PARTNERS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART LXXXII
Peter did repent, after he had denied that he was a disciple of Jesus the Christ, to a maid and to some servants. The reborn Peter, with the partnership of the Holy Spirit, and the lame man who could walk again, strengthened five thousand brethren to become followers of Jesus. It was an undeniable amazing feat! It frightened the highest Jewish authorities. Therefore, they arrested Peter and John; hoping to silence them with reasoning. And for fear of the people, the leaders did not hurt them.
HOW DID PETER, ON HIS THIRD TIME, STAND UP BEFORE THE LEADERS WHO CRUCIFIED HIS LORD?
On the morrow their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set the in the idst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concdning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:5-12).
THE JEWISH AUTHORITIES WERE IN A PREDICAMENT
Who can argue against the evidence? What can one do with men who did what God only could do, especially when thousands believed that it was God’s doing that this man was walking. The work the Apostles were doing, pointed to and glorified God (Matthew 5:16); and even the enemies were afraid to deny it. Their warnings only increased the courage of Peter and John.
Now when Jewish leaders saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak o more to any one in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right to the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old (Acts 4:13-22).
THE SHORT-LIVED GLORY DID END IN DISPERSION
The huge number of people and the miracles stunned the Jewish authorities and also puzzled the Herodians, as well as the Romans. Peter and John, themselves, moved fearlessly in Jerusalem. Large prayer meetings and curiosity seekers filled the temple. The city of Jerusalem became overcrowded with Jews and foreigners. The chief priests and elders did not dare to keep the leaders of the Jesus’ movement in prison or punish them. The followers of Jesus regarded their success as a divine intervention and offered special praise and thanks to God. They also experienced a second filling of the Spirit of the Lord and expected Jesus to return any time. Some believed that the Lord would set up a new Israel, while others were of the mind that they would be taken up and be in the “Heavenly Kingdom” with Jesus. The followers of Jesus, particularly those who were expected to leave this world stopped working, sold and shared their holding with the members of the movement. How long could such a movement last, without causing severe hardships for the community and for their own movement? None of these things were on the minds of those who expected to be removed from this world. Well, the Lord did send Herod and the Romans to scatter all the followers of Jesus, except for the Apostles (Acts 8:1-4).
When Peter and John were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. And when the friends heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against his Anointed’—for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servants Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Ponitus, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out they hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:23-31).
Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as we possessors of land on houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need. Tus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnaas (which means, Son of encouragement), a Livite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the money and lad t at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:32-37).
NOT ENOUGH RICH PEOPLE WERE PARTING WITH THEIR WEALTH TO SUSTAIN THE MOVEMENT OF JESUS
It is troubling to read that the Holy Spirit took the lives of Annanias and Sapphira because they lied. Jesus forgave the people who crucified Him (Acts 5:1-11; Luke 23:34). Now, the Jews, the disciples, Luke, and millions of followers of Jesus believed that God and the Holy Spirit blesses, rewards, and also curses and punishes. Not all faith justifies man! Only the kind of faith that makes things right, justifies man. For man to make the right choice, all of the Bible has been recorded, the good as well as the bad (II Timothy 3:16). And, only the things that God wills will take place, and not the idea that man presumes to have come from God, or the Christ, the Son of God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). The truth disclosed itself! Peter did not send another unrepented life into eternity; and neither did Paul make another hostile person blind (Acts 13:8-12). Also, Christ did not return and move the first generation into heaven, and neither did Christ restore Israel to a Davidic status. However, the Lord commissioned Herod and the Romans to send the followers of Christ into the world where they could do the things that would honor God and their own lives (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Matthew 5:14-16). God ordained that all earthly life ends at the pearly gates of death, where the spirit goes on to his or her reward or punishment; and where all other human speculations and presumptions cease to exist.
The death of Annanias and Sapphira did cause fear to dominate and allowed the movement to grow rapidly, and good miracles did continue. It also increased the leading Sadducees to built up their hate for the followers of Christ. And they did find ways to hinder Jesus’ followers advancement. Peter, in particular, became more and more popular and unrestrained. The membership grew out of control. The disciples were inexperienced in leadership; food shortage began when the rich withdrew their support, distributions became preferential, and complaints mounted. Time had come to re-adjust and add leaders that could meet some of the needs. Only, the overall objective, which required adjusting to the world, and win more followers over to Christ remained on their minds.
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor. And more than multitudes both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed (Acts 5:12-16).
THE HIGH PRIEST’S ATTEMPT TO SILENCE THE APOSTLES FAILED
The high priest and his Sadducees arrested the Apostles and put them in their common prison. But the Apostles had made many friends in heaven and on earth. The Sadducees could not keep the Apostles in jail. The believers believed that an angel was releasing them. However, the Apostles also had made friends among the guards and people who could imitate angels, like the jailer did in Paul’s life in Philippi (Act 16:25-34). The Apostles were arrested in the temple, and after their release they went back to the temple and continued witnessing about Jesus, the source of eternal life, where they had left off. In the morning, the high priest called a council and ordered the prisoners to be brought before them; only, the Apostles were no longer in prison. Someone reported them being in the temple and the captain with his officers were ordered to bring in the jail breakers. The captain, used good sense and managed to persuade the Apostles to follow him peacefully to the council chamber. The officers behaved as if they were protecting, rather than forcing the Apostles to join them for a walk. Even before the council, the apostles were treated kindly and were asked to give a reason for their behavior, and Peter was ready to pierce their guilty conscience. It would also be the last time, Peter would be given a chance to preach to the council.
“But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:29-32).