A. The Apostles before the Court
1. Acts 4:1-4 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. NIV®
The Sadducees, were religious leaders who taught that there was no resurrection of the dead. They were very upset with Peter and John. If people believed Peter’s message, what would happen to the Sadducees’ position?
These leaders claimed to serve God, yet they arrested Peter and John for healing a man. Sometimes people don’t recognize the truth because they don’t want to change their ideas. Failure to recognize the truth can lead people to make terrible mistakes.
Some people today argue against the resurrection. They say that Christians added the idea much later. They fail to see this truth: the resurrection of Jesus was the centerpiece of the message given by Jesus’ earliest followers, his eyewitnesses!
2. Acts 4:5-7 5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” NIV®
In Acts 3, we read how Peter and John told a lame man to walk in the name of Jesus. After the man was miraculously healed, Peter and John had to face the Council. Standing before this Council was difficult for Jesus’ followers because a.) the Council’s members were the most powerful men in Israel, and b.) these same men had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy (speaking against God).
3. Compare Peter’s situation in Acts 4 (after Jesus’ resurrection) with his situation in Mark 14 (before Jesus’ resurrection).
Acts 4:8-12 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” NIV®
Mark 14:66-72 [during the night before Jesus’ crucifixion] 66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. 68But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. 69When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” 72Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. NIV®
Let’s compare these two times in Peter’s life by looking at some of the opposites:
- In Acts 4, Peter’s audience was very powerful. In Mark 14, his listeners were just servants.
- In Acts 4, Peter lifted up Jesus’ name to the highest level. In Mark 14, he denied knowing Jesus.
- In Acts 4, Peter relied on the evidence of God’s miracle and Old Testament prophecy to persuade his listeners. In Mark14, he relied on the strength of his lies and curses to persuade the listeners.
- In Acts 4, Peter cared about his listeners’ salvation. In Mark 14, he wanted to save his own life.
- In Acts 4, Peter was confident and bold, a tower of strength. In Mark 14, he was like weak straw to be blown by the wind.
Why did Peter change so greatly?
- Peter saw Jesus die on the cross, and then he spent time with Jesus after Jesus rose from the dead. Because Peter knew Jesus was the Son of God and had given him eternal life, people no longer frightened him.
- Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), and his wisdom and power came from God.
B. The response of the Court members
1. Acts 4:13-17 13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin [the Court] and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” NIV®
These rulers and religious leaders had such hard hearts that even an undeniable miracle (4:16) didn’t cause them to change their ideas.
2. Acts 4:18-22 18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old. NIV®
Are people willing to risk their lives for something they know is untrue? Peter and John were not lying. They were willing to die for what they were proclaiming!
Although the rulers didn’t praise God for the miracle, they couldn’t punish Peter and John because the people were praising God. The common people had more sense than these leaders.
Mankind’s opinions, theories, and fashions have changed through the years, but the truth of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection has not changed. This truth is the one and only solid foundation for our lives.
C. Our response
I Corinthians 15:57-58 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. NIV®
Scripture quotations marked (NIV®) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. NIV® Copyright © 1973,1978,1984,2011 by Bilica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.