One thing which has characterized the church over history is opposition, and that opposition, rather than driving the church away, has provided for church growth. When your convictions come under fire, when they are tested, you will come to embrace them or reject them. When Christianity is put under fire, it causes people to embrace it stronger than they had before opposition came. We are going to look at that opposition tonight as we look at these verses in chapter four.
I. Opposition to the Healing of the Lame Man.
The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religious scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: “Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”
The groups which had gathered here formed the Jewish religious ruling body called the Sanhedrin. This was the senate and the supreme court of the nation which had jurisdiction over all non capital cases, although they did advise the Roman government on such cases as we had seen in the case of Jesus. There was an exception to their non involvement, and this was in the case of a Gentile trespassing beyond the posted barriers and walking into the inner court of the Temple, in which case, even if the transgressor was a Roman, they would be executed. The president of the Sanhedrin was the high priest, and over a period of time, this position was attained by paying the Roman government. Caiaphas was the high priest at one time, at others we read of Annas his father-in-law, so we can see they tried to keep the position within the family. In fact, Five of his sons held the position as well as one of his grandsons.
Here we find they had called Peter and John out of their imprisonment and placed them into the center of a circle and began to ask them questions as to what they were doing. They wanted to know by whose authority they had healed this man. It seems they were not concerned about the man’s healing, the thought of rejoicing did not enter their mind. They were consumed with preventing the further healing of others since it was outside of their control. It is hard to imagine someone would stand in opposition to seeing someone healed, but that was the case here as they gathered.
II. Opposition Draws us to the Power of God.
With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: Rulers and leaders of the people… vs. 8
Peter had spoken following the Holy Spirit coming in the Upper Room, and the night before he, through the power of the Holy Spirit, saw the healing of the lame man, spoke to those who had gathered and witnessed many accepting Jesus Christ. Now, the power of the Holy Spirit upon him, Peter begins to speak to the highest body of Jews, the Sanhedrin.
Peter might have remembered the words of Jesus in Luke 21:12-15 when Jesus told them, But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will define yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.
This is a need for all of us, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, for when opposition comes, and it will, we can overcome it through the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be fair to say, the reason some run from opposition is they lack the power of the Holy Spirit moving powerfully in their lives. There is no question, Peter and John were ready to take on the world, to share the experience of Christ with any and all who would listen, in spite of opposition to the message.
III. Opposition opens the door to Opportunity.
…if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is the stone you masons threw out, which is not the cornerstone. Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one. They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus. Vs. 8-13
Peter point out to the Sanhedrin the healing of this lame man was:
1. An act of kindness.
How could it be wrong to show an act of kindness to someone who is crippled, what injustice would they discover being committed?
2. Done in the name of Jesus Christ.
Peter makes the point of informing them, just in case they had forgotten, this is the same Jesus they had put to death on the cross but that Jesus had raised from the dead. This would seem to be strong treatment for two people who are on trial, to point out that their enemy Jesus had provided for this healing. Peter was not beating around the bush, he knew full well his words would have an offending impact on this court. That he might be held in contempt or far worse because of the power they have. But he was not about to miss the opportunity to share the Gospel message which was presented to him because of their opposition to the truth.
In his explanation, Peter used a Greek verb, sothenai, to be saved which had a double use meaning both “restoration to health” which would account for the mans physically healing, and it also meant “preservation from eternal death” which had spiritual implications, to a discussion of salvation.
Peter quotes from Psalm 118:22 referring to the stone which the builder rejected. By quoting this, Peter was showing that Christianity does not draw people away from the truths of the Old Testament, but that through Jesus there is a fulfillment of the Old Testament teachings.
A. Peter offers the Sanhedrin an Altar Call.
Peter told them there is no other name for which one can be saved. Now a claim like this goes against our pluralistic society, it is found to be by critics not politically correct. Christianity is considered to be narrow in its theology of heaven, but we cannot go against what the word of God states so clearly. There is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ only. The world teaches there are many paths that lead to God, you just need to follow the path which is right for you, but that is faulty teaching because it leads to hell for those who embrace it. Peter gave the Sanhedrin an opportunity to embrace the truth because he presented the truth to them. Accept Jesus, He is the only way.
B. Boldness will cause people to take notice.
They did not have high expectations of Peter and John when they appeared before them. These highly education men had a tendency to look down upon people who they considered unlearned and uneducated, such as these fishermen. But as Peter spoke, they took notice, there was something different here, something they had not quite expected. Remember, when Jesus stood before them before they sent Jesus to be crucified, He offered no defense, but Peter was, and he used the name of Jesus in that defense. Jesus had in prior encounters with the religious leaders called them on the carpet for their practices, but in the end offered them no comment. Perhaps, in his defense, they began to have recognition, these two had been with Jesus when He spoke to them in earlier days.
The Sanhedrin had attempted to silence Peter and John but it backfired and they opened the door to opportunity to share what was really happening with the lame man, and a foretelling of what they were going to see in the days ahead.
When we face opposition, how do we handle it. Run and hide or filled with the Holy Spirit take advantage of the opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel, to bring others to the opportunity in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
IV. Opposition Provides an Opportunity to Demonstrate our Belief’s
…but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed! What could they say against that? They sent them out of the room so they could work out a plan. They talked it over: “What can we do with these men? By now it’s known all over town that a miracle has occurred, and that they are behind it. There is no way we can refute that. But so that it doesn’t go any farther, let’s silence them with threats so they won’t dare to use Jesus’ name ever again with anyone. They called them back and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.” The religious leaders renewed their threats, but then released them. They couldn’t come up with a charge that would stick, that would keep them in jail. The people wouldn’t have stood for it—they were all praising God over what had happened. The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old. Vs. 14-22
A. Enemies of God will always look for a way to silence Truth.
They had a problem. The man who was healed was there. They could not deny the truth of the healing as they had been denying the resurrection, claiming the body of Jesus had been stolen. People had witnessed the healing, the man was going to leave the room healed, and he was known because they had passed him for some time as they entered the Temple to pray. Now they had to find some way to silence the messengers of truth, Peter and John.
Jesus had warned in John 3:19 the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.
They thought they had killed the message on the Cross, but the Messenger had risen and now His followers were continuing to proclaim the Truth by doing the same miracles Jesus did. Now they had to come up with some way to quite the new messengers. So they commanded them not to mention the name of Jesus again.
B. The Christian response to enemies of the Cross.
I should say, the proper response to enemies of the cross is that which Peter presented, we should obey God rather than man. Unfortunately this is not always the response of modern day believers. Everyone comes out of the closet today and Christians have been piling in, hiding behind the boxes and packages not being willing to speak forth the truth because the world is against hearing, enemies of the Cross.
It is Biblical, we are to follow the laws of the land, but there is a higher law we are to obey which stands against some man made laws. When God’s commands conflict with the government, we are to follow God. Daniel demonstrated this when he chose to pray and the Hebrew boys would not bow down to a false god but rather walk into a fiery furnace.
What is important to note about Peter and John, although they told them they were not going to obey them, that they would follow God, they still treated them with respect. They did not argue with them, nor did they lie and pretend to do one thing and then go off and do another. They told the truth and let the chip fall where they may. They said they could not speaking forth the truth. They had to tell what they had seen and what they had heard. They knew how Jesus had transformed their lives and they were not going to be silenced in telling others of this life changing transformation which was available to them also.
The Sanhedrin gave them warnings before they let them go, they knew what could potentially happen to them if they did not follow their instructions, they had seen what they had done to Jesus, something which could well happen to them as well, and for Peter later did. The only thing which prevented the Sanhedrin from doing more was this forty year old man who was standing and not laying on a stretcher.
So it is for us, when we have opposition come against us from people who are enemies to the Cross, either deliberately or by ignorance, we must not hide the truth, but be willing, no matter the cost, to share forth the message of hope which Jesus brings.
V. Opposition Brings People Together
As soon as Peter and John were let go, they went to their friends and told them what the high priests and religious leaders had said. Vs. 23
The first thing that Peter and John did was to go back to the friends who were with them before they were arrested. The exact number of people, whether it was the other apostles, those gathered in the Upper Room or the entire church, those who had been saved since the Upper Room is not stated. The point is, they got together with like minded people to tell them what the priests and religious leaders had told them. This is not an uncommon reaction. When a family suffers a crisis, the members of the family gather around each other to provide support. When a death in the family, or a serious illness, I have found as a pastor, the members of that family suffering the grief drawing on each other for comfort and condolence. And not just in time of crisis, but also in times of celebration, graduations, weddings, etc. And when people come under persecution, the same is also the end result. I think if the church were to confront some of the issues which are contrary to Christian principles, we would find the church drawing closer together because the end result will be not all that unlike what the early church experienced.
VI. Opposition brings people together with thankful hearts.
Hearing the report, they lifted their voices in a wonderful harmony in prayer: “Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David: ‘Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, people? Earth’s leaders push for position, Potentates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers!’ For in fact they did meet—Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!—met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long set in motion. Vs. 24-28
Some people would react differently than Peter and John, they would have gone home from the courts cowering in fear, intimidated. That was not their reaction however, they knew God and when you know God, it gives you a different viewpoint, they went home excited. They knew God was in control of the situation, and they knew that He could sustain them through all things. Do you have that same sense of confidence about you? They returned, got together with their friends, then got on their knees to give thanks to God for the opportunity they had with those who did not hold to the truth.
VII. Opposition brings out the desire to be bolder.
And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus. While they were praying, the place were they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence. Vs. 29- 31
Looking at this prayer, we understand, they were not looking for protection from the Sanhedrin and further intimidation which might come their way, they were looking for the opportunity to go out and do further healings, miracles, signs and wonders among the people so that Jesus could be glorified in their midst. And God showed forth His favor as He had earlier in the Upper Room as the placed shook and they were filled again with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Are we more concerned about our own needs or are we like the members of the early church that were more concerned about seeing God’s word go forth? It is something for us all to think about.
The church at Jerusalem had undergone its first major test, they had suffered from the persecution of the Sanhedrin and instead of falling into compromise, they grew stronger and bolder. They were drawn closer together and they took a proactive stance, they were not going to give in or give up, but instead they were going to give out of what the Lord had given them. I wonder, when people look at the Church of Ballard, will they have the same comments about us in the days and years ahead?