By J.R. Miller
The healing of the lame man made a great stir in the temple. Peter at once began to speak to the wondering people, explaining the miracle. In doing so he told again the story of Jesus Christ, who had been rejected by the rulers and crucified--but whom God had raised up and glorified. Through Him, said Peter, is this man made strong and well. It grieved the rulers that Peter was proclaiming Jesus Christ as the power through which the lame man had been healed, and also as the author of the resurrection.
While Peter was thus speaking, there came a party of priests and Sadducees with a squad of temple police, to arrest the apostles, whom they put in prison over night. This, however, did not check the progress of the gospel. In the very next sentence we read, "But many of those who heard the Word believed." The rulers had cast the apostles into prison--but they could not put chains upon the Holy Spirit. The number of the converts continually increased until the three thousand of the day of Pentecost had become five thousand.
Always opposition has helped God's cause. The storm that sets itself to put out the flames, only fans them into intenser violence. This truth should give great confidence to those who are called to suffer persecution. There is a beatitude for such, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake--for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The story of the trial of the apostles vividly recalls the scenes of our Lord's trial, a few weeks before. The place was the same, and we find the same names--Annas and Caiaphas, for example. The rulers imagined that they could compel the apostles to submit to their dictation. How farcical all this appeared to the angels, as they looked down upon it, out of the skies!
Peter was the spokesman, and he spoke well. This is a different man from the old Peter of former days, especially the Peter of the night of Christ's betrayal, when he lacked courage to confess his Lord, and quailed before the taunting words of a girl. Now he stands before the highest tribunal of the nation, and exhibits a courage, which makes the rulers tremble. It was because for the hour of need, the Spirit of God freshly filled him. It was not Peter that spoke--but the Holy Spirit who filled him and spoke in him. The Spirit is for us--as truly as He was for the apostles. He is ready to fill us with His own life whenever we have any work to do, any testimony to offer, or any trial to endure. Let us claim our spiritual birthright.
The rulers implied that the apostles had used some secret are--magic or sorcery in healing the lame man. They had demanded, "By what power, or in what name, have you done this?" intimating that some agency other than divine had wrought the cure. Peter was not angry; he kept his temper and spoke calmly. He used no insulting words. Then he was also tactful. He referred to "a good deed done to an impotent man, by what means this man is made whole." There ought to be no criticism or condemnation of a good deed done to a lame man, restoring him to strength. We condemn people for hurting others, not for helping them.
He then told his judges at once the source of the power which had healed the man. "Be it known unto you all." Christianity has nothing to hide. It has no secret arts by which it accomplishes its great works. It uses no incantation, practices no tricks, does nothing in the dark. It wants the whole world to know just what is the secret of its power. It has nothing to fear from the closest and most critical examination of its methods. This is not the case with the world's religions. They make everything as mysterious as possible. They dare not throw open to the gaze of men, the arts and practices by which they claim to work. One of the proofs of the genuineness of Christianity, is that it challenges the inspection of the world. Its secret power is an open secret. It has nothing to keep back. It never fears to submit to the fullest examination and the severest tests. It possesses an abounding confidence.
Peter then declared boldly that is was "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised," that the man had been cured. Why did he add the words about the crucifixion of Jesus? Why did he not refrain from using these offensive words, which threw the terrible charge right in their faces? That would have been trimming the truth down to make it less offensive, cutting off the very part that his judges disliked to hear. It would not have been faithful witnessing, for it would not have told his hearers of their sin and guilt, nor would it have proclaimed the power of God in raising Jesus from the dead. In our efforts to be courteous and polite, "wise as serpents," and to avoid giving offense, let us be sure never to keep back any part of the truth.
Peter further declared boldly that this Jesus was the Messiah. "He is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." They had rejected Jesus as unsuitable to be their Messiah--but God had made Him the Savior and Lord of the world. In the same way do human and divine estimates differ continually. In the things men admire--God sees no beauty; and in the things which men despise--God beholds the rarest loveliness. He took for the foundation of His heavenly temple, a stone which the human builders thought unfit to be used anywhere in the wall, and He is building the whole temple out of things that men despise, for the saints of the Lord are not those whom this world honors. God is gathering into His Church, those whom earth sets aside, and then its glory in the end will outshine all the splendors of this world.
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Peter declared also to the rulers, that there is no possibility of personal salvation in any other but in Jesus Christ. If these men themselves, these rulers, ever reached heaven--it would be by the way of the cross which they themselves had despised. To all rejecters the same is true--if they ever are saved, it must be by the Christ whom they are now despising. There is no other way.
Two facts are unanswerable. One was the effect of Christ upon His friends. They were "unlearned and ignorant men," men who had not had the teaching and training of rabbis and scholars--and yet they were evidently men of great power. "They took knowledge of them--that they had been with Jesus." The marks of Jesus were in their lives. They had been impressed by His influence. They saw it in their very faces. There was something in them which recalled the bearing of Jesus that morning when He was on His trial, and then they remembered that they had seen them with Him at that time. It is a great thing when we make people think of Christ, by the way we bear ourselves. No one can be with Jesus as a companion, a teacher, a friend--and not show it in his life. It was said of Dr. Babcock that "the secret of his wondrous influence among men, was that he made God so attractive. He helped men to fall in love with Jesus Christ."
The other fact which they could not answer, was the man himself. There he stood, healed--how? "Seeing that man who was healed standing with them, they could not say nothing against it." They could not say the man had not been lame--everybody had known him as the beggar of the Beautiful Gate. They could not deny that he had been healed. There was a man who said he had been able to refute every proof offered by the Christian religion, save one--his mother's life. There is no argument in proof of the power of the gospel equal to what the gospel itself has done in the lands into which it has gone. Regenerated men and women were unanswerable proofs of the regenerating power of Jesus Christ.