Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 25
SHADOWS CAST BY CHRISTIANS
“Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” Such was the power of this Spirit filled Apostle that people believed that if only his shadow crossed over a sick man, that man would be healed. This was true because his physical shadow was not the only shadow Peter cast. He was casting a long shadow of influence that day he healed the lame beggar at the beautiful gate. He was casting a bold shadow when he answered the threatening Jewish council in Acts 4. He was casting a long shadow of fear to the hearts of all liars and hypocrites when he handled the sad case of Ananias and Sapphira. All the rest of his life Peter would cast a long shadow, so long in fact that we today can still see it and be affected by it.
Shadows We Cast
Wherever Peter went he cast his shadow. It is just as true of us. No man liveth to himself. The shadow I am talking about is called influence. No matter who you are or what you do, you cast the shadow of your influence over somebody. You may not be aware of all the effects of that influence now but there is coming a day when it will face you. A careless word, spoken in haste, may have deep and lasting consequence on some other life that has come within the shadow of your influence. Most parents are aware of the fact that they are influencing the lives of their children. Most elders and preachers cannot help but be aware of the fact that they are influencing the lives of the people within a certain circle. Often parents will be more careful when speaking before their children than when engaged in pursuits away from their children. Elders and preachers are apt to feel a burden and behave more circumspectly in the pulpit than when otherwise engaged. But we all need to remember that Peter cast a healing shadow when he was not preaching or training children but merely walking down the street. Wherever we go our influence goes with us. A father can kill the influence of a lecture on lying or swearing if his son has heard him swear or take liberties with the truth in an unguarded moment. Preachers and elders can kill the effect of a sermon with one lapse of behavior in a social gathering after the sermon.
It is not only parents, preachers, and elders that need to be aware of their shadows. Every Christian is a representative of Christ. The way he lives from day to day either commends or discredits the religion he professes. Everyone of us must examine ourselves not only to determine if we are meeting the minimum demands of a prescribed code of conduct, but also to see if the way we are living would encourage or discourage others to accept the Christ we proclaim. Paul pointed out that all things are lawful to him but all things are not expedient. It is a poor sort of love that preens itself on compliments and reacts angrily to criticism. It is a weak faith that boasts itself in the sunshine and hides its head in the storm. It is a doubtful hope that seeks heavenly treasure on Sunday morning and spends the rest of the week in mad pursuit of temporal values. The skeptical world is quite well aware of these facts. It is more than ready to point to the lapses in our lives and use them for a defense of its own indifference. Though the effort is fruitless as a defense, it is potent as a stumbling block. It offers them no real excuse but it does confirm them in their indifference and make increasingly unlikely their conversion and salvation. It vastly increases the load of guilt we incur for unchristian behavior.
Ways We Cast Shadows
There are so many ways to cast a healing shadow. This is a troubled old world. All about you are people who are spiritually hungry. They may not realize and they may even repel your attempts to tell them about the Jesus that can heal their heartaches and take away their heavy burdens of sin. But they are watching you. They will be quick to scoff but they will also be impressed, even against their will, by a life full of joy, and hope, and faith, and love.
Peter cast his shadow and moved on. But the effect of his shadow remained. It is possible that years from now some man or woman will approach you and say that some word or deed of yours changed their whole life for the better. It is likewise possible that some lost soul in hell may confront you there with a bitter curse and demonstrate to you another reason why you are there. It is well to remember that any man we have contact with would not have come within the circle of our influence if God had willed otherwise. Every man you meet then is a sacred responsibility. There should be no casual meetings. Let us begin each day with a solemn prayer that we shall be a blessing to every person we have any contact with that day.
The Need of Our Shadow
Simon Peter was a great rock and he cast a great shadow in a weary land. It is my firm conviction that one of the most thrilling of prophecies refers not only to Christ as the king who shall reign in righteousness but also to the apostles as the princes that shall rule in judgment and to Simon Peter in particular as the man that shall be as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Read Isaiah 32:1-2. “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” But though I believe this refers specifically to Peter, it does not rule out the possibility of our following his example. Prophesies of the resurrection referred specifically to Christ, but Christ’s resurrection foreshadows the resurrection of all the faithful. So the shadow cast by Peter, the rock in a weary land, should be an incentive to us to cast a like shadow. We should pray that we, too, might be a hiding place for tempted souls from the cold winds of Satan, and a covert for frightened souls from the fierce storms of life. We should seek to overflow the living water of the Spirit in the dry places of the world. We should strive to provide a shadow of influence as a means for the healing and enrichment of the souls about us struggling through this weary land.