Lesson 11: The Boldness of Peter and John
That must have been a sad night for the disciples in Jerusalem with Peter and John in isolation. Let's read v.4,
Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
It is debated whether the 5000 in v. 4 were the converts of this one day, or is this the total number of male disciples? I would favor the last view. It probably was the approximate number of men that were baptized on Pentecost plus the converts up to and including this occasion. The total number, including women and children must have been at least twice that number (10,000). This may have included the foreign Jews on Pentecost as well. Even this is phenomenal growth. That is the minimum way the statement might be interpreted. The thing that happened here must have dampened their enthusiasm some. It sure would me. If it had been me, I would have stayed awake all night thinking about the next day. You see, the next day they would likely be standing right where Jesus had stood a few weeks before. Verses 5-6 give us a list of the members of the Sahnedrin who assembled the next day. Let's read v. 5-6,
And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
Most likely some members of that tribunal were absent on such a hasty call. I visualize a semicircle with the defendants standing in front or in the middle. I never like to jump ahead but v. 14, below, makes it clear they stood and the healed man was standing with Peter and John. How does that strike you for exhibit "A"? Try to visualize the courtroom. The judges are all assembled. The temple guards bring in the prisoners. Can't you just see all those flashing eyeballs studying the healed man as he enters the courtroom and stays close to Peter and John? Then the proceedings start. Let's read v.7,
An when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done mis?
O.K., I was expecting them to read some trumped up charge, like disturbing the peace in the temple during an hour of prayer. But it turns out to be an inquiry. By what power did you do it? Now, it's a little hard to decipher why these two men were kept in jail all night. Maybe you're getting the picture, that I think Like wants us to see. Apparently, they were arrested out of hot-headedness, envy and as v.2 put it,
Being grieved that they taught the people.
Some of the Jewish leaders were painfully aware that as the number of converts went up, their influence went down correspondingly. And the trend had gone too far already for them to be comfortable. As Luke paints the picture, I would infer, they were much like our own religious world today. It seems many never get concerned about the truth. By that, I mean they just don't want to face up to reality. God is in charge. But he permits us, as free agents, to obey, or disobey; He gives us a choice. The circumstances were such with these Jewish leaders. They had two alternatives. On the one hand, they could admit that Jesus was the Christ and that he had come AND that they had made a mess of their job as religious leaders. Or, on the other hand, they could suppress that fact and play that old game of one-up-man-ship, politics, and HOPE they would eventually get what they wanted. What did they really expect these apostles to say? It seems to me exhibit "A" was pretty strong evidence. But, how do you play "one-up-man-ship"? Give them a chance to talk. Maybe, just maybe, they will be evasive in front of a council like this. Maybe they will blunder hi their speech and we'll get one up on them. They sure did underestimate these two old fishermen, for one good reason. They had help from the home-office in Heaven. Peter evasive? Let's see how he handles their question. Verses 8-12, let's read,
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders which is become the head of the comer: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Now, I would call that LAYING IT ON THE LINE. Old Peter must have said to himself, boys I'm sure glad you ask, because I was planning on telling you anyway. Verse 13 says they "marveled." Do you know what that means? Peter just got one-up on them. They were caught in then- own trap. Re-examine Peter's testimony, just a minute. In v. 8, he starts off just as courteous as he could be, under the circumstances. Notice how he addressed them. Then, in v. 9 he tries to get them to see he and John were being tried because they had done something good, not something evil. The council was in an awkward position. Now the crux of his answer is in v. 10,
by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole.
Now, the last thing they wanted to hear was about Jesus. They had enough of him on their conscience already. But just to help them remember that case, that they had tried only a few weeks before, Peter reminds them: they had crucified Jesus. Caiaphas, one of those mention in v. 6 above, acted as high priest when this council took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea and insisted that Pilate crucify Jesus. You see, this council did not have the power to confer capital punishment. Peter must have looked those Sadducees straight in the eye when he said:
whom God raised from the dead (v. 10).
Some in that assembly must have vividly remembered how some of them had gone to Pilate, after the crucifiction, and requested a Roman guard of soldiers be posted around Jesus' tomb. They had tried. But, you just can't get one-up on God. Now what about this council? Are they going to admit? Or, are they going to suppress? Peter drove it home, this man was healed by the power of that same Nazarene they had crucified. But, God raised him up again. Look at v. 11-12 in more detail. Now, if you remember Peter's speech from Pentecost and again in the temple (Acts 3), you might expect Peter to toss in a few quotes from the Old Testament. This one in v. 11 comes from Psalms 118:32.
This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
Now it's interesting to note here, the chief priests and elders came to Jesus once when he was teaching in the temple. They ask Jesus, himself,
by what authority doest thou these things? Matt. 21:23.
And, among other things, one of the things Jesus said to them, in v. 42 of that chapter was to quote this same identical scripture, Psalm 118. Then he drew a conclusion from it. Let's take time to listen to the last 4 verses of Matthew 21.
Therefore say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. An whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grand him to power. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes, because they took him for a prophet.
The point I want you to see here is this; Peter did not use some vague scripture. Not only did they know this scripture, it had been interpreted to them by Jesus. Now will they admit their sins? Or, will they suppress? Peter warned them in v. 12,
Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
It doesn't take a degree in homiletics to understand that.. Now, let me ask you a question. Where is salvation in v. 12? See if you can find it! If salvation is in none other than name, then salvation must be in Christ, right? Look at it close. It's worth your time, because a lot of people are looking for salvation out of Christ. Some say there is nothing in a name! Have you heard that? What did Peter say? There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby [whereby what?] . . . whereby we MUST be saved.
Look at it close. Peter gave it to them straight. O.K. Peter's little speech was 5 verses long (v. 8-12). It took a lot less time for him to make that speech than it has us to talk about it. One of the techniques they had tried to use with Jesus was to let him talk, then try to trap him in his speech. Of course you know they never did. But, if that's what they had in mind with these two old fishermen, Holy Spirit directed, I have the feeling they got the shock of their life. I think that is just what v. 13 is telling us.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves ...
We have already talked about exhibit "A" as I called it, in v. 14. The words "unlearned and ignorant men" in v. 13 simply mean this court recognized these two prisoners were not professionally trained in one of those schools for the rabbi. It doesn't mean they didn't have any smarts. Can you visualize v. 15? Someone must have said: "get them fellows out of here." Then the temple guard led the out. O.K. it's up to the jury to weigh the evidence. Luke, in v. 16-17 probably summarizes their discussion and conclusion rather than to give a verbatim quote.
Saying, what shall we do to these men? For indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us strait ly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.
To me a good paraphrase of that would be something like this: Boys we'll have to admit they are one-up on us this time. We've got to handle this one delicately or we'll have all Jerusalem down on us. About the only thing we can do to suppress this is to try to put a little fear into them and let them go. And hope we can cut back a little on their zeal and activity, and look for another occasion. O.K. did you get that one-sided thinking that I mentioned before? Their only real concern was
what shall we do TO these men? The words,
we cannot deny it.
rather implies they would if they could. Now, v. 18 they have the guards to bring the two prisoners back again. Notice they,
commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.
In v. 19-20 Peter and John reply,
Whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
The council could have looked upon Peter and John's statement as back-talk, had they been in the right mood. But, I sense they were not in the right mood. They didn't want the punishment to be very great. Not because they wouldn't like to deal it out, but because of the political implications. They were able to motivate and control the crowds to have Jesus crucified, but they recognized their position had been severely weakened to try a similar stunt with these men. And that only yarn-sock conscience just wasn't ready to go over the barrel. The only thing they could do was soft petal. The council let Peter and John go after making a few threats. Let's read v. 21-22.
So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish the, because of the people; for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was showed.
Verse 23 tells us what these three did when they were let go. Let's read v. 23.
And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.
They must have gathered the other 10 apostles with as many disciples as they could find. After this little band of disciples heard the report, they prayed. This is the second prayer Like has recorded for us word for word. The first was at the selection of Matthias. These prayers were put here as an example for us. Study them carefully. I would assume one person in the group was called upon to lead or word the prayer, as the whole group reverently bowed or kneeled and followed or repeated the petition mentally. They expressed their own approval to the requests by "Amens" aloud. Now, assume you are there, with your head bowed among that crowd.
Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gather together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy hold child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and they council determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of the holy child Jesus.
Where's the "Amen"? Anyway, let's review the prayer briefly. In the first line (v. 24) , they acknowledge God as the creator of all things. Verses 25-26 are a quotation from the second Psalm. Versus 27-28 say hi essence, Lord we recognize the fulfillment of this prophecy, i.e. the quote in v. 25-26, as coming to pass in Jesus and the events surrounding his death on the cross. If you study these words in depth you will find many interesting things. For example, if someone should question that David wrote the second Psalm, we have the statement of an inspired apostle here that he did. I'm assuming an apostle led this prayer. Perhaps not Peter or John, but one of the other 10. And even if that misses, Luke, the inspired writer, sanctions it. They ascribe the quotation in v. 25-26 to David. Thus, we have inspired proof, through Luke, that David did write the Psalm. Now, v. 29-30 get down to the immediate task at hand. They merely ask that the Lord grant to them the strength, courage and opportunity to continue to serve Him. They ask that the Lord would continue signs and wonders to confirm their words through the Holy Spirit. Notice, they did not ask any great thing for themselves or against their enemies. Verse 31 indicates they received assurance by a miraculous act of the Holy Spirit.
Let's read v. 31.
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Hold Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
You might call that an earth shaking prayer. They were assured the Lord was with them. We don't know where they assembled, but it most likely was not the temple. The calm they had enjoyed over the past several weeks had suddenly been interrupted by 24 hours of persecution. The whole fiasco was probably just enough to cause the disciples to appreciate the calm they had enjoyed. The over-all effect was, it probably strengthened their cause. Remember all the converts that were added? Apparently the Holy Spirit had decided it was time to give those priests and Jewish leaders another lesson. And keep those two alternative before their mind. Admit their sins or suppress them. It's ironic those leaders would continue to "mess around" with men like the apostles that were directed by the Holy Spirit and exhibited such powers. But, God is no respecter of persons, we have the same alternatives today. We can admit, i.e. confess Jesus as God's son and obey, OR we can continue to disobey and try to suppress our sins.