The paralyzed man stood up, picked up his bed, and walked away. And all those present were filled with awe and amazement, and they said, “We have seen strange things today.” After having been told that the people were filled with amazement and awe, and were glorifying God, these people then said what amounts to, “Yup. That was weird.”
We cannot overlook that Peter, and even Barnabas joined into this division within a church of fellow believers. They heard what the people from James had said, and then turned around and refused to eat with the gentiles. Peter had understood God’s decision to include gentiles in the story of salvation. And Peter had already had a meeting with Paul, James, and John about not needing to make gentiles follow the rules and regulations of their Jewish heritage. So this decision by Peter and Barnabas to fall into a pattern of excluding people is, as Paul says, based entirely in fear. Fear that he might be ridiculed, have his authority challenged, or have his leadership threatened.
Many of us, in the days following the riot and attack on the capitol building on January 6th of this year, have come to wonder how people who claim to know Jesus could have ended up storming the capitol with the intent of causing harm to those within its walls. Causing harm, when the Jesus they claim to follow expresses the mandate to “love your neighbor,” and “pray for your enemies.” Nowhere does Christ seem to indicate that violently beating your enemies with a flagpole is the way of love, nor even something he wants his followers to do.
Sometimes, asking people to jump into an existing ministry works, but more often it doesn’t. People may be excited about their faith, but that excitement fades when they are told to embrace the constraints and guidelines of an existing ministry merely because “we’ve always done it this way at this church.” That vetted ministry may have been dying for a reason, and throwing a new and excited individual at it will probably not bring it back to life, because their creativity and passion will have been saddled with a vision that is not their own.
In the age of Jesus, it’s not like you could dismiss a voice talking from heaven as someone playing tricks on you with a wireless lapel mic and a hidden loudspeaker. That just wasn’t a possibility. So these people had to dismiss the voice from heaven as thunder, even though they heard the voice, and what it said. They dismissed the voice as thunder because they did not want to believe, or be confronted with the truth.
They’ve seen this movie before, and so some of them are thinking, “Great! Jesus is here, he’ll calm the storm and all will be well.”
But Jesus doesn’t calm the storm.
He’s just standing there, telling them not to be afraid, in the midst of all this raging chaos.