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Now Luke brings us into the minds of the Jewish elders, to view Peter and John through their eyes. Verses 13-14 are actually one long sentence which describe the scene: (1) Observing the boldness of Peter and John, (2) realizing that they were uneducated simple men, (3) the elders were amazed as they recognized that the disciples had been with Jesus, (4) seeing the man who had been healed standing with them – (5) they had nothing to say in response. In other words, the elders are shocked speechless and have no idea how to respond.
They send Peter and John and the healed man out of the meeting while they consider together what to do. It cannot be denied that a clear sign has occurred through Jesus’ disciples and everyone who lives in Jerusalem knows about it. But the elders don’t want this information to spread any further among the people. (This is an interesting parallel to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, another sign which the disciples were commanded to testify about from Jerusalem to Judea and the world beyond.) The elders therefore decide to threaten – not ‘warn’ as most modern translations have it – them so that they do not speak in Jesus’ name to anyone. The Greek is clear: no longer speak to no one.
When they bring Peter and John in to command them not to utter a single word nor teach in the name of Jesus, the disciples’ response shows they are still operating in the boldness of the Spirit: “We cannot not speak about the things we have seen and heard!” They also ask the elders to judge whether obedience to themselves or to God is right.
It is impossible for me not to think of Christian brothers and sisters in the ‘restricted-access’ countries nearby where I usually live. Despite being persecuted, hauled into police stations, thrown into jail, unable to work or send their children to school or buy property, they cannot not speak of what they know to be true. Would I be so bold? Would I have the courage? I barely have the courage to tell people about Jesus in a persecution-free nation. Have I not seen or have I not heard? How is it that my voice is so restricted? Do I not really believe it to be true? I am profoundly challenged by the message of these verses.
The Jewish elders release Peter and John after further threats, not finding any way to punish them because they have done no wrong and the people are all praising God for what happened to the 40 year old lame man. This reminds me of Peter’s own later charge to “Live such good lives … that [people] may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet 2:12). Doing good deeds gives us the opportunity, when people ask why, to share the name of Jesus. Let us do both!
Prayer: Dear God, please help me to see opportunities to do good, and when people ask me why I do good deeds, give me the courage to talk about the power of Jesus. Give me boldness, beyond my education, that comes from being with Jesus. Lord, I also lift up to you the persecuted church and pray that they will have confidence to continue trusting in you and teaching in the name of Jesus.