I doubt I’ll preach on the Acts reading this Sunday, but it’s too good to pass by without comment. Actually, the event it describes isn’t all that interesting—just the revivification of a dead girl. Normally, that would be incredible news, but it is so similar to the story of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter that it seems like Luke could find an original story to tell. But the remarkable thing about the passage is that it isn’t Jesus who’s doing the healing. It’s Peter.
The Book of Acts builds the case for the Holy Spirit leading the apostles to carry on with the work Jesus had begun during his lifetime. We see the church taking shape, taking the good news to ever-widening circles of evangelism, and taking on the role of Jesus himself. This story of Peter and the dead woman in Joppa is supposed to show us that even lowly Peter is able to do the fullest miracles that Jesus himself did—raising the dead. But the real miracle in the story is how the community reacted to it.
When they heard what Peter had done, they kept their focus on Jesus. As Luke writes, “This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.” They didn’t believe in Peter. They didn’t come to him and carry him off to be a king. They heard what he did and focused on Jesus. That’s amazing. If you were able to give life back to my dead loved one, I wouldn’t ask where the power came from. I’d simply seek you out and pay you whatever I needed to in order to have my own dead family member brought back to life.
Sometimes we fall in love with the messenger and forget the message. Sometimes we remember our youth minister more than the stories he told. Sometimes we care more about our preacher than we do about Jesus. But, if everything is going the way it’s supposed to, that minister could raise the dead and we’d still be talking more about Jesus than about her. How is that possible?
I’ve never met someone who could raise the dead, but I’m guessing that that kind of power comes from a life and ministry so firmly rooted in the power of God that a witness couldn’t help but see it. As a minister of the gospel, am I that deeply planted in my own discipleship that God’s work in and through me overshadows anything I might bring to the table? Can I develop and grow in the spiritual life in order that I lose myself that fully? I don’t expect to raise the dead. I can’t even get over my own allergies. But I can disappear and point others to God’s power rather than my own abilities.