A Magical Shadow (Acts 5:11-16)?
Aug 30, 2010 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
“As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by” (v. 15 TNIV).
The aftermath of the sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira is intriguing. We are not surprised at the fear that overtook those who learned of what happened (v. 11) or that no one else dared get too intimate with the apostles who wielded such power (the sense of “join” in v. 13). We probably shouldn’t be surprised at the “power evangelism” that resulted—i.e., more and more people came to Christ as a result (v. 14).
But what are we to make of the signs and wonders that ensued? Even verses 12 and 16 follow naturally from Jesus’ earlier empowering of his apostles to heal and cast out demons (Matt. 10:6). But healing by means of Peter’s shadow falling on sick people (v. 15)?
It’s probably important that Luke never says it was Peter’s shadow that healed anyone. The people just believed that this would be an effective way of demonstrating their faith in the Christ that Peter proclaimed. Superstition ran rampant in the ancient Mediterranean world and almost all the accounts of other Jewish and Greco-Roman healing rituals involve “paraphernalia” of some kind.
Thank goodness that God takes misguided faith of many different kinds and recognizes when it is truly directed toward Jesus, blessing people even in their ignorance. But this passage affords no precedent for similar shenanigans by those of us who know from throughout the Scriptures that faith and not magic is what leads to healing, and then only when it is God’s will.