Early in the life of the church, Peter and John were brought before the religious leaders of Israel, who also doubled as the political leaders under Roman rule. The problem was that Peter and John had been teaching the people about Jesus, something that the religious leaders took great offense with. And during this hearing, Peter and John are forbidden to publicly speak about Jesus. While the parallels with today are not exact, it is still a choice we face. Who should we follow? The voice of God? Or the crowds around us? And I believe Peter and John’s response to the religious/civil authorities is instructive to us.
But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”Acts 4:19-20 NIV
I believe that Peter and John recognized the authority of those who were questioning them and who had forbidden them to speak in the name of Jesus. But they also recognized a higher authority, that of God. And they made clear that if those two authorities provided conflicting directions, that they were going to follow the higher authority, that of God. God had told them to speak about Jesus. And so that was their plan, regardless of what the religious/civic leaders directed them to do.
A Prayer for Boldness
After their release, Peter and John met with the church and prayed for boldness to continue to speak about Jesus. Going on from there, they continued to preach and teach about Jesus. And once again they found themselves standing before the religious leaders, accused of spreading their propaganda about Jesus. This time they ended up beaten and again forbidden to speak of Jesus. I believe their response this time is particularly relevant to us.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.Acts 5:41-42 NIV
They did not complain about the violation of their rights. They did not try to replace their leaders. And they did not wallow in self-pity. Instead, they left rejoicing at having been counted worthy of suffering for Christ. And they continued to follow God in obedience by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus wherever they went.
To respond to abuse with rejoicing, and continued obedience. What an example they set for us today!