God Running is a place for anyone who wants to (or even anyone who wants to want to) love Jesus more deeply, follow Jesus more closely, and love people the way Jesus wants us to.
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.Acts 5:14-16
In our last post from the book of Acts we looked at why some people don’t attend church, why a casual church goer attends church, and why the earliest believers participated in church. We saw how a certain group were reluctant to connect themselves to the early Christians after Ananias and Sapphiras’ sin resulted in their deaths. If you’re interested you can check that out here: Why the Earliest Believers Went to Church: Acts 5:12-13.
The Deadly Consequences of Sin and Joining Jesus
Today we’ll be talking about miracles, but before we dive into that topic, we see another group in today’s text. They’re different from the reluctant group we talked about in our last post. The group in today’s passage was serious enough about following Jesus that even though they saw the deadly consequences of sin, they still chose to commit themselves to following Christ and to join his community of disciples. This group is a beautiful picture of what it looks like to worship the Father in spirit and truth. “The Father is seeking such people to worship Him,” Jesus said. (John 4:23, Mark 8:36)
We also see in today’s text how people were carrying their sick out to the streets and laying them on mats hoping Peter’s shadow might fall on them so they would be healed. Ancient people of that time thought a person’s shadow was a part of the person. So, for instance, if you were a Jew and your shadow touched a corpse you were considered to be ceremonially unclean. (Keener)
This reminds me that God can use anything He wants to, to accomplish anything He wants to.
God can use Peter’s shadow to miraculously heal somebody.
Or can He?
Are Miracles Real?
Passages like these are often used by skeptics to say the Bible can’t be real. The Bible can’t be real, they say, because we know miracles and miraculous healings simply don’t occur. The laws of nature are laws after all, and they’re laws that can’t be broken. So — case closed: the Bible is false.
That might sound pretty convincing on the face of it. But do we know miracles don’t occur? Is that a true statement? I have to admit, although I’ve experienced some events some might call miraculous, I don’t know anyone personally, who has been miraculously healed. But as I was pondering these questions, I remembered hearing about someone who does.
It wasn’t really up on my radar but in passing I had heard Craig Keener wrote a book about miracles. So today I did a little digging. If you know anything about Keener you won’t be surprised to learn the book is meticulously and thoroughly researched, it’s 1,248 pages long, and it weighs 4.12 pounds. What I like about Keener is his obsessive pursuit of the truth without regard for any presupposed narrative. He’s amazingly thorough and he just writes what he finds. I haven’t read his book but today I did listen to his lecture on miracles and it was fascinating. I highly recommend it. If you want to learn more, you can watch it here:
Keener’s a genius, his research is brilliant, and what he says about miracles is better than anything I have to say. So watch him if you can. It will increase your faith. I know it did mine.
Reticulum Cell Sarcoma
In his lecture Keener talks about a girl named Lisa Larios who had reticulum cell sarcoma of the right pelvic bone, which is to say she had cancer in her hip. She was dying, because the cancer had already metastasized. Desiring to protect Lisa emotionally, her parents hadn’t told her she was dying. A neighbor persuaded Lisa’s mother Isabel to take Lisa to a healing meeting. Her mother was reluctant because, as I mentioned, Lisa didn’t know how sick she actually was. All she knew was that she couldn’t get out of her wheel chair. So although she was reluctant, her mother took her to this meeting. While she was there nobody had yet prayed for Lisa or laid hands on Lisa when Lisa suddenly felt her hip being healed and she jumped out of her wheel chair and started running around. Adrenaline can account for this kind of reaction sometimes but in this case Lisa shocked her father when she walked into the house pushing the wheel chair, in fact she had pushed the wheel chair all the way home. So here’s the thing about this miraculous healing: Keener has x-rays. And you can see how the cancer was not only healed but where the bone mass had been eaten away, it was restored.
Professors Wonsuk and Julie Ma
Wonsuk and Julie Ma are both PhDs. Wonsuk is the director for Oxford Center for mission studies. They shared with Keener about a number of miraculous healings they’ve witnessed. One was of a large toxic goiter that instantly disappeared in the sight of many witnesses when they prayed.
I knew she was going to fall flat on the ground
When Craig Keener was new to following Christ he was a converted atheist and he had not yet come to believe God still did physical things in the world. It was during this time Keener himself was with his brother helping with a nursing home Bible study. There was a woman named Barbara who attended every week, and every week, from her wheel chair, she would say over and over, “I wish I could walk, I wish I could walk . . .”
One time the Bible study leader, a Fuller seminarian, after hearing Barbara, walked over to her and said, “I’m tired of hearing this. In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to rise up and walk.” And he grabbed her by the hand and lifted her up from her wheel chair.
It’s at this point in the story that Keener says, “If faith is a bias I cannot be accused of it in this case because I knew she was going to fall flat on the ground. And from the expression on her face it was pretty clear she knew she was going to fall flat on the ground too.”
But he walked her around the room. She was absolutely stunned. From then on , Barbara would walk to the Bible study.
So Much More
He goes on and on. I’m just scratching the surface of his lecture. And I’m sure his lecture only scratches the surface of his book. Keener shared so many well documented miraculous healings including documented instances where people were raised from the dead. The lecture is gold. The book is probably even better.
In closing I just want to share a few final comments from Keener’s research on miracles.
As I’m sure you already know, most of us don’t experience miraculous healings. Miracles today most often happen in the same settings as in the Bible. They usually happen as a part of ground breaking evangelism in areas where the gospel is relatively new. So although God can answer prayer anywhere, anytime, He seems to provide special signs during evangelism in largely unevangelized regions. It seems it’s in these unevangelized regions where God most often uses signs to attract people’s attention.
Miracles are reminders of the future promise of a world made new.
Miracles point us to what God cares about most:
Father, please fill us with love for You and with love for the people you put in front of us. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and with great faith to accomplish whatever it is You want us to accomplish. If these are small things fill us with praise for You. If these are big miraculous things fill us with praise for You. In all circumstances fill us with praise for You. In all circumstances help us to give You the glory and to live in humility.
In Jesus’ name,
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament,
InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 335
I’m sure you already know this but one other point Keener made during his lecture was when we work through science and medicine to improve health care for people, this is work God cares about too.
Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com
Love Like Jesus by Kurt Bennett, now available on Amazon!
Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus)
Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
Love Like Jesus examines a variety of stories, examples, and research, including:
- Specific examples of how Jesus communicated God’s love to others.
- How Jesus demonstrated all five of Gary Chapman’s love languages (and how you can too).
- The story of how Billy Graham extended Christ’s extraordinary love and grace toward a man who misrepresented Jesus to millions.
- How to respond to critics the way Jesus did.
- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
- How to survive a life of loving like Jesus (or how not to become a Christian doormat).
- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
- How Jesus guarded his heart by taking care of himself–he even napped–and why you should do the same.
- How Jesus loved his betrayer Judas, even to the very end.
With genuine unfiltered honesty, Love Like Jesus, shows you how to live a life according to God’s definition of success: A life of loving God well, and loving the people around you well too.
A life of loving like Jesus.