Hankies and aprons – our best efforts
Acts 19:12 “… even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to those who were ill, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.”
Paul didn’t touch the cloths for the purpose of healing. He didn’t pray over them and bless them. He didn’t send them out after an online payment. He didn’t teach others the art of the prayer cloth ministry. Paul didn’t have anything to do with the handkerchiefs and aprons. God did it.
God was moving in this Ephesian occultic culture.
God was verifying Paul’s preaching.
We are used to such phenomena in the New Testament. The woman caught the tassels of Jesus robe and received power to her sick body (Matthew 9:20-21). Peter’s shadow would heal people (Acts 5:15). So we are not surprised by Luke the doctor’s account.
So how did this happen?
God didn’t announce this was what He would do.
It must have started with someone inquisitive and brave enough to give it a go.
Perhaps this is easier if your culture is one of charms and magical weird happenings anyway.
Someone was so concerned for a sick loved one, whether in body or tormented in mind or spirit, they wondered if this would help.
Handkerchiefs were sweat rags used to wipe the face and aprons were work overalls that provided protection.
Did this someone visit Paul in his tent-making workshop and see the handkerchiefs of sweat from Paul’s brow and the discarded aprons on the floor and think I wonder if …?
Did this someone bring their own or the hankies and aprons of their sick loved one, with the intention of doing something that perhaps they had seen occultists try?
Luke doesn’t say and maybe that is not the important message.
I think perhaps this is:
The signs of the sweat of your brow, the pressure and strains of this world and even the efforts you have taken to protect your life only reveal that there are times when our bodies lay defeated. We are limited and powerless. But God is extraordinary. God can and does move into the area of our burnout strength and our used attempts at trying to preserve our lives in order to demonstrate His power.
Today, invite this powerful God of all gods, your God, into your brokenness where you cannot do anymore and see His power re-energise your body, mind and spirit.
Finally, perhaps you can think of this:
You may have many meagre attempted efforts lying around your life. God can use the ‘throw-aways’, the discards, the burnt-out ministries for His glory. Nothing will be wasted. He can and will use you again.