They priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. Acts 4:1-2
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13
I have a difficult time explaining to my eight-year-old how she can be with Jesus when He actually isn’t visibly there with her. One of her love languages is quality time; she longs to simply be together and craves undivided attention. This is why Jesus doesn’t always feel real to her. If I’m honest, He doesn’t always feel real to me either.
I write that last sentence not as a confession but as a confirmation that if you have experienced similar feelings, you’re not alone. I offer you words that often bring me comfort — me too. Yet, I have discovered that it’s in those very feelings of doubt that the Spirit of God will meet me, take my breath away, and leave me in awe saying “You ARE real.”
With today’s passages in Acts, we find Peter and John proclaiming Jesus, leaving others astonished by their courage and certain that they had “been with Jesus.” I read that with admiration and a bit of jealousy as nothing about my life or calling looks or feels so astonishing. It feels utterly and completely ordinary, in fact. In sky-high piles of laundry, ridiculous numbers of trips to the grocery store, and countless renditions of the useful parenting phrase “Because I said so,” I sometimes feel like I’m on a merry-go-round of pointless activity.
If you want to feel small and ordinary, spend some time looking at profiles of “Instagram Influencers.” They are living their picture-perfect best lives, one post at a time. I recently learned that some colleges in our nation are offering pop-culture classes such as a #SelfieClass, The Sociology of Miley Cyrus and Why Keeping Up Matters: The Kardashians as a Reflection of Society (I must admit that last one scares me). Even within Christianity, we have a tendency to conflate greatness with mighty callings that include book deals, microphones, spotlights, and fog machines.
But that’s not the real kingdom of God. The real kingdom of God is made up of ordinary people washing proverbial feet. The real kingdom of God is Jesus embodied through shared meals, joyous laughter and wiped tears. The real kingdom of God is not about making our own lives extraordinary but laying our lives down. It’s a kingdom not of power and money and importance but a kingdom that says the first will be last and the last will be first.
Our culture doesn’t understand that this is what our souls truly crave. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we do not always understand either. This is why we choose lesser things instead of just being with Jesus. Peter and John were teaching that “…in Jesus [is the] resurrection of the dead.” I think we too often look for soul resurrection in all the wrong places. I know that I can look for it Netflix or shopping or playing mindless games on my iPhone. But those things will never bring the dead places inside of me back to life.
Those who saw Peter and John “…took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Today, I am grateful that we can choose to be with Jesus too.
For me, “being with Jesus” can sometimes feel like a vague calling to an unknown, faraway place that seems slightly out of reach. Yet, time out of touch with Him leaves me like a freight train destined to crash. It helps to remember that I am not required to belt out a lofty prayer or wax eloquent Scripture in an effort to impress Him; I am simply called to be still. Commit to being still with Him today.
God sent His son, Emmanuel - God with us - to become the firstborn of the dead, no doubt making clear that many others would follow in His resurrection. This is God’s business: bringing dead things to life. Name one dead thing in your life, in your soul, or in a relationship. Ask God for His mercy and help to resurrect it.
Lord, thank you that in Your presence we find fullness of joy. I confess that at times when I need You the most, I find it difficult to sit still and seek You. I pray for others who may have that same difficulty, Lord. Help us, please. We ask not because of our righteousness but because of your mercy. Please bring those places in us that are dead back to life. Help us to drink from your fountain, so that, like John and Peter, we may offer others the beautiful overflow of its satisfying quench.
PC3 writer Gina Fimbel wrote today’s devotional.