Conversations with Peter: Obedient Rebel

I call Peter an obedient Rebel because he disobeyed the right people.   Now, before Parents and other authority figures jump all over me about how I shouldn’t encourage young people to disobey authority, and how God said that we should obey authority and blah blah blah….let’s take a look at Peter’s first “speaking gig”.   The first time that Peter spoke really got the attention of those in authority and how he responded to criticism and abuse is an example for all Christians to follow. We must also look at the reactions of those in authority to what Peter was saying and if their actions were justified

Acts 2 was Peter’s actual “first speaking gig” in which he addressed the crowd immediately following Pentecost.   It was that impromptu moment when, filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, he and the other apostles spoke to a crowd and 3,000 people converted.   Peter’s second “speaking Gig” was in Acts 3, when he and John were on their way to the temple and he healed a man and then spoke to the crowd that gathered to witness the miracle.   Now, here we are in Acts 4, it’s the consequences and the confrontation of their actions in Acts 2 and 3.   Wait a minute, you’re probably saying.  “Consequences and confrontation”?   Those have negative connotations for most of us.  When we think of consequences we think of being sent to the corner, or time out, detention, etc.   There are positive consequences as well.   Awards, recognition, and even adulation.   In Peter and Johns case, the consequences for healing a man and speaking are both negative and positive.   Confrontation, well, that is both positive and negative.   Confrontation is positive and has to happen when injustice and apathy are present, and it’s negative when authority abuses it, or when individuals attempt to bully others to gain power over others.  In Acts 4, we see the positive and negative sides of Consequences and Confrontation.  Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Acts 4:1-4 The Consequences

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. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

We have an example of both the positive and negative side of consequences.  Here, in vs 1 we see the authority becoming uncomfortable and worried about what Peter and John were doing and saying.   They were basically upsetting the apple cart.   The Priests and the Sadducees were the unquestioned authority in the temple and in the religious life of Israel, now, all of a sudden these guys, who were disciples of Jesus, who was crucified not to long ago, were encroaching on their territory.  They had to be stopped, so they arrested them.  The positive side of consequences is also seen.   Because Peter and John were obedient to GOD and spoke the words HE placed on their hearts, 5000 men were converted, and we can “guesstimate” that an equal number of women probably followed suit.  This is the first time Peter and John would be arrested, and it wouldn’t be their last.   From this point on they become a thorn in the side of both the Jewish authority and soon after, the Roman government.   Peter, John, the apostles, and the disciples all realized that if they were to be true to their calling that Christ had given them, then they had to be obedient to Christ first; and that meant speaking and doing that which was contrary to the accepted norm of the day.   They weren’t advocating an armed rebellion or a rejection of Jewish faith, they were advocating for reform.  Not a reform of political or religion structures, but a personal and spiritual reform of the individual.   A relationship with the One true GOD.   This, however, threatened the “apple cart” of the Priests, and later, we’ll see, the Roman Government.  The arrests set up the confrontation for Peter and John vs The Priests.

Acts 4:5-22: The Confrontation 

I’m going to break this section up into three parts, because three separate meetings took place.  The first meeting is found in verses 5-12 and was the initial interrogation of Peter, John and TRFLG (The Random Formerly Lame Guy).  Often when this story is told, TRFLG is overlooked, but let’s be honest, this random guy is the catalyst of this story.  It’s because he was healed that Peter and John were arrested and the three of them were standing (NOTE: STANDING.   24 hours ago, TRFLG couldn’t stand on his own, and how he was STANDING with Peter and John) in front of the Temple authorities.   This random guy is literally the fly on the wall at the creation of the early church.  Let’s take a look at this first meeting:

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 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.”

This is the initial interrogation.   Peter and John are asked for their qualifications and credentials and under whose authority they’re preaching.   Peter’s response?  Well, he didn’t attack them or justify anything, he spoke boldly the truth.  The truth was that it was by the name of JESUS, whom they had crucified a little less then two months prior and who GOD raised from the dead.   It was through this power that the man was healed and that Salvation is found nowhere else.   This was problematical for the priests.  These three men were upsetting their apple cart and were challenging their authority and position.   What was their response?  Meeting number two.  They told Peter, John, and TRFLG to wait outside.

13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together.16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it.17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

Their response, well, they were worried.  What they saw before them were average, unschooled men with extraordinary courage.   They were both amazed and worried.  They knew that they had been close associates of JESUS, and they had the evidence of healing standing with the disciples, so what could they do?   So, they conferred among themselves and their solution:  Intimidate them.  Keep them from speaking anymore.  It’s the first step when abusive authority is challenged.  Threaten them and hopefully they’ll shut up.   So, how did that work for them?  Meeting #2:

1Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

The apostles response:  NOT GONNA HAPPEN.  WE’RE NOT SHUTTING UP!

21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.

The authorities response:  more threats, but they couldn’t do anything.  Current Public opinion was with the Apostles because of the obvious miracle, so they let them go.   This leads to meeting #4

Meeting number four is found in Acts 4:23-31, but I just want to key on the last three verses:

29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

When they were released, they went back to the other apostles and disciples and shared what was said in meetings 1 and 3 and their response:  PRAYER.   They prayed and their prayer was incredible.  It was a prayer acknowledging GOD’s power and authority in their lives and their request:  It wasn’t for safety or protection, it was for boldness and the ability to do even more in HIS name.   The result was that HOLY SPIRIT shook the rafters and filled those in the room.  The consequences of that prayer is that those people changed their community and later the world.   That’s what Christians can do when we pray and ask for the power of the HOLY SPIRIT.  We change first our communities and then the world.  Let’s stop asking for protection and safety, and instead let’s start asking for boldness so that we can change our communities.  And change their communities they did.  Acts 4 closes with a powerful testimony:

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

The consequences of their prayer was community.  They shared what they had, they spoke the word of GOD boldly, and they helped each other.   Now, “Progressives” (or as they should be known as Socialist and even Communists) use this verse to further their agenda and say that they this is an early example of socialism.  NO,it’s not.  It’s an early example of how church should be done.  It’s not communal living or enforced poverty, it’s church living done right.  It’s sharing what they have and helping those in need.  That’s what the church is supposed to do.  It’s impacting and influencing your direct community so that needs are properly met.   It’s also about mentoring the next generation of world changers.   Acts 4 ends with an introduction of someone who was to be of great influence and that individual was Barnabas.   Barnabas is introduced as a new believer from Cyprus who sold a field and gave the money to the apostles.   We’ll later see that Barnabas is to become a companion of Paul, but it all began here, by laying his gift at the apostles feet.

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