is alive in us today.