Acts: Thrown in Jail, Peter Preaches Again

Read: Acts 4:1-12

We spent this past weekend at Koinonia Farms just outside of Americus, Georgia and down the road from Plains, GA where President Carter lives. The farm is one of the places that stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, where people had to make a choice to stand with the status quo or open their eyes to see a new reality, a future that embraced men and women of all races working together in harmony. Choices were made. Some hearts became harder while others melted.

Peter and John, through the power of the Holy Spirit, healed a man who was lame and the status quo of their day was offended. Luke tells us that the chief priests, Sadducees, and the temple guards took action:

…while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. Acts 4:1-2

The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection in principle, certainly not in practice, so they couldn’t stand for this kind of talk. Since they made up the majority of the Sanhedrin, their opinion was significant. Their authority would be undermined if all this talk about resurrection were allowed to infiltrate the minds of others, let alone the Pharisees that served alongside them.

It’s important to note that these men were not ignorant, their intellect is a key part of their rise to power. They see potential problems that would arise if these preachers are allowed to continue. For some evidence, Luke points out that those who believed are growing fast:

But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. Acts 4:4

Thrown in jail, the disciples are handled by the authorities. Though the cause is different, many were imprisoned during the Civil Rights Movement with the same kind of, “what do we do with them” thinking.

This is the same Sanhedrin that dealt with Jesus just a few weeks prior. Now they sense the need to quell the rebellion before it gets out of hand.

By what power or what name did you do this? Acts 4:7

Though the Sanhedrin is comprised of incredible scholars, they have never been able to do anything so wonderful, let alone heal a 40-year-old crippled man! They can’t deny the event — the man is walking and talking right in front of them! Perhaps some of them thought they could learn how to perform such wonders if they knew more about the power, the name behind the miracle that led to this event.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. Abraham Lincoln

But they, the over-educated, pious, superior, self-proclaimed elite, could not do that which these uneducated Galileans did. They are about to be schooled by men who didn’t go to school, who had no formal education. Peter restates the accusation in humble terms. He’s not boasting about his ability to do anything, as he will explain fully.

If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man… Acts 4:9

I like to think Peter paused after he restated the problem, that he looked around the room, made eye contact, and received some sense of agreement, “yes, this is why we arrested you–for your act of kindness…that’s not what we do around here!”

But before they could get defensive about these words, Peter immediately throws out the name they did NOT want to hear.

It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead Acts 4:10

Peter quotes Psalm 118:22-23 with a significant modification: “the stone the builders rejected” is offered as “the stone you builders rejected.” The Sanhedrin clearly hear the words:

You are not kind
You crucified Jesus
You are the builders
You rejected Jesus

Peter is just getting started. The Holy Spirit has empowered him to preach and nothing will stop the words penetrating this place at this time.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

Salvation

Much more than healing a physical infirmity, Peter is using this “simple” act of kindness as a preaching point to emphasize the greater need for salvation.

No One Else

Let’s be clear on this point: Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. This is not a boast, but a clear statement of fact based on an eye-witness to the resurrection.

We Must Be Saved

More than works, greater than wisdom, beyond education and lofty titles, we must come to the point of salvation, we are all in need of being saved. These scholars knew the scriptures well. They understood the fall of mankind, the struggles of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and the Prophets. They could quote them verbatim, yet they needed to be saved!

The scene is vivid and real in my imagination. Peter and John are doing nothing to draw attention to themselves. They are unafraid of these men, but shouldn’t they be a bit worried? Only weeks ago they had Jesus crucified. This fact is nowhere in their conscious thought. I believe they preached as if this was their last breath.

What would we do or say if we thought this was the last word we would utter before our human death? What would you want to be transcribed? As far as Peter and John were concerned, death was right around the corner so they seized the opportunity to be Christ’s witnesses.

Now it’s our turn.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

One Reply to “Acts: Thrown in Jail, Peter Preaches Again”

  1. “I like to think Peter paused after he restated the problem, that he looked around the room, made eye contact, and received some sense of agreement, ‘yes, this is why we arrested you–for your act of kindness…that’s not what we do around here!'” – Love this statement! If I’m ever arrested, let this be what is said. 🙂 In all likelihood, I’ll be arrested for my mischievous, rebellious spirit. Ha!

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