Job 20-21; Acts 8; Psalm 41
Out of death comes Life. As the early church readily testified, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. And at first it seems that everything is getting darker. Although the Life of the Risen one is so manifest amongst them, death is still a tragedy – loud lamentation is called for. The Resurrection stands before the tomb of Lazarus and weeps.
We live in an age which so seemingly devoid of Life, that often people will quote ‘death is nothing at all’, but this is chloroform to the senses and the Life in the Spirit.
And so the blood of the first witness (martyr), scatters the seed of the gospel – and as it is one of the seven set apart to serve at tables who has been chosen first to follow Christ in death, so another of the servants Philip who spreads the word in Samaria. In the early church, the ordinary table waiters are those who are also called to bold witness. And we have the dramatic encounter between Simon the magician and the apostles.
After the apostles discover that the word is bearing fruit Peter and John are sent and pray over those already baptised in the name of Jesus (perhaps those referred to in John 4:1?), that they might receive the Holy Spirit. But Simon is captivated by the signs – and money. For him money and magic are closely related as they are today – more precisely power and money. Money confers Power, money buys power – but the sharpest of divisions is drawn between the Life of God and that conferred by Mammon – Silver and Gold have I none. The destitute apostles are full of the Holy Spirit. As with Ananias and Sapphira, our values are so distorted by our culture that we find Peter’s response to Simon harsh. But Peter divines truly – those captivated by money and its power are still in chains of wickedness . . . there are perhaps few amongst us to whom the Lord would not say, ‘Unless you give up your possessions you cannot be my disciple’.