Summary: We praise God when life is good, how do we respond when facing oppostion? We look at the aftermath of the miracle at the Beautiful Gate.
It’s easy to praise God when things are going well, isn’t it? The boss commended you on a job well one. The kids have been unusually obedient this week. All the bills got paid before the money ran out. Life is good, praise God!
But what about when times get tough? Will you praise Him on those days when the boss is getting after you about some looming deadlines? When your home seems to be ruled by chaos as the newness of summer vacation begins to wear off? When there’s more month than you’ve got paycheck, will you praise Him then?
Last week we began to look at the events that precipitated when Peter and John entered the temple at the Beautiful Gate and healed a crippled man. It was very easy to praise God for the miracle so many witnessed. But now we’ve reached the second scene and Peter and John must face the opposition that rises up. Read Acts 4:1-7
Here we see the Jewish leaders- the priests, the temple guard, and the Sadduccees- collaborate to arrest Peter and John. Now, while the miracle was a factor in this arrest, I don’t believe it was the main reason. It was the excuse given, but I think they had a bigger concern than that. Many of them had taken part in the crucifixion of Jesus and they simply couldn’t have these men coming to the temple and proclaiming that Jesus had risen and it was by His power that the crippled man was healed. So they lock the men up and leave them overnight because, according to Jewish law, no trial should take place at night (unless it’s Jesus, of course). The next morning the “Who’s Who of Jewish Religious Leaders” show up to question Peter and John about the name they were crediting with the miracle.
Peter responds as he is filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaims the gospel message again. Read Acts 4:8-12. He begins with a jab at his audience- how ridiculous is it that you would lock up a couple of regular ordinary guys for performing an act of kindness to a crippled man. He then stresses that the miracle indeed took place in the name of Jesus. Well into his attack now, Peter points out that they were the ones responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion, yet God had raised Him from the dead. I believe this is the first time that Peter uses his favorite illustration of stone imagery. The prophecy had been fulfilled- Jesus is the capstone that fulfills God’s plan, but God’s people rejected Him. Jesus is the only way to salvation.
This left the Jewish leaders in a rather difficult predicament. Read Acts 4:13-22. They recognized Peter and John, remembering that they had been with Jesus during His ministry on earth. That even though they were uneducated, ordinary guys, they were quite effective at delivering the gospel message and God was being praised as a result of the miracle they had performed. So after some difficult deliberation, they decided to let Peter and John go with a stern warning to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. They hoped that by being lenient now, they could put an end to this Jesus movement. Of course, Peter and John responded with the famous words, “We must serve God over man.”
There are three lessons we can learn from this encounter.
1- God can and will use anyone. Look at the list of disciples and we’ll see several unschooled, ordinary men. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector and Simon was a political activist. When over 5,000 people formed a hungry crowd, Jesus used a small boy to provide loaves of bread and fish. When the people needed a king, God provided a shepherd boy- David. When the children of Israel were bound in slavery, God sent Moses- a fugitive who didn’t speak very well. Hebrews 11 is filled with a list of ordinary people that God used to fulfill His purpose. What did they all have in common that empowered them to be used? Faith.
2- Our power comes from Christ. The easiest way to evangelize is to share what Christ is doing in your life. Peter gave testimony that it was only through the name of Jesus that the crippled man could be healed. What’s your testimony? It doesn’t have to be dramatic, just the truth about what Jesus is doing with you. (This is a good spot to share your testimony as an example, the following was mine at the time I preached this message.) For my family, it is looking at how God brought us here to this church. We’ve only been here a few months and all of you have been in a time of mourning because the Lord took John home. I can’t help but wonder about the timing of it all as I look back over the past year. Last July, when we were feeling convicted that it was time to begin seeking a new ministry, you learned that John had been diagnosed with brain cancer. I resigned my last position, trusting that God had something in store for us soon, on December 31- as you all know, the same day that John died. From there, I believe that God’s hand was upon the events that led to our joining you here at just the right time and I look forward to seeing what He will do through us all together.