“Break it up! Break it up!”
The captain of the temple was shoving people right and left, his sword out and at the ready. Right behind him came at least a dozen priests, half running, clutching their robes so as not to dirty their tassels. The Sadducees were last, but far from least, thunderclouds in their expressions.
Sounds from the growing crowd had broken their concentration as they led prayers in the temple courts. As soon as they had heard Peter’s familiar baritone ringing like a cymbal, reverberating up the temple steps, they had quickly ended the prayer meeting, called the captain, and rushed to put a stop to his preaching.
Already, thousands of pilgrims had taken up with this new teaching, a repercussion they hadn’t foreseen when they arranged for Jesus’ crucifixion. But they were not going to tolerate it anymore. It took some doing, but they arrested both Peter and John, over the howls of everyone gathered there, and hauled them off to the temple lockup.
So begins the rousing fourth chapter of Acts!
Every ruling body and power base in Jerusalem was in on this. They had first gathered together, then suddenly appeared out of the crowd as an intimidation tactic, to seize Peter and John. They didn’t have to throw the apostles in jail. But, they did, as another way to intimidate and humiliate them, to break their spirit.
Of the 71 men in the Sanhedrin, it is estimated about 3/4s of them were Sadducees at this time, a wealthy ruling class who cooperated with the Romans and did not believe in the resurrection. Peter was preaching not just resurrection in general, but that Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one they thought they had gotten rid of, was raised from the dead.
Talk about provocative.
Jesus had told the apostles they would be brought before governing bodies for interrogation, and the Holy Spirit would fill their mouths with words. I wonder if Peter had any idea what was going to come out of his mouth when an explanation was demanded of him.
Peter accused the Sanhedrin of having crucified Jesus, but not succeeded in thwarting God.
Right at the end of his powerful delivery, Peter said something that has been rattling people ever since.
“There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:12 (NRSV)
You may be asking the question – what about the people who have never heard the gospel? Never heard about Jesus? What about them?
My answer – What do you know about God?
God is love, and God’s love is compassionate and long suffering. God is the source of justice and righteousness. The Lord is good and everything God does is good, right, merciful and just. When That Great Day arrives and God judges all people, you and I are going to be swept up in the beauty of His right judgements. We will be completely satisfied that He has been just and merciful, and that goodness has prevailed in every person’s life.
I can tell you this, I am faint with relief that God is the Judge, and not you or me. We simply cannot out-love God. The fate of people who have never heard the gospel is in good hands. Thankfully, we do not need to do the heavy lifting on this one!
This statement of Peter’s is actually for the ears of people who have heard of Jesus, and know His story. We’re not responsible to figure out anyone else’s story but our own.
The Sanhedrin was astonished, Peter and John were so courageous, and they spoke with such power and authority but they had no graduate degrees, no doctorates of divinity. And the proof of their authority was standing right there – did you catch that? The lame beggar everyone knew was standing. The word in Greek actually is the root for resurrected.
They had a resurrection right in front of them.
But they didn’t like it!
After boldly proclaiming the gospel and promising to preach it even after the Sanhedrin’s threats, Peter and John returned to the rest of the church and prayed together. So, part three, trouble came pounding through the crowd, which drew the church together to pray, and the cycle began all over again.
As they prayed, they focused on one of God’s attributes, His sovereignty. Nothing was out of God’s control. That will do wonders for putting people and problems and burdens in their proper perspective. Did you notice they did not ask for easier circumstances, but for a greater boldness and equipping? And God answered powerfully with a fresh infilling of His Spirit.
Everyone was so filled with the Spirit that their tangible response was enormous generosity, not just with money, but with their attitude that “nothing is mine.” They saw themselves as stewards of what God had given them, not owners
Barnabas sort of set the tone with selling an income property and giving the whole thing to the church. That’s important to remember, to help understand what happened next.