“They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city” (Acts 14:19).
Luke doesn’t make it clear that this is a miracle by which Paul was resuscitated. But the passage is suspiciously flavored with the continuing work of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in His Body. Is it mere coincidence that it was when the disciples were gathered around Paul that he rose up?
The fact is that those who were pretty good at leaving people dead or close to it had done their job well. Even if Paul did not completely die, he certainly was in no shape to rise up and walk back into the city. And yet that’s exactly what he did.
To me, it’s a picture of the power of God in our lives when we truly act like the Body of Christ, acting in one accord, having all things in common, uniting with one of our brothers or sisters who has fallen or is out ministering in the Lord’s name and is hurt in some way.
What I find far too commonly in the church is a set of individual Christians who are out there ministering on their own, without the support of the Body of Christ. Sometimes the Body is not as supportive as it should be, and sometimes we like the freedom and lack of accountability and heroism of being Lone Rangers.
But the Body of Christ is not a collection of cells that have temporary and almost arbitrary connections to one another: it’s a true Body which is organically united. This living unity of the Church as Christ’s Body is the secret of the early Church in its power and glory. It’s no surprise, then, that when Paul and the other apostles go out as missionaries that they establish churches, and not missions. Paul and the apostles move on, once they’ve established a church. We see this in the way that they appointed elders in every church. And they did it with fasting, in the way that Paul and Barnabas themselves were ordained.
I marvel at the strength and courage of St. Paul and wonder how I could ever obtain such strength and courage. And then I remember that this is the same Paul who was keenly aware of his own weakness and the same Paul who heard His Lord tell him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul is so strengthened and encouraged by the Lord that he can even say (almost incomprehensibly) that He takes pleasure in his infirmities and persecutions for Christ’s sake. For when he is weak, then he is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
But did Jesus Christ always come down from heaven and rescue St. Paul as palpably as He did when He first smacked him down on the road to Damascus? I don’t think so. How is it that Paul takes a licking and keeps on ticking! I think that Jesus Christ came to Paul through the churches that Paul himself had planted. I think that when the Body of Christ was gathered together around Paul that when he was weak he was strong.
Haven’t you witnessed and experienced this yourself? Haven’t there been times when you have been discouraged in the work the Lord has commissioned you to do, so much so that you feel like giving up? And haven’t there been times when you’ve been discouraged in your work and the Body of Christ or some part of it has gathered around you so that you rise again?
And so where is the Lord calling you to work today? Whatever He has called you to, make sure you take the Church with you and that you aren’t deluded into thinking that you are alone or should be alone in your ministry. Whatever that task is, the Body of Christ should surround you, to pray for you, to work with you, to encourage you, and to raise you up. And you are supposed to be among those who gather around your brother or sister who has fallen or is discouraged.
What incredible opportunities God has given us to manifest the Body of His Son on earth! We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body!
Prayer: O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. Do you know brothers or sisters in the Lord who need the Body of Christ to gather around them? How could you assist in doing this?
2. Are you a brother or sister in the Lord who needs the Body of Christ to gather around you? How could you seek such support?
Resolution: I resolve to either gather around a brother or sister who needs me to or to seek the Body of Christ to gather around me in one way today.
© 2012 Fr. Charles Erlandson
St. Paul and Scenes from His Life – http://www.byzarticon.gr/en/iconography-gallery-byzantine-art/wall-icon-toixaografies/saint-paul-irvine-causa/312–2.html
Category: Give Us This Day