While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus. They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning, for by now it was late in the evening. But many of those who listened had already believed the Message—in round numbers about five thousand!
The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religion scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: "Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?"
With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: "Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I'll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is 'the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.' Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one."
This passage reminds me that when you are seeking to follow Jesus and you commit yourself to being one who loves well that you will eventually bump into those in power and they will not like it.
What was it about the message of Jesus that bothered the religious elite so much? Why did they have such an allergic reaction against this message of grace? The prophets were filled with the message of grace through faith. Surely these men knew this?
The problem is that when you start living a life of loving God by loving neighbor and enemy you necessarily challenge those in power. In the first century the religious elite were the defacto rulers of Judea. They were wealthy, they owned land, they had the ear of the government and shaped the policy of the area. These men were also learned. They knew the Scripture inside and out. Peter was basically communicating that they had “missed it” and as a result put the long awaited Messiah to death. In our modern vernacular Peter was saying, “In your quest to be right, you missed out on getting it right.”
We have a difficult time believing the grandeur of God’s grace. We really want people to be just like us. If someone is different from us then we struggle to believe that they deserve the grace of God. We think they should have to change first, then come to Christ. If “those” people get to have grace then it gets scary because then we have to love them and embrace them as family.
You see, the ramifications for the gospel message that was being preached by Peter and the apostles were so broad that it created real fear in the established power structures. The gospel flips things upside down and brings everyone into the family together. Often it feels like we need an “enemy.” Those in power need a “bogeyman” to keep people in line. The gospel undoes all of that. The message of Peter and the apostles was one that says, “Even this sinner whose legs don’t work is forgiven and now he walks.” There is no outsider in Christ. There is no “other” only “family.”
This is why the question by the leaders was, “Who put you in charge?” They felt like Peter and John were taking their authority from them. But, the reality is that their “authority” was a mirage. They didn’t have authority. They are people in need of grace just like the rest of us.
As you see the gospel flourish beyond your community who are you most worried about? Whose trust in Christ do you most question? Whose profession of faith do you find fraudulent? Who do you feel like is taking authority from you? These are hard questions but they are questions that you and I must wrestle with. It is in the answers to these questions that we find where we need the gospel to rain down truth in us and bring us back to the place of mercy.