Sermon Acts 4:1-22

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3 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

4 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

Addressing the Sanhedrin

5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Name of Jesus Forbidden

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

18 So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

Note

3 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Note
The Book of the Acts 3. Arrest of Peter and John (4:1–4)

3–4 It was now evening (an hour or two at least must have gone by since the afternoon prayers for which Peter and John had gone up to the temple in the first instance), and there was no time to hold an inquiry into the apostles’ conduct before sundown. They were therefore locked up for the night. But the temple authorities could not undo the harm (as they considered it) that Peter and John had done; the healing of the cripple and the preaching which followed it had the effect of adding a large number to the three thousand who believed on the day of Pentecost. The number of men alone, says Luke, now totaled some five thousand.

Note
The Book of the Acts 4. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (4:5–12)

5–6 The next morning the Sanhedrin, met (probably in a building immediately to the west of the temple precincts13), and the chief-priestly, Sadducean, element in its membership was especially well represented. Annas, the senior ex-high priest, was there, and so was his son-in-law Caiaphas,15 the reigning high priest, who was president of the Sanhedrin by virtue of his office. Not many weeks had passed since these two men had taken a part in the arrest and condemnation of Jesus. If they hoped that they had got rid of him, their hope was short-lived; it looked now as if they were going to have as much trouble on his account as they had had before his death. With them were several of their kinsmen, two of whom are mentioned by name, although one of these cannot be identified with certainty, and the other cannot be identified at all.

Note
The Book of the Acts 4. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (4:5–12)

7 When the members of the court had taken their seats, Peter and John were fetched from the lock-up and set before them. They were then asked, presumably by the president, by what authority men like them had presumed to act as they had done. Perhaps the Sanhedrin met on this occasion more as a court of inquiry than in a more formal capacity, but the presence of so many senior members indicates the seriousness with which they viewed the situation.

Note
The Book of the Acts 4. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (4:5–12)

8–10 For such an occasion as this the apostles had already received instructions from their Master: “Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict” (Luke 21:14–15). They now proved the truth of this assurance. In words inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter made his reply. If he and John were being examined with regard to an act of healing performed on a cripple, if the court wished to know the cause of the man’s cure, then let them know, and let all the nation know, that the deed had been done in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. The former cripple was present in court with them: either he had been locked up with them overnight, as being partly responsible for the commotion in Solomon’s Colonnade, or else he had been summoned as a witness. “This man stands here in your presence completely healed,” said Peter, “by the name of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, whom you sent to his death, but whom God raised from the dead.” Of the responsibility of the men whom Peter was now addressing there could be no doubt; it was they who had handed Jesus over to Pilate, Caiaphas bearing the chief responsibility. (It is to Caiaphas that reference is probably made in Jesus’ words to Pilate in John 19:11, “he who delivered me to you has the greater sin.”) As before, there is a pointed contrast between men’s treatment of Jesus and God’s treatment of him.

Note
The Book of the Acts 4. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (4:5–12)

11 The apostles are technically on the defensive, but actually they have gone over to the attack. Peter proceeds to preach the gospel to his judges, and he bases his argument on a well-known Old Testament text. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner” (Ps. 118:22) is one of the earliest messianic testimonies. It was so used (by implication) by Jesus himself, as the conclusion of the parable of the vineyard (Mark 12:10–11). In the original Old Testament context the rejected stone is perhaps Israel, despised by the nations but chosen by God for the accomplishment of his purpose. But, as so often in the New Testament, God’s purpose for Israel finds its fulfilment in the single-handed work of Christ.

Both here and in later Christian use of this “testimony,” the “builders” are interpreted as the rulers of the Jewish nation, who failed to acknowledge Jesus as the divinely sent deliverer; but the Stone which they disregarded has now received from God the place of highest distinction: Jesus now sits enthroned at God’s right hand.

Note
The Book of the Acts 4. Peter and John before the Sanhedrin (4:5–12)

12 And from the once rejected but now glorified Jesus, and from him alone, comes true saving health. The deliverance of the cripple from a bodily affliction might serve as a parable of deliverance from the guilt of sin and from judgment to come. If the rulers persisted in their repudiation of Jesus, which had already involved them in blood-guiltiness, no deliverance from its consequences could be hoped for from any other quarter or by the power of any other name. The name of Jesus, by which the cripple had been empowered to spring to his feet and walk, was the name with which Israel’s salvation (and, as was to appear later, the salvation of the world) was inextricably bound up. The course of duty and wisdom for the rulers was therefore clear; if they refused it and persisted in their present attitude, they would bring destruction on their nation as well as on themselves.

The founders of the great world-religions are not to be disparaged by followers of the Christian way. But of none of them can it be said that there is no saving health in anyone else; to one alone belongs the title: the Savior of the world.

Note
The Book of the Acts 5. Debate in the Sanhedrin (4:13–17)

13–14 Peter and John were obviously unversed in the formal learning of the rabbinical schools, yet they spoke with a freedom and forthrightness that impressed their judges. How could untrained laymen like these so ably sustain a theological disputation with members of the supreme court? The answer was not far to seek: the judges took cognizance of the fact29 that they had been companions of Jesus. He too had sat at the feet of no eminent rabbi, yet he taught with an authority which they could well remember. People expressed the same surprise about him: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” (John 7:15). None could match him in his sure handling of the scriptures, his unerring ability to go back to first principles for the confirming of his own teaching and the discomfiture of his opponents. And plainly he had imparted something of that same gift to his disciples. Not only so, but he had supported his teaching with the mighty works which he performed; now Peter and John were doing the same. That the cripple had been cured was evident; he stood before them as a witness to the fact. Peter and John claimed that the cure had been effected by the power of Jesus’ name; their judges were in no position to deny the claim.

Note
The Book of the Acts 5. Debate in the Sanhedrin (4:13–17)

15–17 Peter and John were accordingly sent outside the council-chamber while the court conferred. It was difficult to know what action to take. They had broken no law in curing the cripple; besides, their action in doing so had made them popular heroes, and it would be impolitic to penalize them. On the other hand, it would be equally impolitic to set them at liberty to go on teaching and healing in the name of Jesus; the authorities would then be confronted once more with the problem which they had thought to be solved by Jesus’ condemnation and execution, and that in a more intractable form than previously. The action on which they decided was a confession of their weakness: they would dismiss the two men, but threaten them with serious consequences if they did the like again.

It is particularly striking that neither on this nor on any subsequent occasion did the authorities take any serious action to disprove the apostles’ central affirmation—the resurrection of Jesus. Had it seemed possible to refute them on this point, how eagerly would the opportunity have been seized! Had their refutation on this point been achieved, how quickly and completely the new movement would have collapsed! It is plain that the apostles spoke of a bodily resurrection when they said that Jesus had been raised from the dead; it is equally plain that the authorities understood them in this sense. The body of Jesus had vanished so completely that all the resources at their command could not produce it. The disappearance of his body, to be sure, was far from proving his resurrection, but the production of his body would have effectively disproved it. Now the apostles’ claim that Jesus was alive had received public confirmation by the miracle of healing performed in his name. It was, for the Sanhedrin, a disturbing situation.

Note
The Book of the Acts 6. The Apostles Dismissed with a Caution (4:18–22)

18–20 They recalled Peter and John, and acquainted them with their decision. A complete ban was imposed on any further public mention of the name of Jesus. If they thought that any heed would be paid to this ban, they were quickly disillusioned. Peter and John had probably never heard of Socrates, and had certainly never read Plato’s Apology, but they gave the same kind of answer as Socrates gave when he was offered his release on condition that he give up the pursuit and discussion of truth and wisdom: “I shall obey God rather than you.” It is, of course, the sort of answer that any person of principle will give when offered freedom at the price of abandoning the path that conscience dictates. But what weighed most of all with the apostles was their personal commitment to the risen Lord to be his witnesses. If the point were put to those judges in the abstract, whether a divine commandment or a human regulation should be obeyed in the event of a clash between the two, they would affirm without hesitation that the divine commandment must be obeyed at all costs. Right, said Peter and John, “we cannot stop telling what we have seen and heard.”

Note
The Book of the Acts 6. The Apostles Dismissed with a Caution (4:18–22)

21–22 Despite this open defiance, the court did nothing but repeat the threat of severe penalties. The popular enthusiasm was too great for them to do anything more. Luke points out here, by way of explaining the extent of the public amazement, that the cripple who had been cured was over forty years old: he had reached an age at which such cures, especially for a congenital defect, simply do not occur. Peter and John were discharged.

“This,” says a twentieth-century Jewish historian, “was the first mistake which the Jewish leaders made with regard to the new sect. And this mistake was fatal. There was probably no need to arrest the Nazarenes, thus calling attention to them and making them ‘martyrs’. But once arrested, they should not have been freed so quickly. The arrest and release increased the number of believers; for these events showed on the one hand that the new sect was a power which the authorities feared enough to persecute, and on the other hand they proved that there was no danger in being a disciple of Jesus (he, of course, being the one who had saved them from the hand of their persecutors!).”

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