Acts 4:1-4 (NIV)
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
The priests were Sadducees, and they, along with other Sadducees, part of the Sanhedrin, saw and heard about this huge gathering of people in Solomon’s Colonnade. So, they brought the temple guard with them to investigate.
They saw that the gathering was peaceful, so they simply listened for a while to what Peter was teaching. And it wasn’t long before they found a huge point of disagreement: Peter’s promise of eternal life, and the promise of resurrection in Jesus’ name.
The Sadducees didn’t believe in eternal life or in any kind of afterlife, because they only accepted the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as Scripture, and there is no clear teaching about an afterlife in those books. They also considered the idea of a resurrection as illogical and fraught with theological complexities (Luke 20:27-33).
They were also troubled by the fact that Peter and John were proclaiming that Jesus had been murdered as an innocent man, contradicting the official story that He was executed as a subversive criminal who had put the whole Jewish nation at risk. And they were also claiming that He had risen from the dead (Acts 3:15), and that faith in His name could produce not only salvation, but miracles.
So, using the authority that they possessed as guardians of the temple grounds, they placed Peter and John under arrest until a hearing could be conducted the following day.
But they were too late. The divine power and authority that virtually shone in those two apostles, as well as the evident truth of their testimony of Jesus’ identity and resurrection, had convinced many of those gathered, and many believed in Jesus on that basis and were converted. That brought the count of disciples in the community to about five thousand men, in addition to the women and children who were part of the Church.
Father, Peter and John’s confident proclamation of the truth of Jesus’ identity and resurrection stands in stark contrast to the reticence with which most Christians today talk about Him. And that’s really sad. We could say that they had an advantage in that they were direct eyewitnesses of the events, and we stand two thousand years distant from them. But the fact is that, if we are saved at all, it must result from a transforming encounter with the risen Christ that makes everything new (2 Corinthians 5:17). And we can, and must, testify about that! Fill our mouths with the proclamation of Jesus, and with the testimony of who He is and what he has done in our lives, so that we can proclaim it just as confidently, persuasively and powerfully as those first apostles. Amen.
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