“And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”
This was written shortly after Christ’s resurrection and His ascension into heaven. In fact, it was very soon after Pentecost.
Peter and John stood before the same Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to the death of the cross. These two fishermen, who spoke with a Galilean accent, were being tried before this highest juridical and ecclesiastical assembly of the Jews in the great city of Jerusalem. Though they stood before the high priest in his official robes and before an august assembly of seventy men, scribes and chief priests, they showed no fear, but even spoke with a ring or power and authority in their voices. They were confident that they represented a righteous cause.
It was evident to everyone in that room that these men had never attained a degree in the great school of Gamaliel, the great doctor of the law who taught in that same city. They had no class distinction, but were of the common folk who were considered to be quite ignorant of all that pertained to such matters as were dealt with by this court. And yet, without as much as a quiver in their voices, they spoke with an authority that could only be envied by the scribes. The entire assembly was impressed. These two ordinary men reminded them of someone else. And that someone had stood in this very assembly. Jesus had cut deeply into their souls, even by His awesome silence. Yes, these men had been with Jesus. One could recognize that at once.
The Sanhedrin was so right; these men had been with Jesus. Jesus had certainly made an indelible impression upon them during those three years of their companionship. His teaching, His actions had not merely made an impression, but had actually changed their whole lives. And now, what the Sanhedrin did not realize, but what the Book of Acts fills in for us: “They were filled with the Holy Ghost.” He being dead still lives; lives in them by His Spirit, even testifying through them.
People do make an impression on us.
Even unawares, parents make impressions on their children by their very mannerisms, speech and actions. Children are adapted to receive and absorb impressions. They like to imitate; Bobby walks around in Daddy’s shoes, and mimics his father in many ways. A newlywed housewife holds her broom and mops her floors exactly as her observant eye has caught her mother do it years before. Ministers who stay in a congregation for some time leave a definite stamp on the members of the flock. True, some are influenced more than others. But very often you can recognize their “spiritual fathers” when people are expressing their convictions. In some cases that can even be bad. As the late Rev. Ophoff tended to say: “A man’s virtues are his weaknesses.” I suppose it all depends on’ whether a man is led by the Spirit or by the flesh. But parents and ministers can leave impressions that become weaknesses in others. But the point I want to make is, that we never come in contact with each other without making impressions on each other.
In fact, a strong bond of affinity can develop between friends. That bond can become so strong between boy friend and girl friend that they become life mates. They are drawn to each other, so that they are always in each other’s thoughts. A husband sees only his wife where a whole group is gathered together. A wife casts casual glances at her husband because of her concern about his happiness and welfare. As the years roll by and petty differences fade away, they almost begin to think and look alike. They can read each other’s thoughts from a distance. Increasingly they live only for each other.
This is only a picture of a far richer spiritual reality.
That spiritual reality is that we become imitators of God as beloved children.
No one, of course, must take this in, the modernistic sense, as if we have an example of Christ drawn out for us on the pages of Scripture, and now it is up to us to pattern our lives after His. In that case, it would be tragic that we do not have a biography, or better still, an autobiography of Christ, a “Leben Jesu” to follow. Then we could pattern all our actions after His. But God was wise in not giving us anything like that. He does not want us to ask: What would Jesus do in this particular situation.
For we have much more. We have the example of Christ, but also His revealed Word. We have the teachings of our Lord preserved for us from Genesis to Revelation. For all Scripture is inspired of God. All Scripture is the Word, the revelation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in passing, I would make the remark that I do not like a red letter Bible. Why should the words of Jesus be put in red letters when all Scripture is His Word to us?
But we have even more than that. We have the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. He Who dwelt among us has passed through death into life. He died, and is risen, and is gone into glory. Although the disciples had known Christ in the flesh, it meant much more to them that they had Christ by His Spirit in their hearts. For by His Spirit He regenerates us, makes us new creatures, and daily instructs us, so that we are transformed into His likeness.
Paul speaks of that in his epistle to the Galatians. He makes that beautiful confession: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) And later in that same epistle he boldly declares: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17) All the scars of his whippingsand scourgings are so many brand marks of ownership, which. he proudly bears as evidence that he “belongs to his faithful Savior Jesus Christ,” to be His “slave” forever.
Peter speaks of “tasting that the Lord is gracious (attractive, beautiful, freely bestowing gifts of His favor upon us).” (I Peter 2:3).
And then he adds: “To Whom coming, as unto a living stone, . . . ye also, as lively stones, are built into a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (4, 5). Here again we see the unity with Christ, living out of Him, even as stones of the temple, branches of the vine, or members of His Body.
Or let the apostle John tell us of his experience: “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not appear what, we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:1, 2).
Is that what the resurrection of Christ means to you?
Is Easter but a memorial day, be it a pleasant memorial day? Or does it thrill you with the thought: He lives! I have a living Savior! He lives just as I live. No, He lives in a far higher sense than I do. But I know He lives; for He lives within my heart?
Then we experience His power even in the preaching of the Word and say with Paul: “But we all, with open face beholding in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Cor. 3:18).