The chains were a bit tight. That as well as the bruise on his stomach where a punch had landed during his arrest were causing him to groan a bit.
“We’ll be ok,” a voice said. Though he couldn’t see because of the darkness in the prison, John knew that it was Peter. He had an unmistakable voice. Although, there in the prison, it sounded a bit defeated.
They had been arrested –arrested for talking about Jesus – for telling others about the sin-ridden state of their souls and for explaining that Jesus Christ was the only cure.
As the darkness deepened late into the night, thoughts swirled in John’s mind – “Why are we doing this? We are putting our very lives in danger. Is it worth it? If these people don’t want to hear about it, why should I tell them? I should just be quiet – mind my own business – and never see a prison cell like this again.”
John heard another voice…less familiar. “Come,” it said, in harmony with clicking locks. John’s chains were loosened. Peter’s chains were loosened. The doors were opened and the guards weren’t aware of any of it.
As they followed the voice into the light, they saw who was speaking to them. They had seen someone like him before – at Jesus’ own resurrection. It was an angel. An angel of God. The angel said to them, “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.” Then, he was gone. And as the sunrise began to peek over the east side of the city, the disciples were faced with a choice: Go home, hide, run away, stay quiet, or…listen to God – and do the exact same thing that had gotten them into trouble in the first place.
To them, the choice was easy.
“At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.”
I. Our Culture Says, “Be Timid”
I’m not so sure that Christians are as bold today.
I was at a wedding not that long ago. It was a Christian wedding. In Christianity, we tach that Jesus is the center of a successful marriage. I was expecting the preaching to talk about Jesus being the center of the marriage.
But at the end of the ceremony, the number of times Jesus was mentioned? Zero.
Christ? One time – in passing.
To be fair the phrase “Eternal God” was used a lot of times, but you can imagine why. The pastor didn’t want to offend anyone. By mentioning the generic “god” then no one is offended. No one could accused this service of being “Christian.”
That’s not so bold.
But I think there's a reason this pastor was timid. It's the way our culture reacts to the word "Jesus." Have you ever noticed that? You can talk about religious thought. You can mention a "Divine Being." It's not a big deal to say "God."
But as soon as you mention Jesus...
Take Caitlin Jenner. Jenner won an ESPY award this past week for courage. Twitter was filled with congratulations! “Way to go.” “Way to be brave.” “Thanks for being bold.” The Twittervese was thankful that Jenner stood up for beliefs.
This is the exact same Twitterverse that three years ago saw Tim Tebow bow his head in prayer after scoring a touchdown, step in front of the cameras and say, “Thanks and glory be to Jesus,” and Twitter replied, “Shut up!” “Stop talking about your Christianity!” “Get your beliefs out of my face.”
This is American society. A place of free speech. A place that hates it when you talk about Jesus. They would rather you “Be silent,” “Keep your religion to yourself,” and “Leave Jesus out of it!”
That’s not bold. That’s timid.
But should we be surprised? Silencing Christianity might seem like a modern thought. But it isn’t. Look at what the local Pharisees do in response to Peter and John’s temple talk. They arrested them the first time. Then, after being encouraged by the angel to speak again – the Pharisees do the same thing. They arrested Peter and John again.
What’s interesting is what Scripture describes as the reasons for what they did. Check out Acts 4:2 when they first find out what Peter and John are doing. “They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” Do you see why they didn’t like the message? Because instead of facing sin and then hearing the Gospel message, they were scared by the implications. “If Christ was raised, then what have we done? We killed him! We will have to face God for what we’ve done.”
Does finding out that you killed God’s sound like a pleasant experience? Not so much.
It’s why they were doubly furious when they found the disciples the day after the prison break preaching the exact same message in the temple courts. 5:28 says, “The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be question by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
None of those Pharisees are alive anymore. There isn't anyone still living who literally used their voice to shout for Jesus’ death. There aren’t any Roman soldiers around who literally swung the hammer.
But they are plenty around who killed him. Plenty who killed God’s Son.
1 Peter 3:18 says this, “Christ died for sins once for all.”
That’s a scary thought. It means our sins (my sins) are what put Jesus on the cross. It's because of my lust, my hatred, my gossip, and my greed that God's Son died.
It's a scary enough thought that many refuse to believe it.
They hate to hear it.
They want it to be silenced.
And that’s sad. Sad because that’s not the end of the message.
II. Counter Culture says, “Be Bold”
Back in the courtroom, John looked around at the many eyes glaring at them. The tension was palatable. A drop of sweat fell down Peter’s beard.
Maybe they should be quiet before it cost them their lives.
John swallowed. He looks at Peter. Their eyes met and they spoke boldly, “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.”
Talk about bold. Notice how Peter and John not only say, “We’re not going to listen,” but they begin to preach the very thing that God them into trouble in the first place in front of the very people that had gotten them into trouble in the first place.
Why were the disciples so bold? Their speech gives us two reasons:
1) For the Sake of God
It’s a powerful statement. They knew that ultimately they answered to God. Not the Pharisees. Not the Sadducees. Not any members of those angry men glaring at them.
They answered to Jesus.
Jesus had been powerfully protecting his followers for centuries. When three men refused to bow down to a golden statue and were thrown into a fiery furnace as a result, God kept them from having even a hair on their heads singed. When Daniel refused to pray to anyone but the true God, God calmed the stomachs of the hungry lions who were supposed to viciously attack him. When Hezekiah dutifully prayed to God for help, when the Assyrian siege called for Him to denounce God and give up – God silent, quietly, removed that threat before the light of the next dawn.
And Jesus? They had seen him die for being bold – for boldly saying that if they killed him, he would rise again.
With such a powerful God on their side, how could the disciples do anything but speak his truth.
How can you do anything but speak the truth? Remember: You’ve got the same big, all powerful, all loving, all wise God on your side. He is your Creator, Redeemer, and Protector. He is the one you answer to. Not the media. Not your Facebook friends. Not your coworkers. Not the Twitterverse. Not a group of angry scientists. Not the talking heads on TV. Not the government. Not the homosexual agenda. Not even your own family.
Jesus is our leader. Jesus is our Savior. “We Must obey God rather than men!”
2) For the Sake of Those that want us to be Timid
But God isn’t the only reason that we speak boldly. Take a look at the rest of Acts 5 in your bulletin, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.” We’ve heard that before. But now look at the end game for the disciples. “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.”
The Pharisees were Israelites. So were the Sadducees. This means that the very men who were considering putting Peter and John to a violent end – were the very people that Peter and John were trying to save!
When I was younger, I hated Robitussin. For whatever reason, I remember needing it a lot. It tasted awful. I used to close my mouth and bite my lips so that I wouldn't have to put it on my taste buds.
But my mom always insisted. Then, I’d get better. I’d be healed.
As bitter as it may be to hear the truth about sin, eternity, and Jesus as the only Savior, it is also the only way for salvation. This is why we must be bold. We know how helpful the medicine is. (We know the medicine of Jesus is the ONLY medicine!) We must be bold for the sake of the very people who want us to NOT be bold! To bring them peace. To bring the forgiveness. To bring them heavenly joy. To bring them a promise of eternity.
To bring them to God.
Who do you know? Who needs to hear about Jesus? Who needs to hear about their Savior? Who’s hurting? Who is feeling shame? Who is struggling with guilt? Your co-workers? Your friends? Your neighbor? Your kids? Your wife?
Be bold. Tell them about Jesus. Tell them about how he lived perfectly. Tell them about how he died innocently. Tell them about how he rose triumphantly to save you from your sins. Be bold. Amen.