Text: Acts 3-4 (Ps 120)
Observe Some days after the astonishing events of Pentecost, Peter and John, enroute to pray, encounter a lame beggar, hand out and eyes hopeful, near the temple’s Beautiful Gate. Peter gives him something unexpected – healing in the Name of Jesus! This Name utterly changes the man’s life: “… leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” (3:8) The onlookers are agog. Peter tells them strongly that Jesus, who died at their hands and rose from death, healed the man. Encountering a captive audience, Peter seizes the opportunity to witness to the Lord Jesus, in all the power the Spirit gives.
The encounter with temple VIPs and Sadducees is less salutary -- they arrest Peter and John. Standing before the Council next morning, Peter has another opportunity to boldly proclaim Jesus, reminding them the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (4:11; Ps.118:22) Hearing an untrained fisherman speak with such conviction and wisdom, seeing the former beggar healed, they are silenced. To show them who’s boss, they sternly warn Peter and John to speak no more to anyone in this name (17). As if that would stop them! Meanwhile, 5000 who heard the disciples encountered Christ that day.
Returning to their new gathered community, praise and heartfelt petitions for more boldness, healings, signs and wonders in Jesus’ name invite a fresh, powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. Luke beautifully portrays the unity and amity, generosity, witness and grace in the newborn church (32-37). We encounter Joseph Bar Nabas, a Cypriot (who later accompanies Paul in spreading the Gospel): he sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (37)
Interpret Actions demand explanations, which Peter provides in his second major sermon to the crowd awed at God’s work. He exhorts them to repent of rejecting Jesus as the Messiah – his sermon theme in Acts. ‘Name’ – one’s identity – reveals Jesus as healer (Yahweh Rapha), by Peter’s faith in Him. Peter makes no bones about their complicity in Jesus’ crucifixion. Their ‘ignorance’ in rejecting Jesus as Messiah doesn’t let them off the hook.
The Sadducees ‘worked closely with the Romans to protect their own political and economic interests’ (ESV Study Bible, note, p. 2087); their ignorance of the immense compassion of God erases any concern for those outside their privileged circle. Torah is their rule book, but they have never encountered the living God. (Jn 5:42,44)
The swift growth of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit is staggering. Generosity characterizes the believing community; no one is needy. Barnabas (‘Son of Encouragement’) exemplifies this voluntary sacrificial giving, impelled by the love of Jesus in the Spirit.
Apply Jesus asks, “What do you want?” (Jn 1:38) Hmmm. Well … Boldness in witnessing as the Spirit fills us with passionate love for God. Fearlessness in speaking truth out of love. Gentleness in the face of mockery. Trusting in God as we encounter roadblocks. Loving despite others’ anger or contempt. Risking rejection as we urge repentance. We so need to be an engaged, active, Christ-centred church, learning to encourage, pray, love, reach out, share the love of Christ. We so need to know Christ.
Ask In encountering people who don’t believe, would You give me the opportunity and the words to speak You, Jesus? Would You remake me emboldened, fearless, passionate, vulnerable, risking all for You? Best ask Your Spirit for His power and Your love, yes?
Pray Let me cling to You, living God, so that Peter-like I courageously witness to Your transforming love, forgiveness and ever-new life. I put away my ‘private religion’ that has silenced me for too long. When I open my mouth, Lord, fill it with Your words of love and compassion, in Jesus’ holy name.
Sing Ps 120: A song of ascents Autumn Dawn Leader
Ps. 120: When I was in Trouble I Called on the Lord
Ps. 120: I am a Man of Peace Jason Coghill
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In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.