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A lame man had been healed and his healing
brought a crowd running. To Peter it was an opportunity too good to be missed
and soon he was preaching. He wanted everyone to know that this was Jesus’
doing. So he told them about Jesus, the very man his listeners and their
leaders had rejected just a few weeks earlier. Indeed so serious was that
rejection that it had led directly to Jesus being crucified.
But that was by no means the end of the story
for, as Peter continued to explain, God had a completely different appreciation
of Jesus. Far from rejecting Jesus God approved of him 100% both concerning his
person and what he had done. And this approval had been demonstrated in the
resurrection when God raised Jesus from the dead.
Peter continued his sermon by building upon
the witness and testimony of the prophets of the OT. This combined testimony
recognised that Jesus was at the very heart and centre of God’s plan of
salvation. The act of kindness shown towards this poor lame beggar was further
evidence of Jesus’ power and authority because this man had been healed in
We don’t know whether Peter had just about
finished his sermon or whether he had intended to go on adding more and more
explanations and exhortations to what he had already said but he never had the
opportunity for another crowd arrived and this group of people came not to
listen but to disrupt.
Official Opposition Begins
Peter and John were still speaking as they
disparate group of irate leaders burst upon the scene – they weren’t best
pleased at what they found. Here were two men busy preaching that Jesus had
been raised from the dead – in temple of all places – who did they think they
were? Who authorised all this?
I say it was a disparate group and indeed it is
so often the case that those who oppose Jesus Christ make for strange
bedfellows. On this occasion it was a mix of political and religious influences
that came together – the following day the group would become even more mixed –
the one thing that united these people was their hostility towards Jesus of
Don’t be surprised when you see strange alliances
being formed to oppose the gospel – those who have nothing else in common will
frequently close ranks when it comes to Christian things. It happened to Jesus.
It happened here to Jesus’ followers and it has been happening down through the
This was perhaps the first attempt in the church
era to stifle the proclamation of the truth as it is in Jesus. Jesus had told
his disciples to expect such opposition and it certainly hadn’t taken long to
express itself. And such opposition happens today for the gospel is not
naturally welcomed by sinners. If you don’t believe me on that just try
entering the words “street preachers arrested” into google and see what comes
If Jesus, who went around doing good, met with
opposition then those who announce the restoration he brings to people should
hardly be surprised to find their message contested too.
And so the preaching of Peter and John was
brought to a premature end with both Peter and John being led away to enjoy a
night in custody. But what about things they had already declared?
Well the Spirit of God took up the words they had
spoken and drove them deep into the heart of many of those who were standing by
listening to what they had to say. The preachers had been removed but the word
they preached was bearing its fruit.
You see the word of God that we preach is like a
lion. We don’t have to defend a lion for a lion will defend itself – our task
is to set the lion loose. And that is just what Peter and John had done that
evening in the temple . The result was that the church continued to grow at a
remarkable rate – the numbers of those who now believed in the Lord Jesus was
now up to the 5,000 mark.
So what deductions can we draw from all this?
What lessons might we learn? Well we can see from this that opposition to the
gospel of Jesus Christ is nothing new. In fact opposition is a constantly
recurring thing in the history of the church but the church is still here. The
opposition that at times seems so united, so intense and so dominant has failed
in the past to eliminate the church and it will continue to fail because God’s
estimation of Jesus is different from that of the world. God has raised Jesus
from the dead and placed all authority in his hands – Jesus is using his power
and authority to keep his promises, promises that include the building of his
Well if the Jewish authorities were hoping that a
night in custody was going to intimidate Peter and John, was going to put a
dampener on their enthusiasm to talk about Jesus and make them amenable and
submissive they were about to be disabused of that idea.
A Hearing takes Place
The next day dawned and the rulers gathered
together – opposing parties were unusually united in their attempts to silence
this emerging Jesus movement.
Peter and John were brought in and placed before
the big wigs who quickly began to question them and the tone of their
questioning was hostile and scathing:
v.7 And when they had
set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do
The English of our translation is somewhat
smoothed out and it doesn’t really sound bad at all, does it? But the original
Greek suggests a harsher tone.
The Amplified Bible puts it like this:
“By what kind of
authority did such people as you do this healing?”
Or the Message:
put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”
Or the Voice:
gave you the authority to create that spectacle in the Temple yesterday?”
It is worth noting that there is no recognition
that a good and kind act of healing had taken place – just an abuse of
So if you encounter at times some condescending
mockery because of your Christian testimony don’t be surprised – it’s been that
way from the beginning. And remember that when you’re made to feel a fossil for
believing in an old message that promises salvation in Jesus Christ – and don’t
our contemporaries like to give the impression that they’re up to date and
modern and can’t believe for that reason – then remember that there is nothing
at all modern in rejecting Jesus Christ. Men and women have been rejecting him
from the very outset of the Christian era – unbelief is an old and tired
response to the truth and don’t let others make you believe otherwise.
Well let’s get back to the interrogation and the
question that had been put to Peter and John. As we’ve come to expect it’s
Peter who speaks up and he did so boldly. How was it possible for him to behave
in this way, after all the night he had just spent in prison was probably not
the most comfortable he’d ever experienced. Luke explains that it was not to be
attributed to Peter’s own character or resolve that he spoke out boldly, it was
due to the fact that he was filled with the Holy Spirit Of course we shouldn’t
be surprised by this because isn’t this just what Jesus had promised his
followers while he was still with them?
Mt.10:16-20 “Behold, I am
sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and
innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and
flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and
kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they
deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to
say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not
you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Jesus had prepared his followers for opposition
and persecution – his warnings along with his promises meant that they need not
be afraid of those who would oppose and persecute. They might have the power to
kill the body but they cannot kill the soul and believers are precious in his
Peter’s Bold Response
As Peter responded to the questioning he began by
drawing attention to the strangeness of the situation. What was so bad in all
that had happened? Wasn’t the healing of a lame man a good to be celebrated?
Was that really a crime?
But unbelief refuses to think clearly and so its
assessments are often illogical and biased.
Placing the healing of the lame beggar in the
foreground Peter explained just it was that this man could now walk. The
authority that lay behind his healing was the authority and power of Jesus
Christ of Nazareth.
Peter didn’t stop at that point but pressed on.
He was in something of a courtroom setting but he unashamedly preaches Christ
and in doing so he changes the whole scenario. He had been the one being
questioned and challenged but now he is the one doing the challenging reminding
his judges of their implication in the death of the Lord Jesus.
The man had been healed in Jesus’ name and Peter
wants all and sundry to know that for a fact but more than that Peter wanted
his hearers to realise the guilt of their faulty appreciation of just who Jesus
of Nazareth was. They had rejected him and had him crucified and in doing so
had put themselves at odds with God who approved of him so much that he raised
him to life again. These leaders were seriously out of line with the God they
purported to serve – indeed they could hardly be further out of line.
Once again Peter is following the pattern he
established on the Day of Pentecost when he preached a similar message in
Solomon’s portico. The setting has changed, he’s now before a tribunal, but the
gospel message remains the same. Have you come to terms with this message yet?
Or are you still rejecting it and refusing to change your thinking about both
yourself and the Lord Jesus?
Peter continued because he wanted his hearers to
understand that he was not inventing some new fangled religion – no, what he
was proclaiming in Jesus Christ risen from the dead was truth that had been
prophesied man years earlier in the prophetic writings of the OT. To illustrate
these claims he quoted from those writings again, this time from Ps.118
where we read:
v.22 “The stone that
the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
The builders in question are the leaders of the
people, the very ones who are interrogating Peter and John now. There task was
to build the nation using the best of materials available – they had looked at
one stone and decided against it – it didn’t meet with their approval and so
they ignored it, thrusting it aside. They wanted to build but not with that,
they wanted to build something else. And so they ended up rejecting the stone
that is Jesus. They wouldn’t build upon him as their foundation and so they
ended up not building the building that God always intended. They turned away
from the most important stone they would ever encounter, the only stone that
would secure them the safety of salvation.
Are you doing the same as them? Are you
dismissing the importance of Jesus and trying to construct your own edifice on
other foundations? My friend if you are they stop and listen. There is only one
name that secures salvation for us. There is only one Saviour who can save us.
We don’t have to make ourselves worthy – we don’t somehow have to make a name
for ourselves – for a name has been given to us. This one name has been given
from a reliable source – given from heaven itself. And it is a powerful and
successful name. All who believe in the name of Jesus will be saved.
Does that include you, my friend? Will you be
saved? Or will you go on rejecting the only one who can do poor sinners good?
Peter’s declaration before this ad hoc tribunal
contained a rebuke and a challenge for his would-be interrogators. Do they
really think that it is Peter and John in the dock? Peter has turned the tables
on them and they must give their answer before God. It was a gracious challenge
that Peter has issued even though it involved a painful challenge.
It was painful because it always is when you’re
found out, when you’re shown to have been wrong; to be convicted of your sin is
rarely comfortable. And here were men who were supposed to be leaders,
spiritual as well as political leaders of the people – surely they should have
known better! And here they were being exposed and corrected by a couple of
very ordinary men – a couple of fishermen from the north, the north of all
But it was a gracious challenge too! These
leaders had failed greatly but the truth was now being simply and
straightforwardly being presented to them. The man who had power and authority
to heal a lame man was being presented to them as the Saviour who has the power
and authority to save sinners. Would they eat their pride, repent and be
converted by putting their faith in a crucified Saviour? We’re not told – maybe
in glory we’ll find that some of them did. But you will only find out if you
are in glory and you will only be there if you repent of your sin, if you are
converted and if you put your faith in the same crucified Saviour.
My friends, on what are you building your life?
Some of you have been building for many decades already – is Jesus the
cornerstone in your life?
As we close this morning let’s do so by reminding
ourselves of what Jesus had to say about building. His words are found at the
end of the Sermon on the Mount:
Mt.7:24-27 “Everyone then who
hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his
house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew
and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the
And everyone who
hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who
built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the
winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of