Summary: The disciples were bold in their witness to what Jesus Christ had done. Attempts by the authorities to silence them failed. God had called them to be his witnesses and they could not keep silent.
Acts 5:27-32 “Unable to be Silenced”
There are times that the courage of others amazes us. Recently I viewed the movie, “The Hurt Locker.” It is a story about the war in Iraq. I was amazed and humbled by the courage of the soldiers who were portrayed in the movie.
In the days after the earthquake in Haiti, I was amazed at the stories of courage that were told. Rescuers over and over again risked their own lives so that others might live.
Then there is also the everyday courage—facing our weaknesses and needs and getting the help we need, accepting a task that is beyond our comfort zone and perhaps even our abilities, or the courage to go against the crowd and to do what we believe to be right.
As we begin our study of the early Church and the lives of the early Christians, we do so with a story of their courage.
The scene opens with the apostles—formerly the disciples—being brought before the council. They had spent the previous night in jail—at least a part of the night. An angel came and opened the doors and enabled them to escape. The disciples did not hide, though, or attempt to run from the authorities. Following the instructions of the angel, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to preach.
The Jewish leaders had told them previously that they were to stop talking about Jesus. The disciples had ignored the orders of the authorities.
Do you remember being called into the principal’s office? It was a frightening experience—even if you hadn’t done anything. If you had done something and had been caught, then a trip to the principal’s office was enough to send shivers down your spine and cause you to break out in a cold sweat. The principal could only intimidate, suspend or expel. The apostles faced a greater power than a principal. The council could punish, imprison, and even push for an execution.
Certainly the apostles’ were courageous as they faced the council. Ambrose Redmoon said that, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” I think the disciples had found something more important than fear.
FOUNDATIONS OF COURAGE
The picture of the disciples in this story is significantly different than the one we saw when we left them that first Easter. Not only were they confused and could not figure out what had happened they were also scared. When Jesus appeared to them in the upper room the gospel writers noted that they had locked the doors and were afraid of being arrested by the Jewish authorities.
Several things had happened to change them.
The disciples had encountered the resurrected Jesus. They had witnessed the power of God raise Jesus from the dead. Experiencing God’s love and grace in the person of Jesus Christ changes you. A person is never the same after such an experience. The disciples had seen God’s love, grace, and power, and they had seen these gifts courageously lived out in the person of Jesus.
The disciples had received the Holy Spirit. God dwelt in them and they dwelt in God. Part of the Spirit’s ministry in the lives of Christians is to give them the power to do “all things.” The impossible becomes possible because God moves in and through us.
The disciples also now had a reason or purpose that was dearer to them than even their lives. They were called to carry on the ministry of Jesus and to bear witness to what he had done to all those they met. We have that same calling.
The early Christians have much to teach us. I must confess that I am convicted about how silent we have become. We live in a country that prides itself in free speech, and will even fight and die for that right. Still, Christians are often quiet when it comes to sharing our faith. Sharing one’s faith isn’t socially acceptable. We fear offending someone if we share our faith. We sometimes cower behind the question, “What will other’s think?”
The disciples and early Christians willing suffered persecution and even death, because they had found something more important than fear.
The disciples and early Christians also understood that it was necessary to both do good works and give witness to their faith. The two had to be combined in order to carry forward the ministry of Jesus.
We are a congregation that takes pride in the lives that have been touched through us and the good things that we have accomplished. If we had been silent about our faith, however, people would simply think that we were good people—not Christians but good people. Like the disciples it is important for us to go against the crowd, risk the judgment of others, and courageously, lovingly, boldly share our faith with our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.