4 May 2017Acts 4:1-12
“By what power or by what name did you do this?” (v. 7)
Psalm: Psalm 145:8-21
The story continues into Acts chapter 4 from yesterday's passage about the healing in the temple. Peter and John had obviously ruffled a few official feathers not just with the healing, but with their insistence that the power for such healing resided in Jesus, who had been raised from the dead by God (Acts 3:15). No wonder that the priests (Sadducees) came running, for they did not believe in any resurrection; and the temple guards also moved swiftly to remove anything that had the faintest whiff of popular excitement that might upset the Romans. Peter and John, in action and word, were challenging the comfort of the status quo in both religious and secular terms.
A night in jail for the two apostles (verse 3) was followed by questioning before the hastily-arranged Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews that had the right of arrest. Sadducees were joined by the Jewish legal experts, Pharisees, for such a hearing. The key question, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" is put to Peter and John. They would have known the answer, but just as in Luke 22:71, when this same court assembled to question Jesus, they needed to hear Peter's proclamation "from his own lips". This is Peter who, in Luke 22:54-62, disowned Jesus; but not this time! Before the Sanhedrin was a 'new' Peter, repentant and refreshed by the experience of the resurrected Jesus and the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit.
So Peter, simply and straightforwardly, with no ifs or buts or maybes, tells the Sanhedrin that this "good deed done to someone who was sick" (v. 9) was done in "the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead" (v. 10). This was extremely courageous, given that this same court had called for Jesus to be killed a short time before. Perhaps our present knowledge of how the story unfolds dulls for us the extent of Peter's bold conviction. When Peter got up to speak he could not have known whether or not the Sanhedrin would decide to ask for John and himself to be killed as Jesus had been.
Verses 8-12 are an extraordinary piece of concentrated evangelism. It is Christian witness at its sharpest in the most difficult of circumstances!
Those who profess to be followers of Christ will face questions about their personal experience with Jesus, albeit in different faith, cultural and secular contexts throughout the world. I wonder if we are as bold as Peter when danger, ridicule or even indifference confronts us.
- When do you find it difficult to stand up for what you believe? What holds you back?
- If we believe God can take control of our lives, and believe that life with Christ is an eternal dimension, what reasons are there for us to fear in this earthly life?