A Miracle, a Model and a Multitude | Fiona Dorman
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Ananias and Sapphira
5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
A Model, a Miracle and a Multitude
Luke presents us with a complete contrast within the group of those first Christian believers. On the one hand is Barnabas, the embodiment of generosity; on the other are Ananias and Sapphira, embodying deceit. They are two extremes, and one will be utterly life-giving to the group while the other will result in death.
Luke has described an idyllic setup, where the disciples care deeply about each other and share everything so that nobody is in need. They are truly united, full of God’s grace and power. But by telling us about Ananias and Sapphira, Luke completes the picture: this community not only reflects God’s glory but also reveals its brokenness.
Their deceit was a threat to the whole community, but God did not allow it go any further. The story reveals God fully present among them, miraculously putting an end to the threat.
When we worship together as a church community, do we realise we are in the awesome presence of God, just as they were? We too are a community both glorious and broken: bringing our all too human selves but open to the transforming power of what Jesus did on the Cross.
Any one of us might tip into attitudes more like those of Ananias and Sapphira – being ungenerous or untruthful for example. But with our lives open to the Holy Spirit, like Bartholomew’s was, we can realise that we need to change, and ask to be forgiven and restored.
The heart of this story is that however broken our communities might be, God brings life-giving transformation to all who are open to his Holy Spirit. Instead of sinful ways dragging a community down, new life in his Spirit will always spread encouragement and hope.