This is a long passage so before I get started, I’ll try to sum it up…
Peter and John heal a man and he is overjoyed… People were genuinely astonished and wondered how these guys got the power to heal… Peter dismisses their human power, saying its God, the same God they put on the cross (perhaps getting their backs up a little)… They get arrested whilst preaching about resurrection… But lots of people who heard them preaching still believed and became Christians… They then had to face up to the rulers and elders, but God filled them with his spirit and gave them courage to speak and they were eventually released.
If I’m honest, right now I couldn’t feel further from this story… none of this persecution stuff seems to have happened to me recently.
In fact, when did I last feel really threatened or in fear because of Jesus?
Maybe its because I don’t live in Northern Nigeria, where Christians have recently been the target of multiple bomb attacks, or in Iran where, hundreds of Christians have been arrested because of their faith, in spite of the official stance of religious freedom.
The trials faced by Christians in these examples seem to much more accurately reflect those of Peter and John in Chapter 4, and I often find it difficult to relate to this kind of persecution, especially since I don’t think persecution is something God wants for us.
So, aside from the real sense of thankfulness we must take from our situation, how might this passage speak to us? Well, I think that I may have been asking myself the wrong question; I think I need to tackle it from a slightly different angle…
When did I last step out for Jesus?
When did I last pray for healing for someone on the street I didn’t know? When did I last publicly talk about the need to repent of sins?
These are things we see Peter and John doing in chapter 3, and ultimately, I think these acts lead to their persecution (acts 4:3), and the growth of the church (acts 4:4).
So whilst it is good to support those in God’s family who are suffering persecution (Ephesians 6:18 tells us to ‘be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people’), for a lot of us, in this time and in this place, the challenge may be whether we are really stepping out for Jesus.
Whether that will lead to persecution or not, I guess we don’t know, but it was the starting point for Peter and John in this story, and I think it is the starting point for many of us.