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by The Most Rev. Colin R. Johnson, Archbishop of Toronto and of Moosonee Ontario, Canada
Acts 5:12-26. Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.
Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
We are so steeped in modern medical science that many are embarrassed by the almost magical healings presented in this passage. Look again. Luke alerts us to something much more significant: the fulfillment of the promised kingdom (as expressed in Isaiah 42, for instance.) The apostles are growing into Jesus’ mission. Recall the opening of Jesus’ public ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4:18; see also Isaiah 61).
These passages are talking about more than physical healing. The sick are being restored economically so they can work, reenter society as whole people, and worship again in the temple. Community is being built as well as individuals being healed. Even the prisoners are being set free. This is divine work of restoring all things in Christ. The apostles are not the source of this power but agents—ministers—of reconciliation, continuing Jesus’ work.
In Acts, healing is ordinary, not flashy or for profit: no public spectacles, no prior profession of faith, only a profession of need. There is no mandatory church attendance or a course before being healed. Healing comes first. It is grace. Some, like one of the ten healed lepers, follow the Way; some don’t, but all are changed by their encounter with the life-giving God through the apostles’ ministry. The apostles proclaim “the whole message of this life” (Acts 5:20). As Luke writes in chapter 4, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Where in your own life do you need Christ to heal or liberate you?
As a disciple of Christ, how are you an agent of healing and reconciliation in your community?
God of healing and liberty, free us from all that binds and constricts us from fullness of life. Open our hearts to the needs around us that we may be faithful ministers of your healing presence in our midst. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.