Peter and John Arrested
In my last blog post of Acts 3, we read the story of Peter and John, who went up to the temple to pray. There they found a cripple, a man who had been lame from his birth, who asked them for some money. But Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give unto you: in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise and walk,” (Acts 3:6).
Immediately strength came to this man’s ankles, and he began to leap, to jump, and to shout. All this drew a crowd, and Peter seized the occasion and began to preach to them in the name of Jesus, saying that it was by the power of Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, that this man was made whole. He gave a great message, which had a tremendous effect. But in the midst of it, an interruption occurred. We pick up that story now as Luke, the author of the book of Acts, in the fourth chapter, gives it to us:
While Peter and John were speaking to the people, they were confronted by the priests, the captain of the Temple guard, and some of the Sadducees. ~ Acts 4:1 (NLT)
The religious officials approached Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. Early Jewish opposition came mainly from the Sadducees, priests from the tribe of Levi who saw themselves the protectors of tradition. They believed the Messiah was an ideal, not a person; so all this talk of fulfilled prophecy in Jesus would have been offensive to their theology. Furthermore, they cooperated with Rome and would hardly want this kind of apocalyptic talk reaching Pilate or any other Roman official.
These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. They arrested them and, since it was already evening, put them in jail until morning. But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000. ~Acts 4:2-4 (NLT)
Peter and John spoke to the people during the afternoon prayer time. The Sadducees moved in quickly to investigate. Because they did not believe in the Resurrection, they were understandably disturbed with what the apostles were saying.
Peter and John were refuting one of their fundamental beliefs and thus threatening their authority as religious teachers. Even though the nation was under Roman rule, the Sadducees had almost unlimited power over the Temple grounds. Thus, they were able to arrest Peter and John for no other reason than teaching something that contradicted their beliefs.
Depending on where we live, seldom will sharing the Good News send us to jail as it did Peter and John. Still, we run risks in trying to win others to Christ. We might be willing to face a night in jail if it would bring 5,000 people to Christ, but shouldn’t we also be willing to suffer for the sake of even one? What do you risk in witnessing – rejection, persecution? Understand that nothing done for God is ever wasted.
Addressing The Sanhedrin
The next day the council of all the rulers and elders and teachers of religious law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, along with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other relatives of the high priest. They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” ~ Acts 4:5-7 (NLT)
The rulers, elders, and teachers of religious law made up the Jewish high council – the same council that had condemned Jesus to death (Luke 22:66). It had 70 members plus the current high priest, who presided over the group. The Sadducees held a majority in this ruling group. These were the wealthy, intellectual, and powerful men of Jerusalem. Jesus followers stood before the same high council that Jesus had.
The Romans, who then had appointed Caiaphas, Annas’s son-in-law, in his place, had deposed Annas as high priest. Because the Jews considered the office of high priest a lifetime position, they still called Annas by that title and gave him respect and authority within the high council.
Annas and Caiaphas had played significant roles in Jesus’ trial (John 18:24, 28). They were not pleased that the man they thought they had sacrificed for the good of the nation had followers who were just as persistent and promised to be just as troublesome as he had been.
Their opening question reminds us again of Peter’s emphasis in chapter 3 on the name of Jesus:
By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?
How often do we look for openings to witness for the Savior! How difficult it seems at times to find appropriate places in a conversation to raise the issue of the gospel. No problem here, the gathered religious leaders could not have asked a question which more easily led into precisely what Peter and John had been saying out in the temple courts.
The last word of verse 7 (this) likely refers to the apostles’ teaching rather than the healing of the physically challenged beggar – both the miracle and the message might be in view. As they sat in jail overnight, or perhaps as they faced the stern, demanding faces of the Sanhedrin, Peter and John might well have remembered Jesus’ words on the night before his death:
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me. They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin. Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’ ~ John 15:18-25 (NLT)
Chronological Life Application Study Bible
Holman New Testament Commentary – Acts