Summary: God’s plan from the very beginning is to take ordinary people and transform their lives with Jesus.
How many of you can think of a time when you did the right thing, and got in trouble for it? I can recall a few, but my stories aren’t really appropriate for a sermon here so I’m looking to you to think of some stories that illustrate a time when you did the right thing, but got in trouble for it… show of hands, how many of you can think of a time like that? Anyone willing to share the story?
In our study of Acts, we move this morning into chapter 4, which continues the story of what happened after Peter and John heal a lame man outside the temple gate, and as we’ll see they get in trouble for doing the right thing. Two weeks ago we studied the story of the actual healing at the beginning of chapter 3, last week we looked at the sermon Peter preached to the crowd that gathered in excitement at the healing miracle, and now chapter 4 continues:
1 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. 2 These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. 3 They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. 4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.
5 The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. 7 They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, 9 are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? 10 Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’
12 There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say. 15 So they ordered Peter and John out of the council chamber and conferred among themselves.
16 “What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. 17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.
19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”
21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.
We imagine the scene – the lame man healed, everyone excited about the miracle, Peter taking the opportunity to explain what has happened and preach a message of repentance and forgiveness through the resurrected Jesus, and uh oh… here it comes… “they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees,” who are “very disturbed…”. Why? Because they don’t agree with the theology.
Does anything seem missing? What has happened among these officials that they miss the fact that a lame man has had his life handed back to him? It begs the question for me, are there areas in my life where I am more concerned about “being right” then recognizing God at work in some profound ways? See, there is a power dynamic at work here, and those are always dangerous. The rulers feel undermined by the power displayed by Jesus’ disciples here, a power which brings life to a lame man and a power which they don’t have, so they feel threatened and react to oppose and try to stifle that power through what power they do have – the power to arrest and throw in jail. I think there is something here for us – how often to I miss something God is trying to do because I already have some ideas of what God is supposed to do? Put in terms of this power dynamic, where do I hold on to some idea of power in my life because I refuse to see that this whole idea of me having any power or control is actually an illusion, and leads to a life of misery? God is the one with all the power, and God is the one in control, my goal needs to be the same as Jesus’, who even though He was God said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (Jn 5:19).