Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

02/21/16 Sermon - They Could Not Be Silent

“They Could Not Be Silent”

Acts 4: 1-12

 

Not much has changed since the first Christian church began. Humans continue to seek power and they continue to use that power for their own benefit. After reading and studying this passage this week, and listening to the news on the radio, I began to wonder? Have Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priests’ family been reincarnated as candidates running for the American presidency? Or as members of the Supreme Court of America? I in no way believe in re-incarnation, however I do believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is something about power that takes over the senses of humans, when they are not centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, down through the ages, since the resurrection of Jesus, and the formation of the Christian Church, Satan has been doing his best to get rid of the notion that Jesus is the Son of God, and has been feeding the lie that power makes us great by masquerading as angels of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”

The sad thing is, those with power honestly think they are the light. They think they have the light and because they are more powerful than others it is up to them to tell others what is right.

That is what is going on in this passage. Peter and John have been brought before these men, known as the Sanhedrin. The most powerful men in the land, at the time. Today, it would be like one of us being brought before the Supreme Court Justices of America, to defend our case.

Let’s go back a bit and remind ourselves of what has occurred for these religious leaders in the past six months. Not too long ago, Jesus of Nazareth was claiming His kingdom, and it was appealing to those who heard. Remember our study of Mark. Crowds of thousands were coming out to hear Him and many were believing His message and turning from what the Jewish leaders were telling them. These very men, whom Peter and John were standing before, were the same men in charge when Jesus entered Jerusalem for His final Passover. Their names do not appear in the text of the crucifixion, but their signatures are written all over it.

You will need some background information to help you comprehend the complexity of the situation.

Peter and John had been thrown into jail, and brought before, not some lower court judge, but the kingpins of the of all the Jews. And the reason for their arrest, we are told in verse 7, was they were teaching the people, in the temple. Not only were they teaching in the temple, they were teaching the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead through the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the very One the Sanhedrin had rejected and put to death.

There are a few things that need to be unpacked here with this accusation.

First, the job of teaching in the temple was the right of the Sanhedrin, not two joking fishermen, who had not been approved by them and properly trained by them. Peter and John had no accreditations and they were found teaching in the temple, this was the turf of the Jewish leaders, and the two men were found teaching the people, teaching masses. Think about it, the Sanhedrin could not allow this. The Sanhedrin kept the messages that were given to the people under their direct scrutiny.

This way they could keep the masses in control, doing the things they felt was best, at least best for them. For the people to be taught something entirely different meant they would lose their power. Direct threat! Not Good! Not only was the idea of losing power threatening, the very message Peter and John were preaching was in direct opposition of their religious doctrine, for the Sanhedrin held tightly to the belief that there was no such thing as the resurrection of the dead.

Peter and John were completely aware of the views of the Sadducees. So one could imagine what they were feeling when the morning came, and they were placed in front of the highest religious leaders, face to face. For up to this point, the leaders of the Sanhedrin had kept themselves hidden from the front lines. Up to this point it had been the Pharisees who had been doing the dirty work.

It is important to understand the Jewish religious hierarchy. There were two groups of men, within the ranks of Jewish religious leaders, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. In this passage we have the Sadducees who were accusing Peter and John.

The two groups of men were constantly in opposition of each other. One of the reasons for their opposition was their opposing views on what the Torah taught regarding the resurrection. The Sadducees as I have just said did NOT believe in any resurrection of the dead and the Pharisees DID believe in a resurrection of the dead. The two groups rarely worked together, except on the occasion of Jesus’ crucifixion. It was the Pharisees that were the ones we read about, who were persistently attacking, accusing, and challenging Jesus wherever He turned. The collaboration of the groups was short lived. The Pharisees may have been willing to challenge Jesus when He was living, but now that He had been killed and resurrected, the Pharisees were no longer willing to be the front men for the Sanhedrin. Later on in the book of Acts we will see that the two groups return to their former animosity for each other.

The second thing we need to understand in regards to the accusation the Sadducees have given for arresting Peter and John of “teaching in the temple” has a direct connection to their opposition to Jesus doing the same thing.

This is the stuff good movies are made of, think about it. We have this group of powerful men, who have been needled and poked and agitated by this itinerant carpenter’s son, Jesus, who had been claiming to be God, and who obviously, in the eyes of the religious leaders was nothing but a nuisance, and a threat to their influence and power over the people. In order to get rid of this pain in their side, the top leaders bend their resistance a little bit and decide if they work together with the Pharisees, whom they detest, but are willing to tolerate as long as the Pharisees are willing to be the front men, and not reveal that the Sadducees have anything to do with the crucifixion of Jesus, because if their involvement leaked out to the masses, they would lose their popularity and possibly some authority. So, these two groups work together, secretly, so secretly, that the Sadducees had no idea who Jesus even was, or what He looked like. Remember, they meet with Judas, and in order to arrest Jesus, they have to come up with this secret sign of Judas kissing Jesus, so they will know which man to arrest! This is even better than a KJB/CIA movie!

And it gets better, because just when the Sadducees think they have rid themselves of this Jesus movement, they have killed the leader and they have not been associated with the ordeal, there was a resurrection! 

Of all things!

To add to that, there was the problem of an empty tomb! Ugh!

To top it off, along comes Pentecost!

It was like Jesus was being multiplied, like a sci-fi movie where there are multiples of the same being sent out with the same power to infiltrate the world.

And here before them were two of these infiltrators who have just performed the miracle of miracles!

The Sadducees now have this well-known, forty-year old beggar, crippled from birth, no less, walking and leaping and praising Jesus. The One the Jews of Jerusalem had rejected and put to death, remember!

The harder they tried to “lay to rest” this Jesus of Nazareth, and all of His teachings and claims, the more they see His presence being multiplied.

At best, the Sanhedrin was looking at these two men, Peter and John and trying to put together a good case against them. Obviously they were smarter than these two laymen, and they had been able to get rid of more learned men than these before. Just who did these “Nobodies” think they were? Going into the temple, of all places, as if they owned the place, and doing and saying whatever they pleased? Why, everyone knew that in order to do such things they needed to the approval of the men in charge! The first thing the Sanhedrin needed to do was regain their authority, and scare these two men into understanding who was in charge.

The idea of establishing who was in “authority” is the key to this passage. The Sanhedrin were quite aware that there was a direct link between the authority or power of someone with the name by which they performed their act. Hence their question in verse 7,

“By what power or what name did you do this?”

You see, if the Sanhedrin can connect the apostles’ act with something demonic or something other than the power of God, they have a case against them. Peter and John had not done this in the authority of the temple, which in the minds of the Jewish leaders was same as the authority of God, so unless the apostles answered by the authority of the temple, which they couldn’t, it would have to be of something other than God, thus the Sanhedrin thought they had trapped Peter and John.

But oh no!

This story keeps reminding everyone who was really in charge. This chapter began with Pentecost, when the Spirit of God was poured out on those waiting in the upper room. Peter and John were doing their usual daily routine. They had been on their way to the temple, at 3:00 in the afternoon, to pray. As they approached the temple gate, named “Beautiful”, by the way, they encountered a man they had encountered every other day they had gone there.

Except, on this day, the beggar reached out to them personally and being filled with the Holy Spirit, not with money, Peter and John offered what they had most, the power of name of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter and John may have remembered what Jesus had given them just before He left, the Great Commission, which we can find in Matthew 28:18. They may have remembered all authority, both in heaven and on earth had been given to them. This meant that any act in the name of Jesus Christ, was an act with His power, and with His authority.

We are told in verse 8 that Peter was, “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

And his response to the Sanhedrin’s question was short and to the point. Peter first points out that what they had done was far from being evil. Why, they had just made a sick man, well. One could hardly call this a crime. And as for the power with which they performed this deed, it was indeed, accomplished in the name of Jesus Christ, Jesus the Nazarene, the very One, the Sanhedrin had rejected and put to death, yet whom God had raised from the dead.

Peter then quotes, Psalm 118:22

“the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone”

Okay, talk about the Holy Spirit giving the right words to someone!

This Scripture would have been the very Scripture that would prick the ears and minds of the Sadducees in the room that day. If we look back at what was written in Matthew, chapter 21, we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, followed by his cleansing of the temple, and His healing and teaching which all resulted in Jesus being challenged by the religious leaders as to what authority He was doing such things. Jesus responded with a question of His own, which had to do with the authority in which John had used to baptize. This, of course, stopped the religious leaders from proceeding because even though they did not support the authority in which John baptized, they could not publicly admit it, because, if they did, they would have been rejected by the masses, which would have resulted in them being humiliated and they would lose their power, and their stature and possibly their way of life.

Which Jesus so aptly taps into as he follows His question up with a couple of stories, with which you may be familiar. The first story being of the man who had two sons, the first son who promised to obey, but fails to do so, and the second son, who rebelled, but later repents. Jesus gets the Jewish leaders to admit that the second son was the better son, which was a representation of the Gentiles, whereas the first son represented the Jews. Thus, indirectly Jesus was saying it was the Gentiles who would be given the first position. We see in our Scripture today, this beginning to be revealed. Jesus then followed this story with another parable, which depicted the sins of the leaders of Israel, when he tells about the landowner of a vineyard, representing God, and how he had given the care of the vineyard to the vine growers, represented by the Jewish religious leaders. In the owner’s absence, the landowner sends servants to get his produce from the vineyard and the vine-growers either sent them away, beat them or put them to death. Finally, the landowner sends his son, who would have been Jesus, who was also, rejected and put to death. After telling this parable, Jesus managed to get the religious leaders to say, that when the owner of the land would eventually return, he would be expected to punish the vine-growers. Following these two parables, Jesus points the religious leaders to Psalm 118:22, and compares how the chief cornerstone would be rejected by the builders, just as the son of the owner of the vineyard was rejected. Jesus goes on to state that the very stone that was rejected would fall upon the builders and destroy them. At the time, the chief priests and scribes knew exactly who Jesus was referring to, He was referring to them, and it was written that they desperately wanted to seize Him on the spot, but their precious reputation kept them from doing so, because the people thought Jesus was a prophet and it would have come back that they were the evil ones. They were stuck!

In our Scripture today, the religious leaders are stuck again!

Peter was as much as stingingly saying to these leaders, “Jesus told you so.”

The story is to be continued, so come back next week, same bat time, same bat channel.

For this week, here’s what I think we should bring home with us.

How often does the world try to intimidate us? Bully us into kowtowing to what the masses or those in power say is the norm. Only to make sure those in power, remain in power. In our story today, Peter and John are not seeking power. They are not trying to take over what the Sanhedrin were doing. They have good news, for everybody, anyone who will listen. They were going about their day, and someone wanted to listen. Someone held out his hand and asked for something, and Peter and John gave of what they had. The healing power of Jesus. It wasn’t the healing power of Peter and John. It was the power of the risen Lord. In the name of Jesus Christ. Then when they were pressured to give an account of their actions, just as Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit, gave them the words to say. The very words that would sting in the ears of the listeners, and make them ponder. These words, weren’t created by Peter and John, they were straight from God’s Word. They were “the Sword”, which should be used in the Spiritual battle that comes our way.

This week, as you are going about your daily routine, doing the things God has placed before you.

Be prepared to share the good news, whenever or however someone should asked. And should you be asked to give an account, allow the Holy Spirit, to give you the words to say. And don’t forget to draw your sword, and use Scripture.

Paul writes in Romans 10:14-17

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Peter and John weren’t shaking in their sandals, because they knew that they were not acting on their own power, but on the power they had experienced which raised Jesus from the dead. Their trust was in the Lord and with that trust they could not be silent.

This week, may we believe the same.

Our trust is in the Lord and with that trust, we can’t be silent.

 

 

 

Let’s pray.