For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.
The time was after Christ had completed his mission on the earth, after his departure. It was the time of the apostles, the early days of the Church. The apostles were performing miracles in the name of Christ, and great is the influence to the people. They were causing a cultural, religious and political revolution. Threatened, the high priests and elders of the Sanhedrin ordered Peter and John not to speak about Christ anymore. Peter and John refused. Why? They simply could not just stand and stare. They could not just look and see and not tell; they simply could not just pretend to be ignorant of the greatness of God and the gift that was already prepared for all. They could not – but can we? In this study, we will examine Peter’s and John’s reaction upon being threatened and the steps that they took after that.
Knowledge + Passion + Courage
Let’s think about this the other way. Peter and John could not help speaking about what they have seen and heard. But surely, many of us can. Many of us can keep quiet and feign ignorance about the things we have seen or heard. Why? In fact, many of us even endeavor to not see and not hear – we pretend that we have not seen, have not heard, do not know, have not been prompted by the holy spirit. Perhaps some of us truly lack the knowledge. Perhaps some of us lack the passion despite having the knowledge. You know you should speak about what you have seen or heard, but you simply cannot find the energy or the motivation to do it. Perhaps some of us – most of us, in fact, lack the courage.
What was the Sanhedrin in those days? It was the largest political cum religious authority in the Jewish society. Sure, they were under Roman rule, but the influence and authority of the Sanhedrin was never simply disregarded by the Romans, too. The priests of the Sanhedrin were basically at the top, culturally, politically, and religiously. Imagine you’re called to high court for trial, and at the end of the trial, the judges tell you, don’t speak of a matter or a person any longer. Don’t spread it any further. It’s not too strange, is it? They have the authority to do so. But imagine, this is not just the legal system. This is also the highest religious authority combined in one. They can possibly bar you from cities and make your life difficult. Peter and John chose to speak.
It wouldn’t take most of us a modern day Sanhedrin to scare us away from speaking about Jesus.
Today we may not have had the privilege of the apostles, who had seen Jesus face to face, spoke to him face to face, heard him preach and teach in the flesh. We do not have that privilege, obviously. But we have seen other things. We have seen how God works for the good of those who love him. We have seen the works of God in our very own lives. Each of us probably has our own testimony for God. We have heard so many sermons in our lifetime that we can probably easily do a mini informal sermon on any one topic on our faith. No – even just standing up for the gospel! The very decision to say, I cannot not speak about Jesus!
What is our Sanhedrin? Why do we fear? By no means are we tasked to risk our lives for Jesus – few can do it. By no means are we tasked to break laws and incur the wrath of everybody for the sake of Christ. By no means are we asked to recklessly incur the irritation of others by boasting in our faith unnecessarily. By no means were we ever meant to look down on other beliefs, faiths or lifestyles. No, but we must speak about the goodness of the gospel, when the opportunities arise. We may risk our job performance, the impressions of our superiors, a friendship or two, the harmony in a family, a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort. We fear. We fear that by speaking up for Christ we may lose the good living standard that we currently possess.
But the opportunity cost is high. Let us not simply stand and stare, when we have seen and heard of the goodness of God.
I find it of particular importance what the two apostles did after they had been threatened. They returned to their own people, reported about what had happened, and they prayed – no, they cried out to the Lord about the matter. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness [Acts 4:29]. After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly [Acts 4:31].
Shall we learn not to fear, and instead commit the threats and the persecution that we may face into prayers of petition to God? Maybe it’s a friendship you cherish. Maybe it’s your job security at risk. But let us not fear. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold youwith my righteous right hand [Isa 41:10]. Instead, let us speak up when the time is right, and leave the rest to God.
If we would just put our faith in the Lord, and speak up boldly for the glory of God – things will shake.