13 June, 2011

Peter ain't no dummy!

As is common, my mind took a leisurely stroll through a tangential thought during church yesterday.  I can, therefore, only tell you what the first half of the sermon was about.  As for the second half, I learned what a "commoner" can do for the kingdom when he knows his bible!  In Acts 4, Peter and John are arrested for "proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead."  After spending the night in what was surely less than an ideal establishment, the two were brought before "the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law . . . Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other's of the high priests family."  (Seriously, you know they have to be getting tired of this!  This Jesus character just won't leave them alone!)  I wonder, as Luke is writing, if he's going back to Jesus' trial, when the high priest questioned Him.  Jesus asked them why they didn't arrest him in the temple courts, and perhaps the high priest remembered that because they weren't making that mistake again.  They nabbed Peter and John as quickly as they could.  The morning after the arrest, which was also the day after Peter healed a lame beggar and the spark which lit the fire, they asked, "By what power or what name did you do this?"  No denying the healing, they knew the man, they knew he couldn't walk, but they saw him walk (dance, rather) right into the temple courts.
And Peter answered them, "Rulers and elders of the people!"  (Okay, just a note here, Peter has no problem going straight up the the CEO and VP's of the establishment with his claims of truth.  A measure of boldness professionals in the world have a hard time finding...this one included) "If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and being asked how he was healed, then know this..It was God."  No, that's not what he said.  The last three lines there, that's a cop-out.  He knows they believe in God and he knows they believe God performs miracles.  No, Peter cinches up his belt, takes another dose of boldness and basically says, "if we're being called to account for how we were nice to a lame man, then I am going to tell you what REALLY matters!"  Instead of simply explaining the miracle, he takes the opportunity to preach the gospel.  To Peter, the miracle is only the sign, and the real efficacy is in the proclamation of the name above all names.  The real quote goes like this,
"Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel:  It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (that name stings the high priest), whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is 'the stone the builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.'  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved."
After he says this, the high priests, the "mega-church seminarian PhD's" realized that they hadn't been to school and that they were ordinary commoners and were "astonished."  What did Peter say?  He quoted a portion of Psalm 118.  It's Psalm about the salvation of Israel, and Peter knows this.  He ties that point in at the end of his quote.  But more importantly are the overtones of what he was saying.  The Psalm mentions the sons of Aaron (priests) directly, that they should praise the love of the Lord.  He then links Jesus directly to the Psalm as being the cornerstone of salvation and in whom they should rejoice.  But Peter is indicating that maybe not all are rejoicing (sons of Aaron), that maybe there are some present who are directly responsible for "rejecting the stone" (sons of Aaron).  His claims are bold.  His claims are right on!  And the priests cannot take them on biblically.  Peter knows too much, but more importantly, "because they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say."  
Peter's boldness and his knowledge of scripture shut the mouths of  the learned leaders.  He "astonished" them being common and "unlearned."  But Peter knew his bible.  He ain't no dummy.  Along with boldness it is a vital cog in the wheel of evangelism.  But what the high priest and elders saw, the one thing that stopped them short of doing anything at all, was the fact that a lame man was standing before them.  The healing work of Christ cannot be denied.  When Jesus does work in the life of a person, that person then becomes a witness who bears testimony to the power of the resurrected Lord.  Just as Peter said.  We, like Peter need to know and understand our bibles that we may give answer in a time of question.  We must also be bold like Peter, not backing down from the powerful in this world but holding fast that the truth of the Gospel holds the real power.  But we must not hold those above the actual healing power and work of our Savior.  He and He alone heals.  He and He alone saves.  Just as it says in Psalms so Peter says....and so should we.     

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