Is it possible to go somewhere, anywhere in the world without being seen, identified or bumped into by people either known to you or from the same city or suburb you come from? In 1994 I had two experiences reminding me that there is no place to hide in this world.
(a) The first incident was in Lake Jackson, Texas, USA. Whilst waiting to preach at a large Baptist Church one Sunday night, the Church secretary sat me down in the pastor’s study. He was away for the weekend. Shortly afterwards she came and asked if she could introduce me to two ladies from South Africa. The one came from Centurion and the other from Waverly, the suburb next to where we lived. They were in that town for the night and landed up in the Church where I was to preach.
(b) The other was when I returned to South Africa … I had a lengthy layover of about 12 hours in Frankfurt, Germany. Whilst waiting I met up with a father, his daughter and her dancing partner returning from the Ukraine where they danced at an international competition. The father was the principal of a school near to our home Church in Bellville in the Cape. Small world … even when one is so far away! There is no place to hide! Maybe you had experiences like this … or even better, maybe you attended a Church and was recognized by people you known … or who know of you. Remember Peter and John were being interrogated by the Jewish religious leaders because of the healing of a man crippled from birth. They had been dumped in jail overnight and at their hearing Peter, filled with the Spirit of God declared the Gospel, reminding them, they put Jesus to death, but God raised Him to life. Further, Peter told them that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus. Now we read on:
Ac 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
The religious leaders observed the following about Peter and John …
1) They were courageous. The word “courage” relates to the fact that these apostles, although within a strictly Jewish environment were so bold that they preached the Gospel about Jesus’ death and resurrection. This courage included freedom to speak as well as fearlessness. Because we have the text we know that they were filled with the Holy Spirit which caused the courage.
Ac 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit.
Naturally this was special empowerment in line with the Great Commission:
Ac 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Peter and John were in Jerusalem and they were Jesus’ witnesses and they were operating under the power the Holy Spirit provided. This is what we need to be praying for … power from God the Spirit to be Jesus’ witnesses. Are our evangelistic efforts failing because there is no Holy Spirit enabled power … because the Church is prayer-less? Do we fear sharing the Gospel because we lack courage when in front of those who could harm us?
2) They were unschooled. Being unschooled means they had not attended the Jewish Schools or learned Jewish culture and practice. Remember these were fishermen … they knew the Scriptures but lacked the finesse of Jewish culture. Often one could be discriminated against because of the schooling one had. In Gospel terms it is not which school you went to or whether you learnt certain manners or cultures or even matriculated. You see the word “unschooled” actually means … “no knowledge of Jewish Culture beyond Scripture.” Some of the finest Christians never completed their schooling, went to schools that some might frown against … but this has no impact on their knowing, serving and obeying Jesus as Lord.
3) They were ordinary men. Some translations use the word “ignorant”. It is a technical term for not been schooled at the Rabbinical Schools … that is, they did not have professional knowledge such as the Jewish rulers, elders and scribes. Many today will say that because they have a university degree or degrees that they are professional. Very recently someone said to me they are an “academic.” Education is good and needed, but in Christian circles education does not mean the “educated” are better Christians and more gifted and suitable to fulfill certain roles within the Church. The first written Gospel, Mark, was Peter’s sermons. Peter wrote 1 and 2 Peter. John wrote the Gospel of John, 1, 2 and 3 John as well as the Book of Revelation … yet they had no degrees from the Rabbinical University or certificates in culture form the Jewish Schools. Certainly education helps but it must never be a prerequisite to Gospel Ministry.
4) Then we see these Jewish leaders were astonished! This could be “surprise” as in “caught off guard or fear”. Maybe the former is more suitable because their astonishment relates to Peter and John in that these leaders … took note that these men had been with Jesus. They refused to believe this Jesus they put to death was actually their Messiah … and more that He was risen. So them noting that Peter and John were with the risen Jesus is not what is meant here. Rather, it refers to identifying them as being at the high priest’s palace. Annas, Caiaphas and the other rulers recalled they saw these two men at Jesus’ trial on the occasion that Peter denied Jesus three times.
Jn 18:15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. 17 “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” 18 It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
Jn 18:25 As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” 26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Wherever we are, we carry the Name of Jesus with us as His people. There is no place to hide as His people. Our conduct and behavior are important at all times.
Father thank You that You can use us as we are, wherever we are for the Gospel. Amen.