Sunday 15th August 2021

Reading: Acts 4:1-12


Our reading this morning refers to what had happened during the previous chapter. A lame beggar man had been healed and the powers that be were not at all happy. Peter and John had healed him as he sat begging at the temple gate. He asked for money but got so much more than that. He jumped to his feet and walked with Peter and John into the temple courts, walking and jumping and praising God as he went. Of course the people within the temple recognise the man as he had sat at the gates every day and although they may or may not have offered him any money they certainly had looked at him often enough to know that this was the man who was so very happy this day. The gate at which he sat was called beautiful and how appropriate that such a beautiful thing should happen there as all who witnessed this were filled with wonder and amazement. That is the setting for what we now have before us this morning. The apostles have moved into a new chapter in their lives and on their journey of discipleship. They have moved on from being that scared group who wondered whether they had seen a ghost or was the risen Jesus really there amongst them. No longer were they behaving with disbelief or terror or acting as though it was all some wild rumour factory that had gone into some heavy duty overtime. They had seen the risen Jesus enough and they were convinced. They were now witnessing the things Jesus told them about for themselves. They were now a people on whom God had poured out that Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised he would send. The book of the Acts of the Apostles is now showing us a group of disciples who are behaving in a very different way. They have come through a very difficult time and things have changed for them but they have stayed on in there and God has done this new thing. The word is now very much out there. No longer hiding away, afraid of what might become of them. Now we witness men who are standing out from the crowd, a group who cannot wait to tell anyone who cares to listen all about Jesus.

The priests and the Sadducees are unhappy there is a great commotion being stirred up. Is it really about the healing that had taken place? Or is more to do with these men announcing the Jesus who had been put to death has now been raised. There is irony in how the whole episode is conducted. There is no time left to conduct any business before the Sanhedrin so Peter and John are left alone in prison overnight. Remember when this same group was confronted with the commotion that Jesus stirred up in those same temple courts. They planned to arrest him and eventually did so late at night when the Sanhedrin should not have legally been allowed to convene. The men mentioned in our reading this morning were amongst those who made the decision to condemn Jesus. They were the ones who thought their actions would cause this new church, this new teaching, to quickly die out. Now these are the men who are behaving as though they have seen a ghost but they have no desire to tell anyone about it. Their fears were well founded because this new thing that they had tried to crush, but a short time ago, was now growing way beyond their control. In one setting they acted illegally to get Jesus off the streets and now in this setting they stick rigidly to their laws. The outcome of course is the same. Jesus message had been delivered and his glory was soon to be witnessed through the resurrection. The Apostles message has been delivered and thousands more have come to believe. Once again we meet this changed Peter. No longer the denying one but now standing before his accusers and just as he did last week, speaking with confidence, but not to an unknown crowd, this time Peter is addressing the ruling courts of Israel, the rulers and the chief men of the Jewish nation. Remembering what Jesus had said to them earlier as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, ‘But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the spirit of your father speaking through you.’ The glory of the Holy Spirit was beginning to be revealed. Those who were open to be changed, those who were open to a new way of life, those who were open to not really knowing what lay ahead but trusted enough in God to follow, these would have been amongst that number that day. Will we count ourselves amongst their number for our day? Peter draws to a close by reminding us all it is not only from physical sickness that people are healed. Our souls can be saved from spiritual sickness. If these leaders continue to reject Jesus they will in the end have rejected the only way to heaven. As a society as we move ever closer to less restrictions will we be open to life in new ways? As a church that is having to deal with new ways of being, most definitely on our horizons, will we be open to church life in new ways? Possibly a more meaningful question for the church would be, ‘As a church are we trusting God enough, not really knowing what lies ahead will we follow God?’

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