Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

Acts 4:1-22 
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.

Unless you are very young you remember the tragedy that took place in New York City on 9/11. This horrific attack happened on live television as was probably planned. I can still remember watching the coverage and seeing the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Peter Jennings, news anchor on the station I was watching, was reporting on the first plane hitting the building when it happened again. My mind simply said, “I didn’t just see that. I must be mistaken.” Sadly it was all too true and the devastation continued throughout the day. Even though I saw it happen I didn’t want to believe it.

Peter and John are on a bold mission. They have healed a man who had apparently been crippled since birth, as his age is mentioned at the end of the passage. This remarkable event has been witnessed by dozens (possibly hundreds) of people who knew this man was a complete and total invalid. There was no mistake here. And yet the Jewish leadership refuses to believe this miracle has happened. It is quite probable that even some of they themselves had seen the miracle happen. But since they don’t want to believe it, they don’t. If they accept that these men who tell of Jesus have actually worked a miracle, there must be something important to what they are saying. The risk of buying into their message outweighs their love for their position and power.

Peter and John get to spend the night in jail. It will happen again but this is the first. That might have been a bit of a shock for them but it doesn’t stop the message. They are just as firm the next day in what they have to say about Jesus. Suddenly Peter sounds a great deal like Jesus did during His earthly ministry. The Jewish leadership is made to look foolish for chastising Jesus’ Disciples for vastly improving a man’s life. The fair question is asked as to why Peter and John are arrested for doing something good. And then they witness to the power of Jesus as they tell the people that is wasn’t they who healed this crippled man, but the power of Jesus Himself. Again, all who are within hearing distance get to hear that Jesus died for the sins of man and was resurrected by God. The story continues to have the power to save anyone willing to believe it. This story has a happy ending as Peter and John are told “don’t speak of it anymore” and then they are released. As I imagine this scene, I believe they are still telling of Jesus as the leave the court room. Makes me smile.