Acts 4: 1 – 22 Peter and John before the Sanhedrin

Acts 4: 1 – 22 Peter and John before the Sanhedrin

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John 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. They seized Pater and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is

‘ “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”

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

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

*       *       *

In this passage, we see something of how God’s plans work.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Luke identifies the Sadducees as being present on this occasion. They were Jews, mostly aristocratic or priestly, who took the bible literally, and didn’t believe in an afterlife or in the coming of a Messiah. Their faith was particularly challenged by the apostles’ teaching that Jesus was the Messiah and had risen from the dead.

Having delayed taking action against Jesus, and seen how the number of his followers grew, they don’t intend to make the same mistake with Peter and John. They put them in jail.

Despite this, the testimony of those who witnessed the healing convinced many people. “The number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”

The next day the Sanhedrin assembled. This was the supreme court of Israel, and had seventy-one members. They called in Peter and John for questioning. Imagine that. Seventy-one of the most learned and powerful men in Israel assembled to interrogate two ignorant men with no power whatsoever.

Furthermore, Jesus, the leader of the group to which the men belonged, had been crucified when this same court had handed him over to the Romans. It should have been no contest.

One of the Council started the enquiry by asking Peter and John, ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’

“Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…”

Peter first establishes the precise question that is being asked. However, he doesn’t do this by asking for clarification; no! His approach is much stronger than that. He says “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel.” He goes straight to the heart of the matter and dares them to contradict him.

Having made clear what question he is answering, he then answers it, truthfully and powerfully.

“It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

This is a direct claim that Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead and is carrying out miracles through his followers.

Jesus is

‘ “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.”

This is a quote from Psalm 118 verse 22, and it is a direct attack on the court. Peter is saying, “You rejected Jesus, but he is the foundation on which God is building, and furthermore God prophesied your rejection in your own Scriptures.”

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

What a powerful statement this is! It’s practically the creed in miniature!

The line of argument adopted by Peter, which starts with his incisive definition of the question and ends with these three statements, is very sophisticated. It’s not at all the way you would expect a Galilean fisherman to construct an argument. I can’t account for it by any explanation other than the Holy Spirit. Even if Luke has “tidied up” what Peter said, I wouldn’t expect him to be able to write such a well-constructed argument. To me, it is utterly unexpected. It is the Holy Spirit at work.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished

Like the seventy-one leaders of the people I, too, am astonished.

“…they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

Most of the Sanhedrin were bitterly opposed to Jesus and his teaching. However, even they couldn’t deny the truth that these men had been with Jesus.

But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say.

The evidence was there. A man that they’d all seen lame – he had sat every day at one of the gates to the temple, and they would all have walked past him day after day – and now he’s healed.

“Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.”

Behind closed doors, they even admit the truth of what’s happened; they could not deny it. But they still want to stop this doctrine from spreading. Why? Why? It’s hard to imagine the level of selfishness that can want to prohibit blessings like this healing.

So, what did they do?

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’

How easy it would have been for the apostles to have agreed some deal that meant they could teach discreetly and hope the church would grow! But it would seem that God wanted the Sanhedrin to know his will as unambiguously as possible.

Look at exactly what’s said there, too. Peter and John say “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” The message was so strong in them, it filled them so full, that it spilled out to those around them. They couldn’t help speaking!

And look at the defeated – indeed, routed – Sanhedrin. They were furious. They would love to have punished the apostles, but “They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.”

Conclusion

I find this one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in the whole bible. This is either true or it’s a complete fabrication.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for Luke’s account of the healing of the lame man. Please stir up your Holy Spirit so that I, too, cannot help but speak to others about Jesus.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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