Today’s Reading: Acts 3:12 – 4:31
Did life get interesting for Peter and John? Oh yes, it most definitely did! Now that the lame man was walking, leaping and praising God, they had the attention of a lot of people. An audience had gathered to see this miracle for themselves. So what does someone called to preach the gospel begin to do? Why preach, of course.
Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd, “People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God of all of our ancestors – who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this. This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him. You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact! – Acts 3:12-15
You chose to kill him, God chose to raise him.
You demanded his death, he died so that you could have life.
You choose to reject him, we choose to serve him.
Peter and John were speaking of the resurrection of the dead, one of the Sadducees least favorite topics. So here come the Sadducees, priests and Captain of the Temple Guard to arrest them. But they could not undo the power that was unleashed when Peter said, “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah” (3:19-20). After Peter’s first sermon, 3000 were saved. Now after his second sermon, the number of believers has increased to 5000 – not counting the women and children who came to faith in Jesus that day (4:1-4).
The next day Peter and John found themselves before the council of ALL the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law in Jerusalem. All the “big-wigs” were there – Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest.
“By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” – Acts 4:5-7
I wonder if Peter and John immediately pictured Jesus – their companion, friend and master. These were the same religious leaders who handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities to be crucified. I wonder if they remembered Jesus’ words to them:
“And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before the rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” – Luke 12:11-12
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,
‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’
“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:8-11
Wow! Go Peter! A boldness came over Peter and the leaders did not know how to respond. Peter was saying that the only way to experience salvation was through Jesus, whom they had rejected and crucified. But Peter did not stop there. He made sure to add again that God had raised from the dead the man they chose to crucify. You can choose to believe it or not, Jesus is alive!
But what could the insulted leadership do? A man whom they all recognized as the lame beggar who had been sitting at the gate for more than 40 years was now walking and a crowd was outside the door praising God. In order to prevent a riot, they ended the conversation with a threat, to which Peter responded: “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:19-20
The same Peter who had denied Jesus out of fear was now proclaiming his allegiance to Jesus regardless of the consequences. He went back to the believers to join them in praising God and then stopped to ask God to give all of them this same boldness and infilling of the Holy Spirit – the same things we can ask for today. Let’s pray this prayer together with confidence that God can respond in the same way for us.
“And now, O Lord hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:29-31
Last year the governor of Illinois signed a bill that takes away our religious freedom and violates the federal Right of Conscience Act. Effective January 1, 2017, all medical providers and pregnancy centers were told they must present abortion to women as beneficial and refer them to medical clinics that will perform their abortion for them. With the boldness of Peter, our response was: “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him?”
The faith-based organization I work for did NOT cave to these threats! Instead we prayed for great boldness, for miraculous signs and wonders, and for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Last month we rejoiced as a federal judge granted us an injunction against this regulation until the case can be heard in a federal court. To those who think they can take away the right to be pro-life I say:
You choose to kill, but God desires to raise to new life.
You demand death, but Jesus died so we can have life.
You choose to reject him, we choose to serve him!