Summary: The healing of a man lame from birth, the preaching of Jesus' resurrection, and the call to salvation.
HEALING, RESURRECTION, AND SALVATION
There is a parallel between the persecution of Jesus upon the healing of a man ‘blind from birth’ (John 9:1), and the persecution of Peter and John upon the healing of a man ‘lame from his mother's womb’ (Acts 3:2). Suffice it to say that there was a division of opinion about Jesus on both occasions (John 10:20-21; Acts 4:21).
What a day for the man! He had hoped for alms, but instead - at an age over forty years (Acts 4:22) - received for the first time in his life the use of his legs. The people were filled with wonder, and as Peter preached in such a way as to turn their attention away from the Apostles to Christ, another five thousand men were added to the congregation that day (Acts 4:4).
On top of this, Peter had ‘preached in Jesus the resurrection’ - much to the consternation of the Sadducees (Acts 4:1-2). Well might the aristocratic priesthood ask, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). It was the threat to THEIR power and THEIR authority which had caused them to hand Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified!
It was the content of this preaching, as much as anything else, which had aroused the anger of the Temple authorities. Peter and John were arrested and spent the night in prison (Acts 4:3). The next day the two Apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5) - the same court which had arraigned Jesus and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified. The high priests Annas and Caiaphas were there (Acts 4:6), who had both figured in the trial of Jesus. Now Peter and John were being called to account for the healing of a lame man, and for preaching in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
‘And when they bring you to trial before rulers and powers, don’t worry about what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say’ (Luke 12:11-12). ‘For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you’ (Matthew 10:20).
This accounts for the change in Peter, who had gone from a quivering mess at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, to the rock-like character portrayed in the name which Jesus had given him (cf. Matthew 16:18).
Filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), Peter first pointed out the absurdity of bringing men to trial because of an evident healing (Acts 4:9). Then he accused his accusers of crucifying Jesus and proclaimed that the lame man stood before them healed exactly because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10)! Peter reminded them of a song that would have been on their lips at the time of the festival: “The stone which YOU builders rejected has become the head stone of the corner,” he taunted (Acts 4:11; cf. Psalm 118:22).
Confronting the council with their guilt in rejecting Jesus, Peter again used the healing as an opportunity to proclaim the much fuller salvation which is found in the Saviour's name (Acts 4:12).
The court was astonished at the courage of Peter and John. These two men had not been to any of their Rabbinic schools of theology, and they were laymen who had been observed in the company of Jesus. Yet there standing before them all was the incontrovertible proof of the healed lame man. Peter and John were sent away while the court deliberated (Acts 4:13-15).
Luke was inspired by the Holy Ghost for the writing of Holy Scripture. We gather from Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3 that he was an excellent and thorough investigative reporter. His research may have included some information from his travelling companion, the Apostle Paul, who had been a student of a well respected member of the council, Gamaliel. Whatever his sources, Luke is able to give us a fly-on-the-wall account of the private deliberations of this court.
The fact of the matter is that Peter and John's would-be accusers could do nothing. The miracle was undeniable. So they warned Peter and John not to preach any more in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:16-18). The Apostles' response set a precedent in civil and ecclesiastical disobedience: ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:19-20).
This is the third time that Peter has used the formula, “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God has raised from the dead” (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:15; Acts 4:10). There IS a connection between healing, salvation, and Jesus’ resurrection, as Doctor Luke repeatedly testifies.
“Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).