Am I the only one who loves to imagine how Peter is feeling and what he is thinking throughout scripture?
Maybe it is because he is so darn relatable. (I mean, I would have gotten out of the boat and then instantly started sinking, too!) Maybe because it helps bring the passage to life. Maybe my imagination is too active.
In the first few chapters of the book of Acts we are provided glimpses of the early church and I love Peter’s boldness and faith as he steps, almost as a new man, beyond his betrayal of Jesus, beyond his doubt and beyond his shortcomings to truly become the Rock and the Fisher of Men that Christ called him to be.
This blossoming Church that Peter is co-leading is described with such beauty and harmony that it leaves a longing in my heart to be a part of that group. So much breaking of bread! So much sharing! So much praying! So much revival! So much Holy Spirit!
People were selling all their stuff, homes, land and possessions, to meet the needs of others. Like, you know, actually doing what Jesus taught.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
If I were Peter I would be on such a high from seeing something like this (because I am sure the resurrected Lord and tongues of fire and 5,000 new believers didn’t give him enough cause for celebration…) and would surely be bombarding peoples’ newsfeed. #worldchangers #earlychurch #sonofencouragement Um, its a good thing this is Peter and not actually me in the 21st century.
But, then Acts 5 happens.
Immediately after this beautiful description of believers being of ‘one heart and mind’ comes the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira which appears in such sharp contrast to that of Barnabas.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
As I am reading this I again can’t help but project my own reactions onto Peter.
Was he good friends with this couple? Had he baptized them? Were there others doing the same?
Suddenly all the elation and encouragement I felt (and perhaps, or most definitely, my competence as a leader) would blur and fade into the background as the weight of this couples’ decision bore down upon my shoulders.
The joy I felt over Barnabas and so many others like him suddenly forgotten.
Back when I was teaching middle school Spanish, it seemed like no matter what my class was really like, if there was one ‘bad kid’ my entire view of how the class was going was tainted. 99% of the class could have been learning their vocabulary and working well, but I would leave the day frustrated if there was one kid having a hard time or misbehaving.
I noticed this trend in other areas of my life as well and phrases like “seeing the glass half full” or “having a positive attitude” didn’t really cut it, nor did they match up with what I was seeing in scripture. A positive attitude can only ease disappointment and discouragement to a small degree.
In fact, I think it is appropriate that we get both the story of Barnabas and that of Ananias and Sapphira back to back, because life in the Kingdom as lived out here on earth can’t be (at least in my opinion, and maybe Peter’s too…) approached by either only dwelling on the crappy parts, or just focusing on the happy parts. They are intertwined and complex in our hearts.
The Kingdom of God is where Jesus reigns, but there are many who reject Jesus.
“Woe to you….”
I think the reality of following Jesus is lived in this tension of happy and crappy. Of praise and lament. Of celebration and woe. Back to back. Together. A mommy blogger I read describes life as being brutiful, both brutal and beautiful at the same time and I agree with her.
The difficult part (for me anyways, I’ll quit pretending I know Peter’s every thought) is dealing with the brutal, handling the disappointment, not being consumed by discouragement but not ignoring it either. Jesus instructs his disciples to shake the dust of their sandals – is it that simple when He himself says these deeply sorrowful ‘woe prayers‘ over them?
3 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. (Luke 10)
“Woe” is not an emotionless expression, but rather one of sorrow and lament and anguish and urgency and it appears over 100 times in scripture.
Our world as we experience it, at least until the new heaven and the new earth, is full of Barnabas and Ananaias and Sapphira.
Full of harmony and full of woe.
Full of people running toward, and full of people running away.
I experience this in both seemingly insignificant ways, and also overwhelming ways in my life.
It is certainly true that there is a need to shake the dust from my sandals.
And it is also true that I need to remind myself that God is sovereign over all.
But I believe there is also an invitation and a time and a place to grieve that which grieves God, to acknowledge his pain and anguish and anger towards sin and how that sin can destroy lives – just as there is an invitation to rejoice and be excited and celebratory.
I think maybe the apostles lived in this tension, and it is place I live as well.