It was an ordinary afternoon – nearly impossible, really, after Pentecost! – and Peter and John went as usual to the temple for a special time of prayer. They still followed the Jewish rhythms to some extent at that time and realised the importance of a disciplined devotional time each day in their walk with Jesus. Peter’s eyes fixed on the lame beggar who he’d possibly seen every day for months. Someone whispered in his ear: “Heal him, Peter”. He looked around, but no-one was nearby. “Heal him, I said, Peter”, the voice stressed more firmly. It was then that Peter recognised the voice as coming from inside him, urging him on. It was increasingly familiar, the voice of the Master. Peter experienced a growing inner compulsion and began to realise that he had no real choice in the matter, and at the same time he became aware that the beggar’s healing was already certain. By the time he had uttered the phrase “in the Name of Jesus”, Peter felt as though someone had lit a fire inside his chest. How could that beggar’s weak and useless limbs fail to respond too!
As the beggar obeyed and exerted himself to rise, miracles were occurring in his bones, his ligaments, his muscles, and his tendons. These dry limbs responded to the voice of God and became whole again – sculpted afresh to become what they had always been intended to be. The man walked… and ran… and jumped… and praised God!
There’s nothing quite like a miracle in full view of everyone to get a crowd’s attention. If anything, Peter’s delivery of the gospel here was even better than his Pentecost talk. “Turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah”. (v19) The crowd sensed another miracle that day – in each and every one of their hearts – and they reached out to receive it with a strange mixture of fear and joy. They became whole again – sculpted afresh to be what they had always been intended to be. After that, they too walked, with Jesus!
2 SAMUEL 9 and 10
What started as a kindness ended in a full-scale war. Such is the power of misunderstanding! David simply wanted to express his sympathy to the new king of the Ammonites, over the death of the previous king – all this is almost identically in 2 Samuel 10 and 1 Chronicles 19. David, just like the Lord, was a person of great kindness and generosity and these characteristics are liable to be misunderstood or misconstrued by cynical people who are unused to being shown love and concern. Jesus himself described the Father in this way (Luke 6:35): “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”
David’s envoys were treated very shamefully (half a beard is much worse than no beard!) and then the Ammonites came to their senses; anticipating swift revenge by Israel, they decided that attack was the best form of defence, and advanced upon David’s forces. The question of whether David would have taken revenge for the initial insult is therefore academic. Splitting his army into two forces, in order to match the enemy’s battle lines, David did indeed take revenge, destroying first the Aramean mercenary army, paid to fight on the Ammonite’s side, and then the Ammonites themselves. They were all forced to make peace with Israel and to become Israel’s slaves.
One of the lessons from today’s reading is that you must count the cost before engaging in risky warfare; in the same way, we must count the cost of following Christ as a disciple. Salvation is certainly a free gift, but it will also cost you your entire life!