The In-Between Years - Part 20

Series: The In-Between Years

September 27, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years — Part 20

Last week we finished up Peter’s second sermon preached after the church was born. It happened when crowds of people rushed together to see a lame man who had been healed. His message wasn’t long, but it was packed full of truths connecting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to Moses and the OT Exodus, as well as Abraham and the covenant God made with him.

While Peter and John unpacked that message to a captivated crowd, the same folks who gave Jesus fits in the gospels arrived on the scene, the religious leaders. They were not happy.

1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. Acts 4:1–2 (ESV)

The priests were sacred workers who served in the temple. The captain of the temple was the second highest temple official. He oversaw the temple guard (kind of like campus police). The Sadducees were a particular sect of priests who traced their lineage back to Zadok, a priest who served under King Solomon. 

The Sadducees were more aristocratic, more wealthy political noblemen than they were religious figureheads. Josephus, an ancient Jewish historian, wrote of them, “The Sadducees have the confidence of the well-to-do but no following among the people” (Ant. 13.10.6 §298) and their teaching “has reached but few of the people, yet they are men of highest esteem” (Ant. 18.1.4 §17). 

How could they be unpopular among the people yet have power over them? They collaborated with the non-Jews who had power over the civilized world, the Romans.

You may be aware that doctrinally they were unique among the Jews in that they did not believe in a resurrection. Once you died, That was it.

These religious leaders were ticked at Peter and John for two reasons:

1.      They were teaching the people.That was the religious leaders’ job.

2.      They proclaimed Jesus as having come back from the dead (resurrection). That was not only heresy to them, it was a dangerous threat to their power.

So they did what authorities do when they perceive a threat… 

3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.  Acts 4:3–4 (ESV)

You’d think being arrested might have squashed the crowd’s response to Peter’s message. But it had the opposite effect. Just as 3,000 were saved after his first sermon, 5,000 (and that’s just the men!) were saved after this one. Thousands heard the call to repent and they did. Why? The power of the Spirit!

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 (ESV)

So now, in a matter of days, the Spirit’s power had grown the church from 120 disciples, to tens of thousands. While those new believers rejoiced in the community of faith, the temple captain locked Peter and John away. It was too late in the day for handling legal matters. They’d deal with them in the morning…

5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”  Acts 4:5–7 (ESV)

The elders, scribes, rulers and high priestly family make up the powerful ruling council over the Jews called the Sanhedrin. And guess what party controlled this council? The Sadducees. They would decide the fate of these men.

A big mistake was made when they gave Peter and John a chance to talk. And of all things they asked by what power or what name had they healed the lame beggar. That’s like asking me about my grandchild.

Here comes Peter’s sermon number thee ya’ll!

8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you 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. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 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 4:8–12 (ESV)

Once again Peter gives credit where it’s due: Jesus. And once again Peter takes them to the OT Scripture when he refers to Jesus as the cornerstone they rejected. It’s a quote from Ps. 118…

22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. 23 This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.  Psalm 118:2223 (ESV)

Peter made this connection because while he was with Jesus, he made it of himself when he told the parable of the wicked tenants…

17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”  Luke 20:1718 (ESV)

One commentator writes:

…in God’s view Scripture has already told of the rejection of Jesus by his contemporaries. The stone that did not measure up to the expected estimate of builders has become the most important stone in the edifice. It is accorded the place of honor by the function that it now plays in the whole structure.

“Cornerstone” is not to be understood in the modern sense (the stone of a principal part of the building, usually laid at its inauguration, with a date on it and often some inscription). It expresses rather the function of a main, often oversized, stone used at an important spot in the joining of two walls of a building, to bear their weight and stress.[1]

Paul made this connection as well…

18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.  Ephesians 2:18–22 (ESV) 

Jesus is the cornerstone of the spiritual temple God is building, a temple made up of all who have called on his name, those who have repented and believed. The church. 

We will come back to this next time, because there’s much more here. For now let’s move on.

Look at how the Sanhedrin responded. Oh my gosh, I love this so much. It’s one of the most amazing verses in all Scripture… 

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13 (ESV)

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John.” That word boldness in the Greek means outspokenness, frankness, courage.[2] Luke describes the witness of the apostles and the church using this word in noun or verb form a lot in Acts.

We’ll see it at the end of this chapter…

31 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 continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:31 (ESV)

We’ll see it describe Paul right after he was saved… 

28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord.  Acts 9:28 (ESV)

And then we’ll see it numerous times following, always in the sense of the early church proclaiming Jesus boldly in the face of opposition or difficult circumstances. The very last verse of Acts ends with Paul…

31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.  Acts 28:31 (ESV)

Study it carefully and you find it’s not a boldness displayed with arrogance or foolish defiance. It’s not prideful or showy. It’s a boldness that’s powerful yet meek. It’s confrontational yet humble. It’s a spiritual eloquence as one scholar put it. Which brings us to the next part of this verse…

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13 (ESV) 

Peter and John had not been born with means. They had not attended rabbinical school or received any official training. Yet somehow they exhibited a “spiritual eloquence” and grasp of the Scriptures that exceeded their assumed intellect and skillset. This shocked the Sanhedrin, Jewish men who were wealthy, who had attended rabbinical school, who were trained in the Scriptures. Men who had a reason to be bold. Men who, even with all that going for them, were intimidated by common, lowly fishermen.

One scholar writes… 

The authorities were no doubt used to rounding up troublemakers and teaching them a lesson. Normally such people, rabble-rousers of one sort or another, wouldn’t have been able to string together more than a few sentences once they were put on the spot and received a direct challenge. But with Peter and John it was different. Clearly they hadn’t been to rabbinical school to study the scriptures. In the small society of ancient Judaism people would know who the up-and-coming bright young students were; these men certainly weren’t that type. They were ‘untrained, ordinary men’. What’s more, they had come out with a shrewd use of a Psalm, such as you might expect to get only if someone had sat in class and learned about various types of biblical interpretation. But they hadn’t. What on earth was going on?[3]

I wonder how long it took them to put 2 and 2 together. How long it took them to realize they’d been down this road before. They had had run-ins not all that long ago with a common man from a hick town who had no training, no credentials, a man who went around teaching with a brilliance and authority that confounded even the brightest of their own. A man who performed miracles as well. A man fearlessly bold but not arrogant. Not prideful or showy. A man who exuded a confidence that was powerful yet meek. Confrontational yet humble. A man who astonished everyone who met him…

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13 (ESV)

The religious leaders realized Peter and John had spent time with Jesus. That explained their boldness, their brilliance, but even that, too, is astonishing. Spending time with Jesus can do that?

In a high-security prison somewhere in the US lives a muscular, tattooed man named Montel. At age 42, he’d spent half his life behind bars. His nickname in the hood from which he came answers the obvious question: homicide. Imagine if that were your nickname. Homicide

Bob Perry, a Christian commercial airline captain, met Montel when he began visiting inmates as a ministry. He writes about a certain encounter…

During one of our recent weekly discussions, Montel seemed more melancholy than normal. It took a while, but we finally prompted him to let us know what was bothering him.

"Some kids from my old hood are showing up on the block. I was talking to some of them on the yard a few days ago. They told me how much money they be makin' and what kinda guns they wanna buy when they get out. But then they told me . . .” 

His voice trailed off. His eyes grew red. Then he muttered, "They told me 'Homicide' was a legend."

The room went silent.

"I kinda like bein' a legend. Makes me feel big, you know? . . . But here's the thing though . . . I don't wanna be 'Homicide' no more."[4]

The reason he didn’t want to be homicide anymore was because he had met Jesus. Montel had become a Christian, far from perfect but slowly growing in grace.

Perry continues…

The last time I saw Montel, he handed me a piece of notebook paper on which he had carefully crafted a poem titled "Let It Rain God Love."

"I wrote this," he said. "I want you to read it and tell me if it's good."

The handwritten poem filled a piece of tattered notebook paper. It included these heartfelt words:

"Who am I to tell you not to cry, but I suggest you let it all go, because holding on to the past pain prevents you from seeing growth.

Even the heart needs sunshine, or darkness will prevent it from seeing joy.

If we don't let God love rain, many souls will be destroyed." 

The verse continues in much the same vein. It's not polished or profound, but the beauty of Montel's poem is that it is something Homicide could never have conceived [on his own.]

How could a hardened, uneducated criminal produce that? He had spent time with Jesus. That’s how it is with the man from Nazareth who did all things well. Whatever he touches grows and blossoms and bears fruit, even in the most unlikely conditions.

Conclusion: As we close, note that Peter and John weren’t the only ones there who had been with Jesus that day… 

14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.  Acts 4:14 (ESV)

The man who had been healed stood right beside Peter and John. That attests to the miracle and so much more. Remember, the previous afternoon he’d been a beggar sitting at the temple gate when they walked by…

4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.”  Acts 3:4 (ESV)

The first time we met him he was looking down. Beggars weren’t supposed to look regular folks in the eye. It was a cultural norm they adhered to. They kept their place far down the social ladder.

But now, he’s shoulder to shoulder with Peter and John looking at the Sanhedrin head on. I mentioned last time how this means he received more than just a physical healing that day. He’d put his faith in the Jesus who healed him as well. Less than 24 hours with Jesus had given him the boldness to risk being arrested himself and stand proudly beside his new brothers in the Lord. 

That’s crazy enough, but here’s what I noticed that really blew my mind. It wasn’t the persuasiveness of Peter’s message that shut the Sanhedrin down. It wasn’t Peter and John’s witness that left them speechless, it was the beggar’s! 

Because he fearlessly expressed his newfound faith by just boldly being there “they had nothing to say in opposition.”

This is a powerful demonstration of Paul’s words to the Corinthians… 

26 My dear friends, remember what you were when God chose you. The people of this world didn’t think that many of you were wise. Only a few of you were in places of power, and not many of you came from important families. 27 But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. 28 What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important. 29 God did all this to keep anyone from bragging to him. 30 You are God’s children. He sent Christ Jesus to save us and to make us wise, acceptable, and holy. 31 So if you want to brag, do what the Scriptures say and brag about the Lord.  1 Corinthians 1:26–31 (CEV)

He sent Christ to save us, to make us wise and acceptable and holy.

Take him up on his offer to save all those who call upon his name.

[1] Fitzmyer, J. A. (2008). The Acts of the Apostles: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 31, p. 301). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

[2] BDAG

[3] Wright, T. (2008). Acts for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-12 (p. 67). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

[4] Bob Perry. “Killing Homicide,” Touchstone Magazine;

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