October 25, 2020. Sermon Title: Then They Will Know that We Are Companions of Jesus

First Mennonite Church

October 25, 2020

Then They Will Know That We Are Companions of Jesus

Text: Acts 4:5-22

In Acts 3, we find the story of Peter healing a crippled beggar. That was the first miracle Peter performed after Jesus’ departure and after the investiture with the Holy Spirit. The miracle caused a stir among the people. They rejoiced and praised God that Jesus’ power continued to operate through his disciples. The healed man clung to Peter and John, entered the temple, walking, jumping and praising God for his healing. The crowd however, seeing and hearing the commotion came by trying to figure out how the healing had happened. They recognized the man as the one who had been begging for many years. Therefore, Peter addressed the excited and baffled crowd. “It is not by my piety, nor power that this man stands before you healed,” Peter proclaimed. “It is God, glorifying the name of his Son, Jesus, who is the Author of life whom you killed but whom God raised from the dead.” And once again, Peter called the awestricken crowd to repent and turn to God by believing in Jesus, the risen Lord.

 But the miracle also caught the attention of the authorities. They were not happy that Peter was attributing the miracle to Jesus. So, Peter and John were arrested and put in prison overnight. And this is what Acts four, verses five to 22 says:

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. 11 This Jesus is

‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
    it has become the cornerstone.’

12 There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14 When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16 They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.

The authorities had all the reasons to feel threatened by what was happening. We are told in verses one and two that the Sadducees were very much annoyed because Peter was crediting Jesus, as Risen Lord and the source of power for the healing. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection; thus, Peter’s claim that Jesus was risen completely turned upside down the Sadducees’ belief. As for the high priest and his cohorts, they certainly must have been used to seeing the beggar at the entrance of the temple. They certainly must have also given him alms from time to time. But then, there came this group of followers of the man whom they plotted against and handed over to the Romans, who in the end crucified Jesus. Therefore, it was not only the healing of the crippled beggar that was troubling to the authorities, but even more so was Peter’s claim that the healing of this man in his forties, was done by Jesus’ power.

As we can see, the authorities are not a team of scrubs; they were the elite. They wanted to know firsthand, what the disciple were doing and by what powers. On the one side of the courtroom, sat the powerful, educated, and the keepers of tradition. On the other side of the room stood two men, who were originally fishermen, men of low social status and uneducated. But we are told, that Peter “fill with the Holy Spirit” stood up to address not only the authorities, but “all the people of Israel.”    

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, not only willingly responded the council’s question, but he tacitly challenges their inquiry: “If we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed…” (4:8-9). Peter’s introductory response was in some way an indictment against the council’s blindness to the goodness that had happened. There was a man, who from birth had not been able to walk, but had been healed. Yet, the council’s only concern was to arrest and punish the instruments of this good work.

But Peter went beyond those tacit indictments. He raised high the name of Jesus, whom the authorities were accused of crucifying. Peter also accused the council for their blind and zealous care for the temple; however, they rejected the most precious stone whom God declared as the cornerstone of his new house. Still yet, Peter raised Jesus’ name when he declared: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” Based on this proclamation, Jesus is the only way to salvation. He is the way, the truth and the life. There is salvation in no other name but in the name of Jesus.

When the authorities heard Peter, they realized that he and John had been companions of Jesus. For three and half years Peter walked with Jesus, heard Jesus’ teaching and watched him perform miracles. However, even to the last hour of Jesus life, Peter remained a wishy-washy disciple. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter could not even admit his friendship with Jesus to the “servant girl” of the high priest. But what a different Peter we find here. Boldness and divine wisdom came upon Peter with the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s powerful proclamation before the authorities was certainly the fulfillment of what Jesus told them in Luke 12:11-12:

When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say;for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”

Peter and John were unsophisticated men. Tradition has it that Peter was actually illiterate and that the letters that bear his name were actually written by Mark, although dictated by Peter. Peter’s boldness and powerful and authoritative speech, however, were not the result of honest simplicity, but direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit in him. The authorities were not used to seeing or hearing people, educated or not, to speak and behave under the force of divine influence. That made the difference in Peter and John. God’s holiness and power were visibly and audibly present in Peter and John. The authorities recognized that Peter and John were companions of Jesus.

My dear sisters and brothers, we all know the saying, “Tell me with whom you walk and I will tell you who you are.” God’s power has not ceased to operate in 2020. The Holy Spirit is still active and alive, possibly begging Christian to allow him to operate in their lives. Churches are both human and spiritual institutions. Life in the Spirit should be a familiar concept and practice for us Christians. Therefore, the idea of living under the influence, guidance, and inspiration of the Spirit in our daily lives should be something natural for us. Only under such living conditions would we be able to bear a compelling testimony among our relatives and friends. When we spend time before God, let us invite the Spirit to shape our language, attitude, thought processes, and way of life.  Then the world will know that we are indeed companions of Jesus. The world will know that behind your words is something beyond human wisdom. When we allow the Spirit of God to take its rightful place in us, those around us, coworker, neighbor, children and spouse will notice the huge difference God is making in us. We need the Holy Spirit to breathe on us the wisdom and spirit of Christ. Then friends and enemies, alike, will know that we are companions of Jesus. Amen!

Let us pray:

Our Triune God, we thank you for your powerful involvement, not only in our creation and redemption, but also in our profession of you in our daily life. Holy Spirit, remind us the words of Jesus and instill in us his character. In the name of Christ, we pray. Amen!