Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.
The lambs were in the den of lions.
Peter and John were in the midst of the Sanhedrin, the same group that had condemned Jesus to death.
Yet, they were not afraid. Undaunted they spoke concerning the greatness of God in raising Jesus from the dead. With irrepressible zeal they bubbled over with the message of salvation. Even threats could not dampen their joy.
There, is only one thing that can account for this: the Person of the Holy Spirit dwelt in them. When God dwells in His people, His presence becomes evident. The glory of His name shines forth as He kindles in them the flame of life.
Pentecost had produced quite a change.
The resurrection of Christ had made them perplexed. During the dark hours of the Jewish Sabbath, as the body of Jesus lay in the heart of the earth, the disciples had gathered together in the upper room. A dark cloud of gloom hovered over them. Even during the early days of the resurrection, the doors remained locked for fear of the Jews. The perplexed disciples struggled to understand what this was all about. Gradually this cloud evaporated, as the living Christ explained to them the necessity of His suffering and death as the way to His exaltation. During these forty days Christ expounded to them the importance of His finished work and how this related to His kingdom which was in heaven.
When Christ ascended up into heaven, the disciples understood that something was still going to happen that would sharpen their spiritual vision and give them understanding. They were commanded to wait in Jerusalem for the Spirit.
Ten days later the Holy Spirit came to them. The exalted Christ had, not forgotten His people that still remained upon the earth. As our great Intercessor, He prayed the Father for the Comforter Whom He would send to His beloved church that was upon the earth. The Father answered this prayer and crowned the work of the obedient servant with the gift of His Spirit.
When the day of Pentecost was fully come the 120 disciples were gathered together in the early morning hour. Suddenly the Spirit was poured out upon them. His presence was demonstrated by profound signs: the cloven tongues as of fire, the sound as of a mighty rushing wind, and the disciples began to speak in tongues.
A marked change overtook the disciples. The perplexed and confused minds were released from the bonds of doubt, and they understood things as they had never done before. The fear that held them in subjection dissipated, and the locked doors were thrown open so thousands could listen to them preach. It was the dawn of a better day in the history of the church.
The moment the church glories in victory the enemies of the truth Blot destruction. The fire of evil passion was kindled anew in the hearts of the Sanhedrin. They were determined that those doors would be locked once again and the mouths of the disciples stopped.
In the words of our context we observe that Peter and John were taken from prison to be tried. On the previous day they had gone to the temple to worship. At the Gate Beautiful they had encountered a man that had been lame from birth. Daily his friends brought him to this place in order that he might beg alms from the worshippers. Peter had fixed his eyes upon this man and by the forceful words, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,” he was healed. A large multitude gathered and Peter preached to them, warning them that this was accomplished not by his power, but that of the living Lord. In the course of his sermon, Peter waxed bold, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just and desired a murderer to be granted unto you and killed the Prince of Life, Whom God raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses… repent ye therefore and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”
This was too much for the Sanhedrin. They were not about to let this go unchallenged. They sent out soldiers to take them and place them “in hold unto the next day.” Having assembled together, Annas, Caiphas, and all the members of the council, they placed Peter and John in their midst and asked, “By what power or by what name have ye done this?” This was a loaded question; they had decided ahead of time that their purpose could best be accomplished by asking it just this way. If the disciples would dare to identify their work with that of Jesus, they would by that very fact expose themselves to the same condemnation that Jesus received. If they would deny that it was in Jesus’ name, the Sanhedrin would have no problem.
The answer of the Apostle Peter is the classic retort of the church of all ages, “If we this day be examined of the good deed done…be it known unto you all that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth… doth this man stand here before you whole…neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”
The amazing wonder of this answer is two-fold. Even the Sanhedrin recognized this. Here standing before them were “unlearned and ignorant men.” That could better be translated, unlearned and common men. Peter and John had the ordinary schooling of their day. John was the son of Zebedee, who was a fisherman; Peter’s father was in partnership with Zebedee. It must have been in the interest of this fishing business that John had come to Jerusalem and was acquainted with Caiphas the High Priest. The point is that they had little formal education, especially compared to the council members who were doctors and men of letters. Peter and John were crude fishermen from the region of Galilee. They didn’t rank in the higher echelons of society; they were common ordinary fellows who had followed Jesus.
The council couldn’t help marveling that even though these differences existed they still spoke with authority. They didn’t stammer out of an inferiority complex when they realized that they were called upon to speak before such learned men. Peter preached in clear and concise language the deep mysteries of the faith. He spoke with the tongue of the learned.
The council marveled, and well they might!
Besides this, Peter and John were bold! If ever there was a time of crisis, it was at this very moment. This was the first time the disciples had to face the enemy without Christ being bodily with them. They were alone with the lions that snarled at them and threatened them. Was it not the time to use tact, to exercise every form of diplomacy? Should not the disciples concede that they had been too radical and they would go about their preaching without accusing the Jews of sin? No, it was not the time to cover up, it was the time for boldness. Without fear or hesitation, Peter and John emphasized that they would not keep silence, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
The council marveled at this too.
There was only one explanation, and even the enemies of Christ understand this, “they took knowledge that they had been with Jesus.” What a beautiful testimony, even though it came from reprobate lips. The world is without excuse. The glory of the church is not in man; it is in Christ Jesus her Lord. Pentecost was His crowning work upon His precious church.
The explanation for such knowledge and boldness did not rest in the mere fact that Peter and John followed Jesus while He was preaching on earth. Judas had done this also, but Judas betrayed Christ. This indicates to us that Jesus was not simply a good example and that the power of His disciples rested in their following His worthy example. This would be impossible, for then Peter and John would be no different than Judas. The “being with Jesus” consisted in knowing what Jesus taught and believing it. This was given unto the disciples through the Holy Spirit. The presence of this Spirit in the church can be the only possible interpretation of such boldness and knowledge displayed by Peter and John before the Jewish council.
And thus it ever is for the church.
Well may we meditate upon this glorious truth and pray the Spirit to apply it unto our lives today. The mark of the church is that “she has been with Jesus.” That mark is clearly seen as the church, through her ministry, proclaims the living gospel of Jesus Christ. The disciples of Christ must not sit at the feet of philosophers, scientists, and would-be learned men, and drink at the fountain of their lie and deny the word of Jesus Christ given to us in the infallible Scriptures. The Holy Spirit does not dwell in the sphere of the lie. The very nature of the Spirit is holiness; the sign of the cloven tongues of fire conveyed this truth on Pentecost. Holiness means that the church is consecrated unto God through Jesus Christ. This consecration is expressed in two ways: we must believe what God says to be true, we must do what God says must be done. The power to accomplish this is given us by the Holy Spirit. Our learning is governed by the Word of God; our boldness is expressed in the sphere of the will of God.
Through this ministry the church of Jesus Christ is gathered. Yet, the more faithful we are in this calling the more we may expect the councils of the world to call us to account. The false church prates about a Jesus who is a good example, a Jesus who loves all men and thus as the son of God desires the brotherhood of all men under the universal fatherhood of god. It already has set up the machinery to accomplish this vain dream; the ecumenical movement and all connected with it is geared to this end. Yet, even as Peter and John stood before the Jewish council and condemned them without fear and compromise, so we too must condemn this evil design of the apostate church of our day.
This will involve persecution. It only took a little while and the Jews of the council unleashed the whip upon the disciples, stoned Stephen, beheaded James, and breathed threatenings and slaughter in the church. So, too, in our day, even though the clear testimony of the church must bring the admission from the world, “we have been with Jesus,” yet this Jesus the false church and world do not want. They want to still the voice of a guilty conscience by removing the testimony of the faithful church. They constantly design to silence the faithful witness and leave their bodies lying dead in Jerusalem.
Shall we fear? Shall we resort to compromise? Shall we under the pretense of using tact soften the gospel?
For our strength is not that of men, it is given us of Jesus Christ. Sitting at His feet we need not doubt but He will continue to reveal to us His truth and give us the courage we need to be faithful in maintaining it.
Jesus promised, “when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak, for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.”
Take courage in the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.