God’s Acts of Providence (29)


Plaque with Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man – Walters

The Way that Refused to Go Away (7)

Healing, Preaching and Conflict (1)

Acts 3:24 – 4:7

At the beginning of this chapter Peter heals a blind beggar.  The beggar had asked for money from Peter and John as they walked to the temple.  Peter responded that “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6).  The man was miraculously healed, his broken feet and ankles becoming strong at that very instant.  The man was filled with joy and began to jump and praise God as he went with the Apostles into the temple courts.

The people there recognized this man as a well-known cripple and were filled with amazement.  They came running to see this miracle, forming a crowd.  Peter, seeing the opportunity began to speak.  What follows is another sermon explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ and claiming the name of this same Jesus Christ as the power through whom this beggar had been healed.

We join Peter at the climax of this second great founding sermon of our faith.

3 24And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came afterwards, also proclaimed these days. 25You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

What was uncertain in the first Pentecost sermon is now made absolutely clear – the circle of grace expanding with its center there in Jerusalem would encompass the entire earth.  It’s once again exceedingly difficult to capture the psychological and theological challenges that such a position would create for a sect beginning in the center of Judaism; God’s own chosen and holy people.

4 1And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sad’ducees came upon them, 2annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the morrow, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

The specific proximate cause of Peter and John’s arrest is that they were proclaiming the resurrection of the dead through Jesus.  This would have been a particularly provoking teaching for the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead.  However, teaching resurrection was not in itself an issue of blasphemy, for the Pharisees, another Jewish sect in good standing, also held this position.

Clearly it was the larger teaching, of Jesus as the crucified and risen Messiah that led to their arrest.  The fact that this dead troublemaker’s disciples were now apparently reproducing his miracles, insisting that he had risen from the grave and winning converts by the thousands must have hit the religious authorities with the impact of a body blow.

How to account for this remarkable response?  Were these men mad?  But how were mad men convincing others by the thousands to join in with their madness?  A crucified, humiliated criminal was the Messiah?  He has been raised from the dead?  All sins would be forgiven through him?  All people of the earth would be included in the blessing?  Madness!  And yet it was happening!  Their perfectly executed plan turned into ashes in their mouths.  Well, they were men of wisdom and action, so continued action they would take to understand and then stamp out this madness.  How hard could it be?

5On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Ca’iaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

Do you remember?

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him.  First they led him to Annas; for he was the father-in-law of Ca’iaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Ca’iaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. (John 18:12-14)

They had tried and seen to it that Jesus was condemned to die on the cross.  Now, standing before these same men of power, the Sanhedrin[1], were two men.  One, Peter, had made a public display of betrayal by denying fellowship with Jesus three times.  The other had stood passively by while Jesus was arrested, beaten, tried, flogged and crucified.  Neither showed signs of noble birth or great learning.  They were the dregs of society standing before the elites, ready to be dealt with and disposed of.

[1] San·hed·rin n

the supreme Jewish judicial, ecclesiastical, and administrative council in ancient Jerusalem before AD 70, having 71 members from the nobility and presided over by the high priest [9]

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