Psalm 139, Acts 4:13-22
June 14, 2015
This is the next installment of the story of Peter and John. I told you this was a long story. It started when they had healed the disabled man right at the gate of the Temple. And they had done so “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Essentially, they were continuing his ministry. And as I said lasts week, those who thought they had ended Jesus’ ministry were not very happy about it. This became a huge controversy!
Peter and John have now come up against the same guys Jesus did. Their names were Annas and Caiaphas. Remember them? After Peter preaches his second “Christian sermon” at the Temple gate, those high priests have them arrested. And at that point, Peter preaches his third Christian sermon. This time it was addressed to those rulers themselves. And our passage for today is about their reaction.
Now remember that the religious authorities in those days were also the civil authorities. They had that civil power. They had the power to do what we read about in this story. They could arrest people. They could put people on trial. They could censure them. They could make legal pronouncements. And that’s what they did in this case. In verse 18 we read this. “So they called them (Peter and John) and they charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” They were making an official, legal pronouncement! It was like giving them a “restraining order.”
Well, the great thing about this story is that Peter knew these guys had that authority. He knew he was being faced with a choice, a choice of choosing their authority, or God’s. And he laid that out before those religious/legal authorities! He even put the choice back on them. “You tell us!” he said. “You tell us whether we should obey you or God!” That was a pretty smart answer, if you think about it!
It was smart, because it put those religious authorities in a “quandary.” Because Peter had a good point! In a certain sense they might have agreed with him. People should obey God. The problem was, they didn’t think God was telling these guys to do what they were doing. But Peter had a real case to back up his point. The man they healed stood beside him, and the priests could not deny that a real, legitimate, bonafied miracle had taken place! They said that themselves. They knew somehow that God was in this! But still they charged “the boys” not to do it again! That’s very ironic from our point of view, isn’t it?
I think there’s a real lesson in this for us. There are times in our lives, where, like the disciples, we are called to choose between what God wants us to do and what someone else wants us to do. Anybody ever have to make that choice? I think we’ve all been called on to make that choice, at one time or another. I won’t ask how many made the right one. Because we blow that choice sometimes, don’t we? You know, we like look to this same Peter we’re talking about today, as one who “officially” denied Christ. “Oh wasn’t that a shame?!” But think about how we all do that from time to time. I’m sure after that incident in the courtyard, Peter made a determination that he would never deny him again! Maybe we need to think about making such a determination. And then, when things in our lives try to make us deny our faith, we can remember that determination.
That’s a good thing to think about. That’s a good thing to remember all the time. But! Here’s the even harder lesson. Yes, there are times when we are called to choose between what God wants us to do and what someone else wants us to do. But, there are also times when we find ourselves choosing between what God wants us to do and what we want to do. That’s the harder one, isn’t it? And we can be pretty good at rationalizing that one, can’t we? As I’ve often said, we humans have a tendency to want to be in control of our lives. It’s hard to look to God’s will, isn’t it?
Throughout my ministry I’ve often been asked this question. “How can I know what God’s will is for my life?” And that’s a good question to think about. But sometimes the question that’s even more important is this. “How can I have the strength and determination to follow God’s will for my life?” That’s the hard one! Knowing God’s will is not the same as following God’s will. We’ve been talking about “following” this year, haven’t we? And if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll realize that we can’t do that on our own, We have to ask for and to seek the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit. We need God’s help to choose God!
So, I want to challenge you today, I want to exhort you, I want to encourage you today, and every day, to choose God! I think we need to make that decision literally every day! So maybe make that part of the “First Five” I mentioned a few weeks ago. Give the “First Five” minutes to God every day. And among whatever else you say to him, tell him you’re going to choose him and his ways that day. And be sure to ask for the strength to do that.
Eternal God, we thank you for your presence and your strength in our lives. Help us to seek those things. Help us to rely on those things. Help us to follow where you would lead us. For we pray in our Savior’s name, Amen.