Cameos in HIStory: Acts 4:13-22

Should we actually greet people with Merry Christmas?

I have a confession to make…I love this season.   The whole season of Advent.  I admit it.  Christmas is one of my favourite times of year!  Even with its hustle and bustle and everything else that comes with it.   So I’m probably not the best person to ask.   But my bias is up front.  Merry Christmas!

I think for me Christmas has become even more enjoyable because it’s one of the times in the year that before and after is so evident.

Before and after?  What’s the pastor talking about now?  Before and After? 

Well it’s the before knowing Christ as your personal Saviour and what came after.   I’ve seen it in so many new believers.  It changes their whole outlook on Christmas, truly on life itself. It’s like night and day.

We that saw last week when we witnessed the miracle healing of a 40 year old man who had been crippled from birth. He came to know the name of Jesus and for the first time he was able to walk into the Temple and worship God.  What joy it was for him to finally find out what had drawn millions of people past the spot where he had begged for many years.   It radically changed his outlook on life!

In a small way that change is like opening the most anticipated and valued gift at Christmas and getting way more than you dreamt of.  That man’s excitement could not be contained.  Luke said the man went in “walking, and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

Can you imagine it?  Have you ever been so excited that you couldn’t stand still?  You couldn’t keep it in.  You just wanted everybody to know just how excited you are and why Christmas is so different now.

I’m not sure we can even begin to imagine how that man felt that day.  But then again, I’m sure he couldn’t begin to imagine your part in HIStory either.  You see, each and every encounter with the Living Christ is unique and special because it always points us to God.

It is so important to remember the Christ of Christmas and not let Him get lost in the glittering lights during this time of year.  It’s Christ that we remember even as we look at people like you and me, cameos in HIStory.

Take for example Zachariah.  He was an old man by the time his call came to serve as a priest in the Temple.   He and his wife were good folks but somehow they hadn’t been able to conceive any offspring.  And this weighed heavily upon their hearts.  They faithfully prayed to the LORD and had all but given up on the idea of Elizabeth giving birth until that day Zachariah was called to serve before the Lord.  Let’s read their cameo in HIStory.

 

It’s found here: Luke 1:8-23 (NIV)  

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Click picture to read passage.

Can you even begin to imagine how he felt?  Such a powerful encounter with God’s messenger and then suddenly he couldn’t say one word for the next nine months!  Yet that didn’t stop him from conveying his excitement now did it?  And clearly it didn’t prevent him from sharing the good news with Elizabeth as nine months later John was born.

And when the baby that the Angel announced came Zach and Liz weren’t the only ones excited.

Reading on in that same passage we find their “58  …neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59  On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60  but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”
61  They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62  Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65  The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Luke 1:58-65 (NIV)

When it came time to name their son, Zachariah couldn’t hold back his praise for God any longer, it just exploded from within him.  God cared so much that He not only heard their prayers but answered so powerfully and even provided the name for their son (cf. Luke 1:13).    “His name is John”(64), Zachariah wrote to the peoples astonishment.

John was no ordinary son.  He would be used of God to prepare the people to receive the Christ.  It was his calling to announce that the Messiah had come, and John even had the privilege to baptised Him. News that good just can’t be kept in.

Just like the crippled man that Peter called to his feet.  There was no stopping his joy from overflowing and touching people with the good news that Jesus Christ heals.   And Peter & John joined right in with him celebrating what Christ had done.

But unlike the neighbours of Zach & Liz there were those in the Temple not so excited to see these men praising God.  In fact, between last week’s portion of HIStory and this week’s, those who were in charge of the Temple actually tried to silence the man’s exuberance and even called the apostles integrity into question.

Let’s dig a little deeper today and see how it turned out.

Turn in your Bible with me to Acts 4:13-22 (NIV).

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It’s first Advent.  The most wonderful time of the year is beginning again.  We are entering in to a season when it is OK to talk about Jesus openly if not boldly!  While many shop keepers continue to cave into the idea that the name of Christ ought to be removed from this season you and I can happily say it’s beginning to look a lot like Christ-mas.

The Sanhedrin, in our passage this morning, were the ruling elders of the Temple where this exuberant man went dancing, and leaping and praising God.  And even they were admittedly impressed that God had healed that man.  But their joy was underwhelming to say in the least.  They obviously were able to contain it.

You’d think an angel zipped their lips so they couldn’t say what they couldn’t deny happened.  Not only that but they sure were trying to zip Peter and John’s lips according to what Luke wrote.  Didn’t want them to mention the name of Christ or do anything else in Christ’s name!

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The Elders saw them as “unschooled”, “simple folk”.  Not that Peter and John were ignorant, far from it.  Peter and John just didn’t have the Rabbinical training and credentials to the Elders way of thinking.  And yet when Peter addressed the crowds what he said about Christ rang true to thousands of listening ears.  (cf. Acts 2) Oddly enough the prophets had predicted this day would come. (see Isaiah 6:8-10; Joel 2:27-29) So where did this unschooled fisherman learn such things?

Where in deed!   What Peter and John taught reflected someone the Sanhedrin had known.   And it was as though a light went on and reminded them that there was another “untrained” man who spoke with great authority (cf. Matthew 7:28-29).  The man Jesus who is the Christ!   And these men standing before them that day showed clearly their relationship with Christ.

Such courage, even bravado from simple men.  You see the Holy Spirit came just as Jesus predicted (cf. John 16:7-8).  In fact, Jesus told Peter, 19  …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, 20  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20 (NIV).   And sure enough, Peter’s mouth had no sooner opened to explain Who healed that crippled man, when God’s Word proceeded through it like a sword bent on reaching it mark. 

That of course didn’t convince the Sanhedrin to believe in Christ.  They already done away with Him and thought they got away with it.  They just didn’t want to suffer the consequences of a mob who could not but tell of this once crippled man and the mighty miracle that happened that day.  Oh and of course the Sanhedrin also knew that man who stood there healed.  So if the Sanhedrin came down hard on Peter and John or denied what was clearly in evidence before them that day they may have been lynched.  Or at best been made a laughingstock of.

Instead Sanhedrin set up Peter and John for the next go round.  Luke says, “… they called them in …and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18 (NIV).  It would be all the legal precedence they needed to arrest Peter and John the next time without alarming the witnesses of the miracle that day.

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Peter and John recognised their tactic and called them out on it.  “19 “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20  For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard(Acts 4:19-20 (NIV).

Peter wasn’t kidding…they really couldn’t help it.  These were no idle words.  Just look at the next chapters in Acts and you’ll see.  When the Holy Spirit is prompting you to speak you can’t just sit there.  He is very compelling!  You either run away…or open your mouth and let Him speak.  And seriously, where can you run from God? (see Jonah 1;  and here too)

If God commands, you speak, you are compelled to speak.  You have as much choice as Zachariah had about being silent until John was born and then he too was compelled to speak!  Likely couldn’t shut him up after nine months of silence.

Jeremiah a prophet from long before Peter certainly found that to be the case.  His prophecies are some of the most disturbing and heart wrenching words of the Old Testament.  The words God gave him cut to the heart and made him entirely unpopular with everyone but enemies of God’s people and that even made him even more uncomfortable.

Yet Jeremiah said, 9 … if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV).  God’s Spirit would have his way in Jeremiah.

That’s why Peter, speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit, said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19 (NIV).   With these words Peter set a precedence that Christians have to one degree or another used ever since.  We are to choose to obey God over even the high court rulings of man when what they rule goes against what God has commanded of us.  God trumps Trump!

But also notice that Peter was not being rude to the Sanhedrin.  Nor was his response seen as arrogant. Courageous and very much to the point perhaps but Peter spoke the truth in love.

Peter would later instruct the church with, 15 … in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV).

It’s pretty hard to keep a clear conscience while you are doing stupid things like bombing abortion clinics or killing doctors who perform euthanasia.  There is no gentleness and respect there just ungodly anger and rage.  That is the work of the devil and his helpers not those who are called by the name of God’s only begotten Son.

We are called to celebrate openly as we choose to greet people respectfully with Merry Christmas during this season of Advent but we don’t need to bully nor soft peddle it either.

We can not and should “not help but speak of what we have seen and heard”.  We are witnesses that Jesus Christ put on flesh, came as a baby, even as John, Zachariah’s son did.  Jesus lived a righteous life, died a cruel death in our place but rose again on the third day, he ascended into heaven where He intercedes on behalf of all who can not but tell that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We remember the Christ of Christmas even when friends, merchants and government officials choose to X Him out.  This is our cameo in HIStory.

AMEN?

 



 

Cameos in HIStory

Should we actually greet people with Merry Christmas?

I have a confession to make…I love this season.   The whole season of Advent.  I admit it.  Christmas is one of my favourite times of year!  Even with its hustle and bustle and everything else that comes with it.   So I’m probably not the best person to ask.   But my bias is up front.  Merry Christmas!

I think for me Christmas has become even more enjoyable because it’s one of the times in the year that before and after is so evident.

Before and after?  What’s the pastor talking about now?  Before and After?

Read more here: http://wp.me/p3ayXe-1C2

Dig Deeper into HIStory – Acts 4:13-22

 

  1. How did the Sanhedrin know they were “unschooled ordinary men”? Mat 4:18-22; Act 2:7-12; Mat 11:25; Jn 7:15; 1 Cor 1:27
  2. Why did the Sanhedrin order the two before them to leave? (15-17) Would they have denied the miracle if they could?
  3.  What did the Sanhedrin decide to do? Why did they warn them?
  4.  Why was it that that the Sanhedrin set them free? Was it because they came under conviction from the Holy Spirit? Was it because they felt that the people who had heard of that great miracle would beat them to a pulp if they laid a hand on Peter and John? Why did they do it?
  5. What does it mean to teach “in the name of Jesus?” (18) “In the name of Jesus: is found mostly in Acts 2:38; 3:6; 3:16; 4:10; 4:18; 5:40; 8:12; 9:27; 10:48; 16:18; 19:13; 26:9; Phil 2:10
  6.  How did Peter respond to their warning?
  7.  How do we know when we must obey God rather than man?
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