Thursday, April 5, 2018

Simon the Magician

Thus far, we have spent the week looking at Simon Peter - the bold, impetuous, speak-without-thinking, tender-hearted disciple-turned-apostle born Simon but named Peter by Jesus Himself. But as we saw on Monday, there were a number of Simons in the New Testament, one of whom is Simon the Magician. So this is not a story about Simon Peter, per se.

Except, of course, that it is.

The story comes in Acts 8. Stephen has just been executed, and the disciples fanned out once more throughout the region to preach the good news about Jesus. Philip found himself in a region of Samaria - yes, that Samaria. While there, he not only spoke the good news, but lived it. Many miracles were done, demons were cast out, people were healed, and even the Samarians came to Christ. Even Simon the Magician came to Christ. 

Sort of.

Prior to Philip's arrival, Simon had been the guy in town. The magic that he worked by his own hand had the people rapt. They were in awe of his abilities. He was the one who was doing all of the unbelievable things. He was the one who could get it done. Think about the magicians in Pharaoh's court, way back in Egypt before the Exodus. Whatever God had done through Moses and Aaron, for awhile the magicians were able to also do through their magic. That's the kind of illusion that we're talking about with Simon in Samaria. 

Because of Philip's preaching, teaching, healing, and loving, a large number of Samaritans were coming to believe in more than magic. They were starting to understand the power of the resurrected Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And when the disciples heard about the success that Philip was having, they sent Peter and John to Samaria to join in the prayers over the new believers. 

When they arrived from Jerusalem, Simon the Magician knew that this was his moment. He boldly came to Peter and John (yes, "Peter" - this is extremely important) and offered them money if they would give him the gift of the Holy Spirit that enabled them to do all the things he was doing by his own hand...and more. In other words, he wanted God to increase his capacity for magic, for the sole purpose that Simon could do even more amazing things among the people of Samaria and wrap them tighter around his own finger. 

It is Peter who answers him. Some translations say that Peter rebuked him. 

Read that again - at the outset of ministry, as amazing things are starting to happen through the Holy Spirit, when God's Word starts to come alive outside of Jerusalem and the church, the very church that Christ said He would build through Peter, starts to take root...Peter rebukes Simon. 

This is no accident. In fact, it's exactly the kind of thing that God would do. Isn't it? It's beautiful.

It's because Simon has in his head all these grand ideas about himself, but Peter has in heart all these grand ideas about God. And this is the moment, the turning point in all of it when Peter, too, could think of his own greatness. When Peter could ponder what "he" was doing throughout the region. When Peter could start to witness success in the fledgling church and maybe even think that he had something to do with it. But that would be such a Simon thing to do, wouldn't it? That would be the kind of impetuous, speak-without-thinking, turned-inward-to-his-own-heart Simon thing to do, and God loves Simon, but He does not want to lose Peter.

So He calls him to Samaria, where it is Philip who has done the work and Simon who wants the glory and here, Peter speaks.

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