THURSDAY, APRIL 19
Peter and John have been brought before the court whose main prosecutors are those that condemned Jesus to death.
5-6 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family.
The Sanhedrin was the Jewish senate and its membership of 70 comprised the Saduccee temple hierarchy of the high priest dynasty, lay people of power and influence, and mainly Pharisee teachers of the law. Annas called himself high priest even though he had been deposed by the Romans more than 15 years earlier. Luke is at pains to show us that despite a wide representation, the power was in the hands of one aristocratic Sadduccee family, the same that had arraigned Jesus. In this context, Peter the fisherman’s defence is especially bold.
7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
Peter and John were arrested because they were preaching and teaching about the Resurrection in the Temple precincts, Acts 4:1-3, Solomon’s colonnade where Jesus Himself had taught, John 10:23-24. The presence of the formerly disabled man as a witness (v.10), had rather overtaken the original reason. The Sadduccees were particularly angered because they did not believe in resurrection, which they did not consider to be found in Genesis to Deuteronomy, the only part of the Scriptures they recognised as authoritative. They were the focus of the early opposition to Christianity.
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!
Peter addresses the two main groups, the minority Sadduccee priestly rulers, and the elders who included the teachers of the law and were the majority Pharisees.
Jesus had foretold exactly this kind of charge and the enabling of the Holy Spirit to answer in court, Luke 12:11-12; 21:14-15.
9 “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed…
“Healed” – the same word as is used for “saved” in v.12. We use different words, including ‘delivered’, for what is God’s salvation received in different ways.
10 “…then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
Peter states formally and using the full name, that it is by the name of Jesus the witness is standing there healed.
“By the Name” – an allusion of God revealing Himself to Moses, Exodus 3:15 and the giving of the Law, Exodus 20:7. It is a provocative reminder that Jesus, the Messiah, is God – the One who the rulers especially, crucified and God raised from the dead.
11 “Jesus is
‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
A quotation from Psalm 118:22 which Jesus applied to Himself as Messiah, Luke 20:17, and which featured in the apostolic body of teaching, 1 Peter 2:7, together with other ‘stone sayings’ e.g. ‘living stones’.
12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Jesus is the One and the only One empowered by God to grant salvation to others. This is expressed elsewhere in the N.T. e.g. John 14:6, Hebrews 2:3, 1 Timothy 2:5. Understanding God to have exalted Jesus to His right hand, this position was unique and could not be shared.
This is an early-early-church model for three challenges that Christians meet today.
Firstly, the challenge of what to do when you see someone, not necessarily a person of any faith, who has a need, and the Holy Spirit is prompting you so you start to ‘see’ what God purposes. And it involves you! Bear in mind that Peter and John and the others would have seen this man lying by the Beautiful Gate and asking for money, every day. On this occasion, Peter sensed it was a ‘now’ time, and faith was rising in him for what he needed to do.
Secondly, the challenge of speaking out God’s purpose in faith. Peter may have prayed for this man’s needs to be met many times. No doubt others asked God to heal him. But now Peter was prompted to declare, rather than ask, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!”, Acts 3:6-7. It’s not a formula. The challenge is to hear what the Lord is saying to say and do, and then do exactly that.
Thirdly, doing what the Lord says to do will bring opposition from religious people who would rather you did what they said to do, or what the order of the day says to do. Peter followed up this astounding miracle with a message to the people around, giving the glory fairly and squarely to Jesus who, he explained, had been put to death and then raised by God, as had been long foretold. In effect he said, “Jesus is alive! Here is the evidence”. So he and John were arrested and brought before the court the next day, trusting in Jesus’ promise that on arrest they would be given the words to say.
God wants to extend his kingdom rule and good order, and His means for doing it is us, in obedience and trust. It can be a bumpy road – the shadow of death even – but He enters into this with us, with His goodness and mercy. That’s the kingdom of God.
For reflection and discussion
Should you be ready to minister in the name of Jesus, or should you leave that sort of thing to a ‘professional’?
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21
Psalm 118:1-2 and 19-29
The person whose name had the meaning “You have become my salvation” was to become the “stone that the builders rejected” in the words of this processional.
This is a song of national deliverance i.e. victory over the Canaanites or victory over enemies following the exile, at the dedication of the second temple or the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Ezra 6:16, Nehemiah 12:37-43. Psalms 113 to 118 became a set of songs used at annual festivals to celebrate national deliverance after the exile, and as this was the last song of the set, it may have been what Jesus and the disciples sang after the Last Supper, Matt 26:30.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
The Lord is good, and His mercy endures – the covenant affirmation and the conventional call to worship.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.
The “gates of the righteous… through which the righteous may enter” could be the way in for the festal procession of the righteous, with the gates of the temple inner court symbolically guarding the presence of the Lord from any who are unrighteous. See Psalm 24.
21 I will give You thanks, for You answered me; You have become my salvation.
“Salvation” – the procession entering Jerusalem and the Temple, seen as the dwelling place of God, to celebrate the deliverance of God’s people, time after time, by God’s gracious action. We would say this verse with joy and sincerity in the different understanding of finding salvation with God through receiving the Son of God as a personal Saviour and Lord.
22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…
The chief stone in the whole building, by which the several parts of the building are upheld and firmly united together; thus Christ united Jews and Gentiles together (John Wesley). Isaiah says elsewhere that the Israelites had forsaken the God’s cornerstone for their own refuge in a lie, Isaiah 28:15. The NT leaves us in no doubt that the cornerstone of v.22 foreshadows Jesus, Matt. 21:42, Acts 4:11, Rom. 9:32, Eph. 2:20, 1 Pet. 2:6ff.
23 …the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.
The crucifixion of Jesus was like throwing out the main building block; the resurrection of Jesus was his vindication, a focus of “marvellous” rejoicing for the Early Church and Christians subsequently for whom these words have been prophetic and a source of worship.
25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord, we bless you.
What Jesus had earlier implied by quoting these words, Matt. 21:42, the crowd at the Entry to Jerusalem saw for themselves. The crowd’s ‘Hosanna’ (hôšîʿ ânnāʾ, ‘Save, pray!’) of v.25 is related to “my salvation of v.21) and followed by their shout “Blessed is He who comes …” which continues the quotation from this psalm.
27 The Lord is God, and He has made His light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
This verse tells us that the psalm is written for a festal procession, most likely more than a Sabbath. The three big annual pilgrim feasts were Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. There is the sense from these verses of call and answer: one procession, already inside the gates, was greeting another that was arriving.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
The processional ends with declarations that “The Lord is God” – the only God – and “You are my God” and the affirmation that the Lord is good and enduringly merciful.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
The crowd who took part in these processions year after year could not have imagined that there would be a time when the symbolism would break out into reality, Hebrews 10:1, the horns of the altar would become the arms of the Cross, and the festival would become the full and final sacrifice of “Christ our Passover” 1 Cor 5:7.
This processional song was often sung at the major festivals when people would come into the city from the area around with a common desire to honour God for His goodness – and in remembering the past times of deliverance for the nation.
How good are we at recounting what God has done for us? The situations that turned around, the answered prayers, the unexpected signs of God’s favour?
We may call them coincidences but in the heavenly order, nothing is a coincidence. In the spiritul battles of life, praise is our most powerful weapon, and praise with testimony puts a sharp edge on that weapon.
For reflection, or as a discussion starter
What recent instance of God’s goodness in answered prayer in His provision or in another aspect of salvation, could you speak out to give brief testimony to His goodness?