God’s Acts of Providence (30)

Pope-peter_pprubensThe Way that Refused to Go Away (7)

Healing, Preaching and Conflict (2)

Acts 4:8-22

8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, 10be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. 11This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The New Testament speaks with one voice on from where the apostle’s power came.  It was not from within them.  No, it was from the Holy Spirit.  Peter, Paul, John, none claimed anything for themselves.  So captivated were they by the love of Christ and surrendered to the Spirit’s power were they that their own selves became bound instruments of God’s will.

But far from finding themselves will-less, they had become the freest men alive; and perhaps who ever will live this side of Christ’s return.  No man, no council, no empire held the slightest power over them.  No fate held fear for them.

They truly were in this world but not of it.  For they had seen the Risen Lord, placed their hands in His pierced side, their fingers through His hands.  They had heard His risen voice call them to follow, to lead others to find this new life.

Nor were they giving up anything of their individuality by surrendering so completely to the Spirit’s power.  In fact, they were discovering the amazing truth that the more they lived in Christ the more they became the unique individual that God had created.  This aspect of Christianity – its startling emphasis on each individual’s worth while maintaining the emphasis on community – would transform the geography of both religious thought and civilization’s path.  But both occurred only because the Holy Spirit descended in power to touch hearts with courage, hope and love at just the right moment.

And so Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks words of dazzling truth and power that send shock waves through these elite inquisitors.

13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.

15But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name.” 

Of what use was their wisdom, their standing, their power? They conferred in helplessness.

18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

We can only imagine them doing their level best to puff themselves up into an impressive, threatening posture from which to issue this command, only to be deflated by the calm, unbending response.

21And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened. 22For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

It is the religious leaders who are left baffled and in retreat at the end of this skirmish.  These were not men who take defeat lightly.  This experience had likely only convinced them of the deadly danger that this new movement held.  Their response would not be subtle.  It would be swift, it would be violent, and it would be for keeps.  It would require a man of keen intellect and ruthless determination.  Now, they must find him and then set the counterattack in motion.

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