It’s Friday, the end of our week of podcasts, and we come to the end of this story about Peter, John and the man who was healed.
Our Bible reading is Acts 4:13-22, and we are going to focus on parts of verses 13 and 14 from the Message translation:
“They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves!……They recognized them as companions of Jesus.”
At the beginning of this academic year our Sunday morning sermons have been following a mini-series on what it means to be a follower of Jesus in challenging times. You can catch up with them all via our website. One of the focus points has been that we are called to be witnesses.
When we think about what it means to be a witness, we might think of giving a police statement after witnessing a road accident or an expert witness being called to give evidence in a court case. In both these situations being a witness is all about what we say, the details, the explanations, the clarity of our words and the convincing arguments. However, verses 13 and 14 present an alternative view. These verses reflect the fact that being a witness is not just about what we say, but it is about how we are and how we are seen. What people witness in us and about us. It is interesting that John isn’t actually quoted as saying anything at all in this whole story, and yet his presence and his countenance are still a powerful witness to Jesus.
The first thing we notice is that the Sanhedrin “couldn’t take their eyes off” Peter and John. This is a phrase that speaks of attraction. When other people witness our lives, they should see something that is powerfully attractive to them. The dictionary tells us that attraction is “a quality or feature that evokes interest, liking, or desire.” The way that we live should make those around us become interested in knowing why we act differently from other people. It should raise in them a desire to ask questions. When people witness our interactions with others, they should like what they see.
In John 10:10, Jesus says, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
Do our lives bear witness to this more and better life? The way we conduct our relationships…….the way we handle money……..the way we think about the future……. In these aspects of our life, do people see Jesus, or do they witness the same worries, attitudes and responses as those who have no relationship with God?
Our lives should be a witness that attracts others towards Jesus. It’s going to be exciting to learn more about how we can live like this through the Grow Project this term.
Secondly, we read that the Sanhedrin “recognized them as companions of Jesus.” Peter and John are experiencing an incredibly challenging time but, despite this, what these powerful and important men recognise is that Peter and John have been in the presence of Jesus.
As I sit writing this podcast, I am munching on some grapes. When a grape is pressed, put under stress and pressure, grape juice comes out….because that is what is inside the skin. When Peter and John are pressured and put under great stress what comes out is that they have been with Jesus. Because they are so full of the Holy Spirit on the inside, when they are pressed, this is what everyone witnesses on the outside.
How true is that of us? When we are stressed and challenged, does Jesus come out? What do other people witness in us at these times? When we are tired and have had a difficult day at work, what do our children witness as they accidentally knock a drink all over the floor, or tell us that their football kit needs washing and drying by the morning? Is it us being a witness to Jesus…….or is it something different?
Yesterday I shared a little about the tribunal process we have been going through. It has been a time of stress and pressure. I remember saying to two fellow SEN mums, Kate and Beckie, “I just want to act in a godly way in all this. I don’t want to become this aggressive, bitter, war mongering parent. What does it mean to be a Christian in this situation, when I feel like I just have to fight?” I would love to say that having shared this desire with them, my life over the last 13 months has been an amazing witness at all times. But that would be a lie. I have felt angry, frustrated and let down. If you pressed me, a lot of tears would have come out…..but probably not a lot of Jesus! To counter this, I have had to learn to rely more on God, stand on the promises of Scripture and get lots of good friends to pray often.
Today, in a phone call to the local authority, I thanked a lady for a document that she had written, and the wording she had used. And I genuinely meant it. I realised that God has changed my inside life, so that when pressed people see less of the ranting mother, and witness more of Jesus.
If you find yourself in a stressed and pressured place right now, and you know that your life is not an attractive witness to Jesus in this area, I would encourage you to share the desires of your heart or the things you need breakthrough in with those in your community, and then rely on God, stand on the truth of Scripture and get others to commit to pray.
The story of Peter, John and the lame beggar shows that God has the power to restore us physically, on the outside, for all to see, but that through his Holy Spirit he also has the power to change us on the inside, so that our whole lives bear witness to Him.
Lord Jesus, fill us with your Holy Spirit so that every aspect of our lives becomes a powerful witness that draws others towards you. Amen.
READING: Acts 4:13-22
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.’
Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, ‘Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’
After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.