Have you ever been charged with some crime or misdeed that led to being tried before a court of law for the actions? It would be a scary thing whether guilty or not. But what if you were tried for doing something really good for another person? It seems odd to me that the first time anyone in the church was arrested and brought before the Jewish rulers for trial was for healing a man who had been cripple for nearly forty years. Peter and John were going into the temple at 3:00 in the afternoon, a time of prayer when they saw a man who had been laying at that gate every day for years, begging for money. I’m sure his thinking was that the best place to ask for money from anyone was when they were headed to or from worship to God. Peter looked at the man and the man looked at him, expecting to receive some gift, when Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold, but what I do have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Peter reached out to lift him up and when he did the man’s whole life changed. He had been laying as the cripple but now he leaped, danced and praised God so that people were drawn to them and Peter took the opportunity to tell them about Jesus through whom the man had been healed.
Peter challenged the people both for their surprise and for the assumption it had to do with some power he and John had. “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” He told them it was the very one they had rejected and cried out for his crucifixion, whom God raised from the dead, that had healed the man, “As you can all see.” It was the crowd that drew the priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees to come where Peter was speaking to the people. “They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand” (Acts 4:2-4). The next day they brought Peter and John from the jail to appear in court. What was the charge? That is hard to say. I suppose it was that they had gone into the temple that was supposed to be these religious leader’s territory and both healed a man and preached in Jesus name.
One would suppose that Peter and John would be very nervous appearing before such a crowd of people. They asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?” What would you have said? Look closely at how Peter answered them. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! 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, 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. Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” If these religious leaders were expecting Peter and John to be nervous, fearful and timid they couldn’t have been more mistaken. They took none of the credit for the good done for the lame man. But they didn’t back off an inch in laying the blame for Jesus death at the feet of these religious leaders. Can you imagine how they felt when Peter said there was no other way for a person to be saved than through Jesus Christ? Can you imagine how most of the people in our own time would react to Peter’s sermon? To say a person can’t be saved unless it is through Jesus is strong and right.
Look at how they reacted. “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.” They didn’t have a good lawyer to plead their case. They didn’t have any degrees from any seminary that was known to these leaders. From their point of view Peter and John were unschooled and just plain ordinary guys, except for one thing. They had been with Jesus! Their courage, their boldness to take the stand for Jesus is explained by Luke as from being filled with the Holy Spirit and having spent time with Jesus.
If there has ever been a day when we need more boldness, more courage among the followers of Jesus, that time has to be today. How in the world can we fill the disciples with such courage to take their stand in the world for good, God and Jesus’ way? Luke would tell us that it is tied directly to being full of the Holy Spirit and spending time with Jesus our Lord and Savior. I’m afraid we spend too much time trying to make certain no one thinks we are unschooled and ordinary and not enough time with Jesus so that it is obvious to all.