6 July 2019Acts 4:13-22
“For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it.” (v. 16)
Psalm: Psalm 119:113-128
The Sanhedrin court, a gathering of the great and good of Sadducees and Pharisees, must judge what Peter and John have laid before them and then decide what to do. Timeless questions will inform any subsequent justice:
- What is the credibility of the witnesses?
- What is the integrity of the evidence?
- What might constitute a just decision?
The key witnesses are Peter and John, who are regarded as "uneducated and ordinary men" (v. 13). The inference in Luke's words is that these men are likely to lack credibility, simply because they did not have an academic background, at least not in the ways of the law. This goes to the heart of a weakness in many societies, that of elevating academic learning above other types of education, and equating academic qualifications with intelligence and/or wisdom. For Peter and John, for all those who love their Lord, real wisdom is found in the age-old truths of Jesus.
So turning to the evidence, the Sanhedrin could do nothing but agree that a 40-year-old man who had been crippled from birth was standing, healed, in front of them. Difficult to argue with that! So the discussion turns to how the man might have been healed when "it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them [Peter and John]; [and] we cannot deny it" (v. 16). From the biblical account there seems to be no alternative suggestion as to what happened, so the Sanhedrin are forced to admit that it was a miracle.
So what was the court's decision? Peter and John were free to go, without a charge. They could not be punished because the crowds ("all of them" (v. 21)) were praising God for the miracle. It is probably worth mentioning that many in Jerusalem must have remembered the preacher from Galilee, crucified recently, who also did many miracles in and around the city. Those that didn't remember were certainly being reminded by Peter and John! Was the Sanhedrin's decision based on the pragmatism of not causing unrest in the city and incurring the wrath of the Romans; or was the decision based on a reluctant, even grudging, awareness that Jesus was indeed very special?
Sometimes events work out unexpectedly for good, even in our own lives. When these things happen, do we recognise God in the situation, just as those disciples eventually did on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35). It is important to reflect on events, thank God, and use opportunities wisely.
- Truth and justice are key principles in reconciliation (international, national, local, family), but also forgiveness. Which, for you, is the most important starting point?
- Is there anything in your life in need of reconciliation? As you ponder on what others might contribute to this process, what might you offer?