As we look at this incident and the arrest of Peter and John, this happened in response to healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful just the entrance of the Temple in Jerusalem, which none could deny was a miracle. This man had been lame from birth, and would have been a regular fixture for all to see, and by the power of Jesus Christ Peter healed this man, and all recognized the authenticity of this miracle. He used this as an opportunity to preach Jesus Christ whom a short time earlier had been crucified just outside of this very city Jerusalem. And here we see the mercy on this city. They had unjustly judged the Christ, but look at 3:24, “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” God would offer salvation first to the Jews here at Jerusalem, which is amazing because these are the very ones that cried out “crucify Him, crucify Him.” If you ever want to see the depths of mercy and love it is found in these early chapters of the Book of Acts with the preaching of the disciples and thousands coming to Christ. Also notice that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we are celebrating today, was part and parcel of that early message. Without this aspect of the message there was no hope.
In 4:1-4 we see the arrest of Peter and John, and look at the reason for their arrest in verse 2, “being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” The religious leaders cannot have a living Jesus. It does not matter how much evidence there was and how many people had seen Jesus alive, it could not be tolerated, because it meant that they rejected the Messiah, and what they needed was not a Savior from sin but a Savior from political aggression. And look at the outcome to the message of Jesus’ resurrection and who He was and is in verse 4: “But many of those who heard the message believed; and the number of men came to be about five thousand.” This is the last mention as far as numbers in people believing on Christ because the church grew and expanded too fast. But the thing that I want us to see is that the people believed not in a dead martyr but a risen Savior. The religious leaders did not object to the preaching of a dead teacher but One who was alive from the dead, and was more than a teacher.
Christianity cannot survive without a Risen Savior. It crumbles and it is worthless. Paul says in 1Cor. 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” After that statement you cannot hold that this is a periphery doctrine but absolutely necessary to Christianity. Do you recognize the significance of the resurrection, and if so how does it affect your life and how you live out your faith? Are you in awe that you serve One who is alive evermore? The greatest encouragement in our Christian lives is that we serve a living Savior, and nothing will give you more joy and power to serve, love, cherish, and follow Christ as the resurrection from the dead. And I want us to see that this morning through two truths. I want us to see it looking at one now and the other a little later this morning. I want us to see two ways the resurrection changes us.
1. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes by giving us spiritual courage. V.5-10.
This is something we often miss when we do not read the Book of Acts and as a continuation of the Gospels. It picks up right after the resurrection of Christ, and shows us the beginning and growth of the church through this Gospel of the living Christ. But the thing that should shock us and enthrall us at the same time is the change in the disciples. They all deserted Jesus Christ when he was arrested. They fled from the scene and found afterward hiding in a locked upper room. And here is Peter the one who denied Christ three times in that very night, and even took to cursing to convince others he was not a follower of Jesus Christ. Yet, here he is in the Temple precinct preaching Jesus Christ is alive from the dead, so close to the very ones that put Jesus Christ to death through crucifixion. You don’t have to be a brain to recognize that this idea of preaching Jesus Christ could go terribly wrong.
The question becomes where did the strength come from to preach Christ to these people? It does not come from a man who claimed that he was Messiah, and was taken and executed as the worst of criminals, and that was the end of his story. No, if Christ is alive and has conquered death, and He is alive and will be with me then what have I to fear; what have I to fear in following Jesus Christ and doing His will? These opening chapters should encourage us and make us so courageous as believers, and renew us with the truth Christ is alive and that makes all the difference.
Now look at verse 5, “On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem.” There are a number of things we should notice. One is “their rulers.” These are not the civil rulers, but the religious rulers. There were rulers who would have included the chief priest and all those close to him. The “elders” were made up of priests and laymen who were influential. And the “scribes” were the experts of the Law and they were mainly Pharisees. These are the three designations of the Sanhedrin. This was the exact same council and same members that condemned Jesus to death and delivered Him over to the Romans. They thought if they killed Jesus that would silence Him forever, and now the same kinds of signs and wonders are being done by those claiming that Christ is alive. You can imagine the shock, terror, and anger all rolled into one.
Luke does not want us to miss the connection that this is almost like a continuation of the trial of Jesus by naming who is convening this assembly. Look at verse 6, “and Annas the high Priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and who were of high-priestly descent.” Annas is identified as the high priest even though he was not at this time, but was looked upon as the power and authority on the Council. From AD 15-66, five of his sons, a grandson, and a son-in-law held the office of High Priest. At this time it was Caiaphas. Nothing is known of John and Alexander but no doubt the early readers of this document knew who they were. They were joined with all those of high-priestly descent, in other words the whole council had come together to hear this case. These were the upper-crust, but acted as savages in pitting and hitting Christ after the trial.
Look at what happens next in verse 7, “When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” The idea of placing them in the center is that the official chamber formed a semi-circle so each of the members could see on another. And this question was not asked to get information. The disciples had been proclaiming the risen Christ as the reason for the healing of the lame man. It was not a secret meeting. It was a public declaration. And this really takes us back to the questioning on Jesus Christ by this council. Luke 20:2 says, “Tell us by what authority You are doing these things, or who is the one who gave You this authority?” The idea of “name” is the person who is the authority. The people recognized that Satan could perform miracles also, so they needed to ascertain the power behind this wonder that was done, but again, they did know. In their minds, Jesus was a false prophet, and therefore to do anything in His name would be treasonous. No doubt they thought these men would back down.
But when you think about it, what better question could Peter be given in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The wrath of man is used to introduce the glory of the name and power of Christ and salvation can only be found in Him.
So here are these two common Galilean fishermen in front of these powerful men who could much damage to them because of Jesus Christ. And the question is how would they react and how would they respond? And the answer that Peter gives is so courageous but the power of the answer and even in giving this answer lies in the subject of this answer. He is Jesus Christ. He is the source. Look how Peter frames his response under control of the Holy Spirit in verse 8-9, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well.” Instead of cowering in fear and intimidation Peter answers boldly and truthfully and addresses those responsible for the execution of Christ. And again, the question is not that this man had been made well, that is indisputable, but through what power, or who was the personality behind this healing?
And look at the answer that is given by Peter in verse 10, which is the reason that we are here this morning, and there is a sense of triumph in these words, “let it be known to all of you and to the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health.” The idea of “Let it be known to you” and the people of Israel is two things. One is that they are the representatives of the people, and also “Let it be known” that they are now without excuse. These truths have been established and they know them and they are indisputable. And the identity of the one who healed the lame man is identified. And it is Jesus the Messiah, who is from the hated region of Nazareth. The identification is to make known beyond a shadow of a doubt who they are discussing.
And think of the boldness and bravery of these men as they stood before these seventy men and announced that this was the Jesus whom they had a couple months previously put to death through crucifixion by their illegal and kangaroo court and declared him guilty and handed Him over to Pilate and put the pressure on Pilate to have Him crucified. They were guilty. But here is the thing that makes this statement all the more glorious and brave. They announce that God raised Him from the dead. The one they pronounced judgment on in the name of God raised Him from the dead. Not only does this announce the victory of the Gospel, which he goes on to explain but also indicates to these religious leaders that God is not for them but actually against them. God vindicates all the claims of Christ and work.
And this is the reason why they can have so much courage. The most that these men could do is to do the same that they did to Jesus, and they have no way of thinking they might not do that. But Christ’s resurrection assures them that all the promises that they will be with Him in His kingdom are valid, and we can also use this life to live radical lives for Christ. We can expend ourselves because this life is fleeting but the next life with a living Savior is eternal. All of us can have great joy as we look at this passage and what Christ has done. Because Christ lives nothing of eternal value is ever in jeopardy, and therefore I can risk. Nothing will give you more joy and perseverance than the resurrection of Christ. This is a day of celebration because Christ is alive today.