This post follows in from No.1
The Acts 4:1—14 Situation:
Jesus Christ had died a criminal’s death, and most of the religious leaders were happy that this was so. After all, their principal men had organised it – that teacher and wonder-worker was interfering with their monopoly on right and wrong.
These religious leaders regarded themselves as just, right and good – the standard of right living. Jesus had made them feel uncomfortable, and made their pretensions look stupid; he had to go.
But soon after Jesus’ death on a cross, they heard from credible witnesses that this same Jesus had risen from the dead – the soldiers that were guarding his tomb had told them so.
This Jesus, who had died, was subsequently seen alive by his followers over a period of forty days. Then, promising his disciples the ability to take his message to the world, Jesus returned to the throne room of God.
The message that God forgives people on the sole basis of who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done, was rapidly spreading through Jerusalem.
The body of believers was about 3000 strong when Peter and John were used to heal a man outside of the Temple in Jerusalem. The forty-year-old man had been lame from birth. This man was recognised by everyone in the temple. He had been sitting outside that place of worship for years, begging. Peter had told him to stand up, invoking the authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Soon after this, Peter explained to the gathered crowd that this same Jesus, whose authority had healed the lame man, can and will deal with the far greater problem of their sin. Peter declared that the resurrection of Jesus meant forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available. All who trust Jesus are forgiven and will be raised to life again, just as Jesus had been.
This is where Acts 4 commences – the religious leaders heard what Peter and John were saying and they were not happy. So, Peter and John are arrested and put in prison till the next day. The council was gathered, and those who were principally active in the arrest and murder of Jesus were again in charge of questioning Peter and John.
The council asked: By what power, and in whose name do you do this thing?
This might have been simply a question of authority – Peter and John were not recognised teachers. They had not been taught and approved by members of the council. They had not been authorised to teach, and particularly, they were not authorised to teach the forgiveness of sins and the hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ. For the religious leaders, Jesus was the bad guy.
This question might also have been asking “Who enabled you to heal this man?” Perhaps they wanted to know if it had been Beelzebub or the God of our fathers that they served.
How did Peter and John answer?
Firstly, their answer was Spirit motivated.
- This does not mean that what they had to say was a secret that needed the Spirit to give them new information. What they spoke about was undeniable fact.
- Rather, the Holy Spirit enabled them to be bold in telling the facts. God the Spirit gave clarity and focus to their message
Then, Peter and John gave the facts:
This man, whom you know to have been a cripple, was made well by the authority (the name) and power of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead.
Notice how quickly Peter and John moved from noticing the healing to tell about the healer, Jesus Christ. The really important message was the facts about who Jesus is and what he has done. Peter and John said that his Jesus whom you leaders killed, God raised to life.
This resurrection message is very important. Our death as humans goes back to Adam’s sin – sadly death is what all sinful humans deserve. The religious leaders knew from their holy book (our Old Testament) that death came to people by disobeying God (by our sin), and that the person who sins shall die.
Further, the death penalty in the Old Testament was a punishment for great crimes, for terrible wrong doing.
These leaders had regarded Jesus as a terrible wrong-doer – they had put him to death as very bad person.
But Peter and John state that Jesus was the keystone that the builders rejected – the religious leaders thought that they were the ones who would make the church grow strongly. They thought of themselves are builders of God’s kingdom. But Peter and John tell them that they are bad builders. They rejected the central piece – the “head of the corner” – the key stone. Jesus Christ is the keystone.
More about the idea of ‘keystone’ in the next and concluding post.