Today’s passage continues the drama we witnessed last week in the healing of a lame man. Crowds of people came running over to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed. The event pointed to His power over death and that, even though these men deserved judgment for putting the Son of God to death, God had prepared Christ’s sacrifice for sin before the foundation of the world. “Turn and Repent!”, Peter had commanded and thousands of men believed in the work of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting. The Church was now over 5000 strong.
One of the profound things that I tend to think about often is how men’s responses to the News of Christ’s victory over the grave is different. You see, the Gospel is an announcement of a historical event and a historical person. The Cross of Christ is proclaimed – that a man named Jesus of Nazareth did, indeed, hang on a Cross and bore the Sins of all who would believe in His work to atone for Sin and He rose again from the dead, just as He foretold. Here in this passage, Peter and John are giving fresh evidence of Christ’s victory over sin and death by healing a man born lame and pointing to the power of Christ Who now reigns on high. Everything points to factual data. Everything points to factual evidence.
But some do not believe.
The Apostle Paul teaches us about this in Romans 10:14-15 where he testifies of the Gospel going forward with news of a great victory:
15How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” 16However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?”
In the ancient world they did not have e-mail or telephones. They didn’t even have newspapers. News of events was often sent by young men who would run to the towns and announce the news of a great victory. You can imagine the scene as a town in Israel is waiting anxiously to hear how a battle turned out as David was out fighting the Philistines and vastly outnumbered. Men would be posted on towers and look hard in the horizon.
What’s that small dust cloud? It’s a runner.
“A runner approaches!”, says the man on the tower.
“How does he run?”, asks the crowd.
If the battle is lost, perhaps the man is running with his head down in a sad gait. Who wants to run to tell the News of a defeat?
But the feet of the man with Good News! Oh, he’s flying.
“Victory! Oh, how beautiful are the feet of him who brings Good News!”
“Christ, has conquered Sin and Death! Death where is your sting?! Where is your victory?!”
The runner flies into the town with this wonderful News of Victory.
But who has believed the report?
What kind of people would greet the runners with Good News as if the report just isn’t true.
The famous French Rationalist, Didero, was famous for writing: “I should, without hesitation, believe any respectable individual who might bring me the intelligence of any army having obtained a victory over its opponent, etc.; but should the whole population of Paris assure me that a dead man rose from his grave, I would not believe a word of it.”
In fact, beloved, that is exactly what has happened in today’s story as the leaders of the Temple walk up to Peter and John and demand to know why Peter and John are teaching in the Temple and teaching about that obnoxious man, Jesus, that they just put to death not so long ago.
Notice that they are Sadducees. The Sadducees were the ruling party among the Sanhedrin. The High Priests came from this party and they wielded tremendous influence. Christ had warned the Apostles, during His teaching ministry to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt 16:6).
Both had ideas that were poisonous to the Gospel but for different reasons. We think the Pharisees were the only troublemakers but unbelief comes from many different angles. In the case of the Pharisees, unbelief came not from a lack of belief or zeal about the supernatural or religion but that they believed the wrong things about these things.
The Sadducees, though, were like our modern day men today who don’t believe in such nonsense stories about men being raised from the dead. The Law has its place to give men and women moral stories about how to conduct their lives but it is this life that is most important. Things like the Resurrection are just not true if you’re a Sadducee.
They demand to know by whose authority that Peter and John were teaching. By this, they really wanted to know what School they went to. They wanted to know what Rabbi they followed. Like today, before you’re going to be heard by the intelligentsia, it’s less important to know that you’ve been married for 20 years and are giving advice to young men and women about marriage but much more important that you have a Master’s Degree in counseling from some God-hating institution that believes men are collections of genes.
Men back then, like today, didn’t teach on their own authority but would simply quote “the experts”, the Rabbis. Teaching of the Scriptures sounded something like: “Rabbi Gamaliel teaches this….”
But Peter and John don’t have academic credentials. They’re fishermen from Galilee, a backwater town of uneducated tradesman. These men would be scorned for their lack of sophistication and education and they have to give account for how it is they are teaching.
But these backwater men had sat at the foot of Jesus of Nazareth for 3 years. These men had been breathed on and anointed by Christ to preach His name with power. And so, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter puts the Sanhedrin on trial.
Peter announces that this lame man standing before you was healed in the name of Jesus. The man that they put to death is exactly Who He said He was. They announce the fact of His victory over the grave. He is the Stone that the builders rejected that has become the Chief Cornerstone.
You see the builders had been these Jewish leaders and they rejected the Stone. They rejected the Rock of Salvation. They rejected the Rock that had sustained Israel in the desert for 40 years. Just like rebellious Israel, they raised their hands against almighty God in unbelief.
But Christ is the cornerstone. They rejected Him and cast him out but had rejected the cornerstone upon which the Church and the people of God would be built. This cornerstone would save all who trust in it but will crush all who reject it.
Peter announces boldly to them in verse 12: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
What Name did Peter heal in?
What Name did Peter preach in?
The Name that is above all Names. The King and King and Lord of Lords.
Christ announced in Matthew 28 that all authority in heaven and earth had been given Him and that Peter and John and the Apostles were to make disciples of all the nations.
There is no other option for men for salvation.
There was no other option for the Sanhedrin that day.
For the first time, though, in Acts we don’t read of men being converted to the Gospel by the News of Christ’s victory. The same News went out but the Sanhedrin didn’t believe the report. Instead they told Peter and John to stop teaching in this Name.
What is so strange to us all is that they are amazed at the boldness and power of Peter’s preaching. They even have to acknowledge that a man was healed who had been lame for 40 years.
But the evidence wasn’t going to convert them. You see, don’t ever think that the evidence of your heart or the objective evidence of Christ’s resurrection and victory over the grave is going to be enough to convert a man. You can only proclaim the News. You can only tell the Story. But some will simply not believe the report. They might even accept the evidence but they won’t believe. Pray for such men for great judgment awaits those that will be crushed by their rejection of the Son.
Peter and John were told by the Sanhedrin not to bear this News any longer. That they could not do.
Paul teaches us in Romans 13 how we are supposed to submit to our earthly authorities because God places such men in authority. But, here, the Sanhedrin had no authority to dictate to the Church what they may or may not do. A higher authority, Jesus Christ, had told them to preach this News.
In fact, as Peter asks the Sanhedrin this question: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge…” there is a certain edge to it. This is because the Sanhedrin should have been giving heed to God’s Apostles. The men with real spiritual authority from God were in their midst and they were disobeying the Gospel call.
Since the Sanhedrin could do nothing more, legally, with them they sent them out of the Temple. Peter and John returned to the Disciples who all rejoiced not only that men had been converted to the Gospel but, strangely enough, they rejoiced that men had rejected the Gospel. You see, it is not our business to convert men. It is our business to proclaim the Gospel to all men faithfully and God does the conversion. But when we are proclaiming boldly in Jesus’ name and men hate us for it then we are commanded to rejoice just as the disciples did here.
They even quote Psalm 2 that teaches about the Nations raging in opposition to God’s rule. Whenever we sing the Psalms at night with the kids, Anna always wants to sing “Why do heathen nations rage” which is the first line of Psalm 2 from one of our Psalters. Peter proclaims boldly that even though the Roman Government and the Sanhedrin had decided together to scheme against God they were no match for His power. Psalm 2 even records that God sits on high and laughs that the governments of this world think they can just come together and decide to throw off His rule.
On the human level, the Sanhedrin was convinced that Peter and John had been stopped but, from on high, God would get the last laugh.
Again, beloved, this message of the Gospel is really quite simple. It’s not a matter of whether or not we have facts or evidence. It’s a matter of whether or not somebody is going to believe our report. When we go forward today, I hope you do not lose heart and continue to share the simple News of the hope that you have within you. Jesus Christ died on a Cross for sinners and rose again in victory over the grave. All who trust in Him are saved from their Sins. That is the hope that you have within you. That is the News that men will either receive with joy as they ought or will simply dismiss as a fairy tale. Either way, the Gospel is borne forward by you and preached weekly in His Church. Christ will have the victory no matter what the nations decide to do with the News or with those who have hope in that News.