Summary: We like to be in control, some of us need to be in control but, when that control is taken away by sinful man or others, we need to look to the one who is always in full control.
I suspect that most all of the conflicts and battles of life boil down to issues of control. Republicans want control of the congress and Democrats don’t want to give it up. Israelis want to control Palestinians and Palestinians resist. Sunnis and Shiites fight for control of Iraq. Americans want to control illegal immigration.
Parents want to have control over their children and once they reach a certain age, and a very early one at that, children begin to resist their parent’s control over them. Husbands want to control their wives (Something you’d think that by this point in human history, men would have learned, is not possible) but. wives know they can control their husbands. And all of us would like to have at least some control over our health, our time, the price of oil and how much money the Government should really get.
This struggle for control takes its toll on us but, what really takes its toll on us, are the things that we face with which we have absolutely no control over, even though our will desires control. We couldn’t have prevented them from happening, nor did we do anything to cause them to happen and yet they happen….to us. They were simply beyond our control. And that causes us despair or makes us angry, especially when the impact of such things hurts.
Or sometimes we do have control. But because we didn’t exercise that control like we should have or could have, we lost control. James reminds us that in our struggle for control, we cannot even control something so little as the tongue. And that causes us great guilt and shame.
I say all of this by way of introduction because as we move into Acts 4, the issue that stands before us is the issue of control.
Let’s begin by overlapping into a few verses from last weeks reading, before we discuss Acts, chapter 4. Just to quickly review, Peter and John encounter a lame beggar at the entrance to the Temple in Jerusalem. The man was begging alms from those going to worship. Peter and John stop, look at this man and say, “silver and gold I do not have but what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And miraculously, this man jumped to his feet and was healed. The crowds of course are amazed at this. So Peter and John take the opportunity to explain what happened. The same Jesus whom they crucified, God raised and He continues to be just as living and active through His body the Church as He had been.
By His name and by faith in His name, this man is healed. And we read that the church grew to 5,000 men. A significant number when you add in the women and children. The Jewish leaders didn’t like what was going on. They sensed they were loosing control over their church. And so they arrested Peter and John and put them in prison overnight. As the ruling council met the next day however it became very obvious that these men had done nothing illegal and there was no basis for a trial. So they had no choice but to let them go.
And yet still they would try to exercise their control over Peter and John and that’s where we want to pick things up. Acts 4:16-22. ”What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name. So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this song of healing was performed was more than forty years old.”