The church I now attend in Seaford, Delaware, is doing a chapter by chapter worship series through the book of Acts. I have the opportunity to preach occasionally at this church, and my first time preaching in this series was on Acts 4. I love the boldness of the apostles as they are confronted with all sorts of challenges. I encourage you to read Acts 4 for all the details!
Two disciples, Peter and John, were clearly up to no good: they healed a crippled man! The crowd thinks this is wonderful, but the “authorities” are not amused. They arrest Peter and John and throw them in jail. The next morning, they are brought before the Council, the most powerful body in the Jewish community. These are the priests, the scribes, the men who study and interpret scripture for the community, the authorities for the Jewish people. So they ask, “By what power or what name did you do this?” In other words, “we are the authority here, and we know we didn’t give you permission to heal or teach the people.”
Well, Peter and John might have felt the weight of the world on them at that moment. It is a bit of a David and Goliath situation. This is the all-powerful Council, against Peter and John, two working class guys, fishermen from the back country of Galilee. But they didn’t back down one bit. No, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly answers their charges. “If it is because we showed kindness to a man who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to you and all 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.”
It was no contest really. Scripture tells us in 4:13-14, “when the authorities saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were astonished, and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” The leaders don’t know what to do. The evidence is clear and convincing. The crippled man, now healed, is right there, dancing around. So they send Peter and John out so they can decide what to do with these trouble-makers. “Well, we can’t deny that this healing has happened through these disciples, but what are we going to do with these guys? We have to shut this thing down.” After all, 5000 people became believers just that day after the healing of this man, and before the authorities could shut it down.
So they call Peter and John back in and tell them, you better not do that again. No teaching or talking about Jesus. You got that? Peter and John are not one bit intimidated, and once they are released, they go right back to preaching and teaching about Jesus.
Some thoughts for us:
1. Has anyone noticed that we’ve been with Jesus? They realized Peter and John had been with Jesus. Has anyone noticed that you’ve been with Jesus lately, by your actions, or words, or by the change they see in you? Spending time with Jesus changes us. One of the best ways to spend time with Jesus is by reading your Bible. My church is currently in the midst of a one-year challenge to read the entire Bible. What can you do to make sure you are spending time with Jesus everyday by reading your Bible?
2. What do you care about? What is your passion? It is obvious that all is not right with the world. What issues in your community do you care about enough to act? To act and speak boldly? The church exists, in part, to make the world a better place. Imagine if each of us, every Christian in Delaware, in the United States, in the world, acted boldly for a cause we were passionate about? The world would be a very different place. And there is no shortage of examples around us.
Some years ago, a woman in Salisbury, Maryland, where I used to serve a church, was moved by the homeless people she saw in the mornings. It prompted her to act boldly, with the help and support of her church, to start a homeless ministry, which provides shelter and all sorts of services for the homeless.
A young martial arts teacher started instructing older Asian women in self-defense after the rise of hate crimes in their community.
Girls on the Run, which started as a local program in Charlotte, NC, has positively impacted the lives of more than two million 3rd to 8th grade girls over the past 25 years. They say, “We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.” These girls gain confidence through setting and achieving their running goals, as they also learn valuable life lessons.
Lastly, let us pray for the power of the Holy Spirit so that we, too, can act with boldness in our own communities! Amen.