Today’s passage covers a great deal of ground! Firstly (v.23-31), Peter and John return to “their own people” (v.23) to report everything that had happened – and a spontaneous prayer meeting breaks out. Next, we read about how the disciples shared what they had (v.32-37). Finally, we have the account of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11), and the results of their attempt to deceive the community. ‘Community’ is a key word for what we’ve read today, and we have three key hallmarks of what it means to be ‘community’: the community in Jerusalem were a praying community, a sharing community, and a holy community.
Firstly, they prayed. There is no direct evidence in the passage, but it may well be that while Peter and John were away, the other disciples were praying for them. We do see this explicitly, later (Acts 12:12). Even if they were not in this instance, their instant response to the report that they bring is prayer and praise (v.24-28). They pray for boldness, for healings, for signs and wonders (v.29-30). When they had finished (v.31), the place was shaken, an indication of God’s presence (see Exodus 19:18 and Isaiah 6:4, for example). Finally, they are filled (again) with the Holy Spirit (v.31). When did you last attend a prayer meeting like that?!
Secondly, they shared. Their view of ownership seems radically different from what was presumably the prevailing attitude of their time, and definitely the prevailing attitude of our time (v.32). At the same time, the disciples preached with “great power” (v.33). At the very least, the meeting of the needs of the community and the preaching of the gospel with power go hand in hand; arguably, the latter is not possible if the former is being neglected (see James 2:14-26, for example).
Finally, they were a holy community. Ananias and Sapphira tried to belong without really committing and were found out. Oh, to be hot, not lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16)! Perhaps this is a passage we’d prefer not to be in the Bible. Perhaps it makes us uncomfortable. There are theories we don’t have space here to contemplate, but at the very least, it’s a challenge to us to be ‘whiter than white’; to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). And just as Jesus promises Peter whilst washing his feet, we are already holy because he has made us so – but our feet still need washing. Let’s take time to check our feet today!
Father God, thank you that you made us in your image, and desire us to play our part in a praying, holy community. Please show us afresh what that means. Amen.