Excitement is growing. Peter and John have done some astounding things. Performed some truly miraculous signs. And God is on the move. Last week there were about 5,000 of us gathered at Solomon’s Portico to hear Peter preach. What a transformation! I don’t even recognize the belligerent quick-tongued fisherman. He speaks with such insight and authority. It’s clear that his time with Jesus has brought huge dividends. It’s also obvious that the Spirit is at work in him. So many folks coming to faith. Most have to leave behind family and friends, businesses and social status in order to follow Jesus. But like me, they believe it’s worth it. Joe, a good friend of mine, was one of the first to not only recognize the need of some of these folks, but also to do something about it. He had prime real estate in the district just outside of Jerusalem that had been in his family forever. To everyone’s surprise, Joe sold the property and brought the proceeds of the sale to Peter so that it could be distributed to the folks in need. Talk about generous giving. And Joe thought nothing of it.
But last week a shocking thing happened. Ananias, a newer member of the Way, brought a similar offering to Peter, and then…he died. It was the strangest thing. There was some question over the money he received from a parcel of land he sold – apparently there was a discrepancy between what Ananias claimed was the purchase price and what the actual sale amount was. It looked like Ananias was trying to deceive Peter (and not just Peter, but also the Holy Spirit). And he just died. Later on, his wife showed up. I don’t think she was aware that her husband had already been there, and more importantly, that he had died. Peter asked her about the sale. Well it looks like she was in on the deception, and Peter called her on it, and she…died. Talk about church discipline. I can tell you, we were all afraid after that.
But why was this such a big deal that it carried the death penalty. As some friends and I were talking, we came to the conclusion that it went back to a refrain we had heard in both of Peter’s speeches before the religious authorities: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge…” Ananias and his wife Sapphira cared more about what the people thought of them than what God thought. Not acceptable in the fledgling church. Fast forward about 2,000 years, what would that look like today? What if God judged us as severely for giving heed to men rather than to Him. Hmmm. Food for thought.
Until next time…stay salty.