Summary: Peter and John were arrested after they healed a man born lame, as recorded in Acts 3. Now they're on trial, the next day, before a group of Israel's leaders. What happened next? (This is another outline from a miniseries on Acts I preached several years ago.)
Introduction: In Acts 3, Luke records how Peter and John were on their way to the Temple to observe and take part in the afternoon time of prayer. While on the way there, they saw and then healed a man who had been lame from his birth. Peter preached another message to the crowd who had gathered in the area. Before too much longer, though, a group of people came and arrested Peter and John; possibly the other man, too. The next day, Peter and John were placed on trial and they gave that court a message they would never forget!
1 The arrest, verses 1-4
--The people who came included priests, Sadducees, and captain of the temple guard
--Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection; priests may have feared loss of their power over the common people.
--Irony or sadness is that they had the entire Old Testament which mentioned Jesus and His sacrifice of Himself numerous times, but they chose not to believe it!
--They had killed the Founder, but even though He was alive (and they couldn’t deny it), now they were trying to persecute the followers. Peter, John, and maybe others spent the night in jail because “it was now eventide”.
2 The accusation, verses 5-7
--Rulers, elders, and scribes mentioned as being in place.
--The men were “set in the midst”. This could mean they were in a semicircle or even a circle (Matthew Henry’s commentary). Was this the meeting place of the Sanhedrin (“council”, KJV)?
--They questioned these believers just like they had questioned Jesus Himself earlier (see John 18:19 for a comparison).
--“By what power have you done this?” Peter had already told the crowd that it was through the power of God alone they could do anything (3:16)!
3 The answer, verses 8-12
--Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. We need this filling of the Holy Spirit, too.
--In so many words, why are you asking us why we did a good deed?
--He added a reference to Jesus as the Cornerstone (verse 11)
--He closed by saying that there is no salvation other than in the Name of Jesus (verse 12)
4 The analysis, verses 13-17
--The accusers “marveled” when they saw the boldness of Peter and John. Does this mean that others were not bold, before, when they were questioned?
--They also were perhaps surprised that uneducated (at least in their terms) people could answer them so clearly.
--They couldn’t deny the facts so they decided to try denying the opportunity for these facts to be shared any further. Had those threats worked in the past?
5 The absurdity, verse 18
--Peter and John were “commanded” not to speak at all or teach in the Name of Jesus.
--Jesus had told them to “teach all nations (Matthew 28:19)”. They weren’t about to disobey.
--Plus, nobody could deny what had happened to the formerly lame man. He could tell others about it even if nobody else could.
6 The affirmation, verses 19-22
--Peter and John told them “you be the judge” to decide if it was more important to obey God than to obey these leaders.
--“We cannot but speak” means, most likely, they couldn’t stop talking about what they had seen and heard. Oh, what they had indeed seen and heard!
7 The after effects, verses 23-31
--They were released (not guilty of any crime!)
--They went back to their “own company”. Always good to be in fellowship with other believers.
--They joined in prayer and received another filling of the Holy Spirit.
Conclusion: Peter and John had spent a night in jail because they had healed a man lame from birth. When they were placed on trial, they gave a defense that the accusers probably weren’t expecting. Once released, they returned to other believers (location not specified) and prayed.
Any believer can expect to be questioned, if not persecuted, for believing in Jesus. We don’t need to perform miracles or do anything openly—if we’re living for Jesus, other people will probably notice right away. When anything happens, may we be prepared to answer, depending on the Holy Spirit to give us the right things to say.
Scripture quotations were taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).