Opposition to the name of Jesus is nothing new. History is absolutely littered with the stories of saints who have faced the horror of hell’s fury as they sought to live in obedience to God while proclaiming his name on hell’s doorstep.
Look at the text with me…
1And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. 5On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high priestly family. 7And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let 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. 11This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 13Now 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. 14But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
The text we just read is awesome display of Holy Spirit empowered boldness. One woman in our day, who displayed this kind of radical boldness is a woman named Helen Roseveare.2
While serving as a missionary in 1964 in what used to be the Belgian Congo, she was captured by rebels who tied to her to a post and continuously raped her for three days straight.
In her account of this horrific experience, she boldly proclaims that God spoke to her as she was being abused and that he comforted her with the truth that as extremely painful as this experience was, he had a purpose for her suffering that was beyond her understanding.
Her response to this entire three – day experience was to thank God for it. She was a woman who saw beyond her momentary suffering at the hands of evil men and she was enabled by the Spirit of God to respond in such a supernatural way as to draw attention to Jesus in her boldness.
This is the kind of boldness we need in the church today and it is this kind of boldness that we see in the text before us. But where does this kind of boldness come from? Think about the text again…
#1: PETER AND JOHN ARE ARRESTED (VV. 1 – 4)
In verses 1 – 4 of our text Luke tells us that as Peter and John are preaching in the name of Jesus as the one who was responsible for healing the lame man in chapter three, and the leaders of the Jews became “greatly annoyed” with them because they were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” so they grabbed the Apostles, arrested them, and tossed them in a jail cell overnight since it was getting late.
None of this was done in secret; it was done in broad daylight in front of at least five thousand witnesses who had become believers because of the Apostles’ preaching (v. 4). What do you do when someone locks you up something? Usually, you stop doing the thing that got you locked up. Not Peter and John; they continue preaching and proclaiming the name of Christ!
#2: PETER AND JOHN CONTINUE PROCLAIMING CHRIST (VV. 5 – 12)
In verses 5 – 12 Luke tells us that on the very next day Peter and John are brought before the highest – ranking officers in Israel where they are placed on trial and questioned. The question on everyone’s minds on that high – ranking council was, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” (v. 7). The average person at this point would have probably tapped out, apologized for ruffling some feathers, and tried to smooth things over to save their skin. That is exactly what Peter would have done just a few weeks earlier.
But Luke tells us that in a supernatural, Spirit – filled way, Peter answers the question of his captors by preaching the same message that landed him in a jail cell the night before! His message is simple and it is provocative: Jesus healed the crippled man; the same Jesus you crucified a few weeks ago “whom God raised from the dead” he is the one who healed this crippled man.
This Jesus is the cornerstone of the building of Christianity whom you rejected and “there is no other name under heaven” by which you can be saved from the penalty, the power, and the presence of your sin. What do you do when someone is this bold and defiant in the face of opposition?
#3: THE COUNCIL DEVISES A PLAN TO SHUT THE APOSTLES’ MOUTHS (VV. 13 – 17)
In verses 13 – 17 Luke tells us that when the council witnessed Peter and John’s bold defiance and when they realized they were not highly educated men, “they were astonished” and “recognized that they had been with Jesus”; the same unflinching boldness they saw in Christ on the day of his crucifixion was shining through the faces of his followers (v. 13).
The council could see the lame man standing right there and they were speechless (v. 14). So, they devised a plan to shut the mouths of the Apostles by ordering them “to speak no more to anyone in this name [the name of Jesus]” (vv. 15 – 17). I suppose the council thought they could intimidate the Apostles into staying quiet. But their plan backfires!
#4: PETER AND JOHN RESPOND WITH BOLDNESS (VV. 18 – 22)
In verses 18 – 22 Luke tells us that after the council tries to intimidate them, Peter and John open their mouths and basically state that they will not be silent because “we cannot [cease to] speak of what we have seen and heard” (vv. 18 – 20). Personally, I think this moment is a well – played moment of absolute boldness because the council lets them go with a threat and a warning knowing that it can do nothing because all the witnesses to the miracle are praising God and the man whom they knew to be lame for over forty years is standing among them (vv. 21 – 22).
In conclusion, when I think about this story and the boldness that Peter and John had to stand firm in the face of opposition, I think of ways that I have failed over the years in this area, and I also think of times when the Holy Spirit gave me the courage to stand unflinchingly firm in the face of potential danger. I am sure that most of you can remember stories in your own life where you either failed or succeeded in being courageous in the face of opposition.
This makes me wonder, what does it take to be this bold in the face of such dangerous opposition? What gives the Apostles such boldness? What gives a woman like Helen Roseveare, whom I mentioned at the beginning of this message, the strength to endure such horrific suffering while standing so firm in her profession of faith? Where does this kind of boldness come from?
I think the answer is found in what the council saw in the Apostles when Luke tells us that “they were astonished” and they “recognized that [the Apostles] had been with Jesus”; the same unflinching boldness that the council had seen in Christ on the day of his crucifixion was shining through the faces of his followers as they stared down the barrel of their enemies’ threats (v. 13).
I think the key to all of this is that the Apostles had been with Jesus as he was arrested, crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. And because the Apostles had been with Jesus, he had given them his very own Spirit of boldness which enabled them live and to proclaim the message of the gospel with power that acted like dynamite in the stone cold hearts of their enemies.
You may be walking through some really difficult circumstances right now where you wonder if you will have the resolve to stand firm and to proclaim the name of Jesus. The invitation of this passage is that if you want or need that kind of boldness then you must spend time with Jesus; you must spend time with Jesus at the foot of his bloody cross, in the doorway of his empty tomb, in light of the hope of Heaven; then and only then will you be filled with the Spirit and enabled to stand firm on the name which is above all other names – the name of Jesus! Amen!
1 Unless otherwise specified, all Bible references in this paper are to the English Standard Version Bible, The New Classic Reference Edition (ESV) (Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, 2001).
2 Derek W. H. Thomas, Acts, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2011), 100.