FREE TO REJECT
Lord, give us the boldness that we need.
Read ACTS 4:1–12
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
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.
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?”
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.’[a]
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.”
- Acts 4:11 Psalm 118:22
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain’ (Isa 53:3, TNIV).
Until this point, things seem to have been going swimmingly for the early church. Now, however, the disciples face opposition for the first time, sparked by the healing of the paralyzed man described in the previous chapter.
We might have expected this miracle to convince people of the disciples’ message. However, many of the Jewish leaders are offended by this act of kindness and the preaching that follows it. Why is this? Many are Sadducees, a group that does not believe in the resurrection of the dead, so they refuse to accept that Christ has been raised. The Sadducees are a well-to-do group of Jews. They are keen to hold on to their power and so would fear any kind of message that might stir up the people and cause disorder, incurring the wrath of their Roman overlords. In addition, Caiaphas is the same high priest who had interrogated Jesus and sent him to Pilate, so Peter is directly criticizing a dangerous and powerful enemy, a very bold thing to do.
When reading Acts, we can sometimes feel disheartened, for the early church appears so much more dynamic than our churches today: verse 4, for instance, says about five thousand people came to Christ. However, this passage also shows that even though the message about Jesus is presented in the most powerful of ways through a miracle and the preaching of Peter, an apostle who had known Jesus, not everyone is convinced. Many are even hostile. The Sadducees are stuck in their ways, happy with the status quo and unwilling to admit they are wrong. They remind us that people’s response to the gospel is not down simply to how good a job we do at presenting it: those who hear it have free will to accept it or not.
Have you had experiences of people not responding well to the gospel message? Why do you think they reacted negatively? What lessons can you draw from those experiences?
Lord, our enemies are many and hostile. Give to each of us a special anointing, enabling us to deal effectively with them.