Story 39 – Peter and John on Trial
Based on Acts chapter 4 verses 1 to 31
A miracle had taken place right outside the Temple in Jerusalem. And now, inside the temple area, a man crippled from birth was walking, leaping and praising God that he’d been healed. Maybe if that’d been all that had happened, then those in charge of the temple may have looked on and done no more. But Peter, one of the followers of Jesus, had started to teach the crowds, saying that through Jesus there was life after death – something that the ruling Sadducees refused to believe! This man and his friend had to be silenced – how dare they teach such lies!
So, while they were still speaking to the crowds, the Priests, the captain of the Temple guard and the unbelieving Sadducees – came and arrested Peter, John and the man who’d been healed. And, because it was evening, they put them in jail, waiting until the next day before they took matters further! But even though the apostles Peter and John had been arrested and locked away from the crowds, the message they’d taught in the Temple was remembered by the people who’d heard it, and many believed what they’d heard, so that the number of men who believed, without counting women and children, grew to about 5000.
The next day, the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law gathered together to consider what should be done with the apostles. Both Annas and Caiaphas were there, the leaders who’d overseen the death of Jesus. Then the prisoners were brought before them.
As Peter and John were brought before the leaders, the words Jesus had spoken must have rung in their ears, ‘You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will be accused before kings and governors of being my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me. So don’t worry about how to answer the charges against you, for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply!’ (P) Well, now was such a time when they were going to need Jesus to give them the words to reply to the questions that were about to come their way.
As they stood before the council, the leaders demanded, ‘By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?’
Once again being filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter replied, ‘Rulers and elders of our people, if you’re asking us to explain our act of kindness to a crippled man and how he was healed, you all need to know this: He has been healed in the name and by the power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. This is how the Scriptures talk about Jesus, they say, ‘The stone that you builders rejected – has now become the stone which holds everything together.’ You can’t be saved in any other way! Because there is no one else in all of heaven that people can call on to save them except Jesus!
Some of the leaders sat there open-mouthed – amazed at the boldness of Peter and John, especially as they were just ordinary men without any religious teaching. But at the same time, they also realised that these men had been with Jesus. (P) The leaders were at a loss as to what to do, particularly as the man who’d been healed was standing right there with them. So they ordered that the three of them be put outside the room so they could talk about what to do next.
‘What’re we going to do with them?’ they asked each other. ‘The whole of Jerusalem knows they’ve done an outstanding miracle and there’s no way we can deny it. But we have to stop this thing spreading.’ So they agreed to warn the apostles not to speak about Jesus again!
Peter, John and the healed man were called back to hear their judgement. ‘This is our decision,’ the Sadducees and leaders said, ‘you are not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus ever again!’
Peter and John shook their heads. What the leaders were asking was impossible; how could they stop now? So looking at the council they replied, ‘Well, you must judge for yourselves what’s right in God’s sight, whether we obey you or we obey God. You see we just can’t help speaking about all that we’ve seen and heard.’
The council were none to impressed with this answer and, before letting them go, threatened the apostles in an effort to make them stop talking about Jesus. But even though they wanted all talk of Jesus to end, the council couldn’t work out how to punish the apostles because all the people were praising God for what’d happened, not least because the man who’d been healed had been lame for more than 40 years!
Having left the council, Peter and John hurried back to the other disciples. When they arrived, they told them all that’d happened, and how the leaders had tried to stop them talking about Jesus.
The disciples listened carefully and realised that this mustn’t happen, they mustn’t hold back from talking about Jesus to everyone, no matter what trouble it got them into. And so they did the most important thing they could do. As one large group they all raised their voices to God in prayer. ‘Lord,’ they prayed, ‘hear these people’s threats against us, and give us, your servants, great boldness as we speak about you. And stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’
As they finished praying, the building they were meeting in was shaken – and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And, in answer to their prayer, God enabled them to speak with great boldness about Jesus. (PAUSE)