6 May 2017Acts 4:23-31
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (v. 31)
Psalm: Psalm 147
Peter and John return to "their friends" (v. 23), meaning here those that believed in Jesus. One might assume that this group, this early church, had been praying for the apostles as they appeared before the Sanhedrin. However, no assumptions are needed as to what happened after they heard Peter and John's account of the courtroom: "They raised their voices together to God" (v. 24). There was no dismay that the Sanhedrin had forbidden them to speak or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18), but rather an added conviction that God was in control and they had an irresistible need to speak about Jesus, as Peter had predicted in (Acts 4:20).
In the prayer that follows (verses 24-30), the failed machinations of Herod and Pilate, concerning Jesus, are interpreted as simply being God's will. Their faith is in the overarching will of God which will ultimately come to pass, no matter how hard human beings appear to do all they can to subvert God's purposes.
The last year will be remembered for its huge political surprises: great cruelty and savagery in parts of the Middle East; the changing order for so many in parts of Europe and North America. In personal terms, many readers will have wondered in their own lives if God can really be in control when one's own life seems to be in such disarray. The answer is that, however distant you and I may feel from God, God is closer than breath to us. The free will that God has lovingly given us can lead us into all kinds of bother as well as hurting others and ourselves more than we ever know; but God wills better from us and for us, because God loves us and wants to be close.
So our week's passages leave us on the reassuring note that, despite trials and tribulations, the Spirit of God, the heart of Jesus, fills the disciples. Nothing can separate them from the love of God. So they pray, they ask for miraculous signs and wonders, "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness" (v. 31).
May those of us who are believers take both comfort and courage from the example of those early disciples.
- Which of the early disciples/apostles are most helpful, as examples for you, as a witness to God's truth, justice and love? Why?
- "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly" (v. 31). God may put you alongside someone today who needs both to see and hear God through you. How ready are you?