22 April 2015Acts 4:13-22
“Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge” (v. 19)
Psalm: Psalm 142
The story so far ... the Council members knew that a man who was crippled can now walk; they had questioned Peter and John about how this had come about; they had heard Peter witnessing that the healing was through the power of the name of Jesus. Now they had to make a decision about what to do.
There was nothing that the Council could say against all the evidence in front of them. They were also aware that Peter and John were ordinary, uneducated people and yet they were teaching and preaching with "boldness" (v. 13). They had been questioned by the highest authority within the Jewish world and had held their own.
Despite the fact that the Romans ruled this part of the world, they allowed this Council, known as the Sanhedrin, to punish Jews according to their custom. This was part of the power that the ruling elite held and which they wanted to keep. They could punish people severely including a punishment of forty lashes less one. Peter showed his conviction by continuing to witness even under these circumstances.
Seeing that public opinion was on the side of the disciples the Council decided not to punish them. They still wanted to limit Peter and John from spreading their belief in Jesus and his resurrection though and so "ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus" (v. 18).
Peter did not give into their pressure. He answered them with a question. He asked them which is the right thing to do: to do what God wants or what the Council wants?
Everyone in the room knew that there was only one correct answer. The Council could hardly argue that someone should obey them rather than God!
Peter stated, in effect, that whatever the Council may think the disciples "cannot keep from speaking about what [they] have seen and heard" (v. 20).
The Council had no option but to let them go.
- Do you sometimes feel pressured to listen to the prevailing culture rather than to God? If so, what do you think would help you to be able to stand firm?
- To what extent do you feel that the Church is shaped, for good or ill, by the culture in which we live?
Bible notes' author: The Revd Ros Watson