Peter goes on trial
Arrested by a security guard1 While Peter and John were talking to the crowd, a group of Jewish leaders interrupted them: some priests, Sadducees, and the Temple’s top security guard. 2 The Jewish leaders were royally ticked because the disciples were teaching that people would rise from the dead if they had faith in Jesus. 3 So the leaders had Security arrest the two and lock them up until the next day, since it was already evening. 4 More and more people started believing what the followers of Jesus were saying. Their numbers swelled to about 5000 souls.
Apostles ordered to shut up about Jesus5 The next day, Jewish leaders met in Jerusalem to hear the case against the two men. The Council included rulers, elders, and scholars known as scribes, 6 along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and relatives of the high priest. 7 The two men were led to the hearing. Council members asked them, “Where did you get the power to do this? If you invoked someone’s name, who was it?” 8 Peter, Spirit-filled and inspired, addressed the Council. “Rulers and respected elders of our people, 9 if we’re being interrogated for doing the good deed of healing this lame man who stands here today, and if you’re asking us where we got the power to do it, 10 I’ll tell you and everyone in Israel. This man stands here healed and healthy because of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. That’s right, Jesus, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. 11 You know the Scriptures. Well, Jesus is the stone the builders rejected. You’re the builders. This rejected stone has now become the most important stone of all—the cornerstone. 12 No one else is going to save us. From high heaven to here, there is no other name we can call on to save us.” 13 This kind of bold talk coming out of Peter and John shocked the Council since it was obvious that both men were uneducated, workaday grunts. The Council could also tell that the two had been with Jesus. 14 Since the healed man was standing right there with the two, there was nothing much they could say. 15 They asked the men to step outside the room. The Jewish leaders discussed the sticky matter among themselves. 16 They said, “What are we going to do with these men? Everyone in Jerusalem knows they performed a remarkable miracle. We can’t deny that. 17 On the other hand, we can’t have them spreading these stories and teachings around. So let’s order them to stop using the name of Jesus when they talk to people.” 18 The Council called the men back in and ordered them to stop talking about Jesus or invoking his name. 19 Peter and John said, “Well, whether it’s right for us to obey you instead of God, you can make that call. 20 But we don’t have any choice in the matter. All we can do is talk about what we have seen and heard.” 21 The Council threatened the men some more and let them go. They couldn’t figure a way to punish them. That’s because crowds of people were out there thanking God for what he had done through these men. 22 The man who was miraculously healed was over 40 years old.
Praying a psalm23 After their release, Peter and John went back to their friends and told them about everything the top priests and elders said. 24 When the group heard this, they started making some noise. Quoting their Bible, they said prayers of thanks to God. “Lord of everything that exists, you created heaven, the earth, the sea—and everything in them. 25 Long ago you spoke to your people, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the voice of our ancestor David, who was devoted to you. David said,
‘Why are the nations in such a rage?
Why are their people scheming to hurt others and help themselves?
These rulers have united against their common enemy: the LORD and his Messiah.’ 27 David got it right, for that’s exactly what happened. In this very city, the rulers united against their enemy. They all took a stand against your devoted servant Jesus, the Messiah. Herod did. Pontius Pilate did. Foreigners did. And so did the Jews. 28 It was your plan, and these people played their part—thinking it was their plan. 29 Now, Lord, you see how they’re threatening us. Give us courage to boldly say what you want us to say. 30 And keep reaching out to help us by giving us the power to heal the sick and perform other miracles by the authority of your devoted servant, Jesus.” 31 While they prayed, the ground started to shake. Then the Holy Spirit poured into them, filling them with courage. They boldly spoke the words God wanted them to say.
Share and share alike32 These people were so devoted to each other that it seemed as though they shared one heart and they existed as one soul. Not a single one of these people claimed any property to themselves. They shared everything. 33 As for the apostles, incredible force drove their words whenever they spoke about the resurrection of Jesus. Clearly, God was helping every one of them. 34 The people eliminated poverty in their group. No one was left needy. That’s because people advantaged enough to own land and houses sold their assets as needed. 35 They would bring to the apostles any money they got from the sale. The apostles gave the money to people in the group who needed it. 36 Joseph made a donation like that. The apostles nicknamed him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement. He was a Levite from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field. Then he took the money he got for it and put it down at the feet of the apostles.
Sadducees “were Jews who taught there was no such thing as a resurrection” (Luke 20:27).
The security guard was not a Roman soldier. The top security guard, sometimes identified as the captain of the Temple police, was a member of the high priest’s family—a Levite. He and his men kept the peace at the sprawling Temple complex that dominated the cityscape.
Many Bible experts say the Greek word refers only to men. Others say women are implied, since they show up in later references, including 5:14.
Annas was actually more like the high priest emeritus. He was also the family patriarch. People addressed him by his most honored title in the same way we might address a former President as “Mr. President” or a former Secretary of State as “Madame Secretary.” His son-in-law, Caiaphas, served as high priest during the entire time Pilate ruled the region as governor, from A.D. 18-36. John may refer to Jonathan who replaced Caiaphas in A.D. 37. No one seems to know which Alexander is referred to here.
Peter is referring to Psalm 118:22.
This prayer is a quote from Psalm 2:1-2.
Literally, “in the name of…Jesus.”
Literally, “great grace was upon them.”
Levites were descendants of Levi, who was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Levi’s descendants, or tribe, became the nation’s priests, Temple workers, and other worship leaders.
About 2 months after Jewish leaders running the Jerusalem Temple orchestrated the execution of Jesus, they found themselves having to deal with the disciples of Jesus telling Jews worshipping at the Temple that Jesus rose from the dead. When you think about that scene, what comes to mind?
The Council asked Peter and John “Where did you get the power to do this? If you invoked someone’s name, who was it?” (4:7). Many Bible translations use the phrase “in the name of Jesus.” It’s often used in a prayer or to perform a miracle, such as an exorcism. Does it feel like a magical phrase, a bit like “abracadabra”? If not, what is it?
When Peter addresses the Council, with its many members who are expert in the Jewish Bible—which Christians call the Old Testament—he gave them a Bible lesson. He told them about David predicting what they did to Jesus, “the stone the builders rejected. You’re the builders” (4:11). What do you think those scholars thought about a fisherman giving them a Bible lesson?
Peter said “Jesus is the stone the builders rejected….This rejected stone has now become the most important stone of all—the cornerstone” (4:11). What do you think he meant by calling Jesus “the cornerstone”?
Peter said “From high heaven to here, there is no other name we can call on to save us” (4:12). He was talking about the name of Jesus. That’s a pretty bold statement. How do you think the Council interpreted that? Did they think he was talking about a Messiah who would drive off the invading Roman army? Or were they thinking a bit like many Christians today, understanding it as a reference to heaven?
It almost sounds like a PS at the end of a letter: “The man who was miraculously healed was over 40 years old” (4:22). Why do you think Luke, the presumed writer of this book, included that note where he did?
LIFE APPLICATION. When the group of believers prayed, the ground shook. “Then the Holy Spirit poured into them, filling them with courage. They boldly spoke the words God wanted them to say” (4:31). These days, 2,000 years later, how do we know what God wants us to say?
LIFE APPLICATION. “The people eliminated poverty within their group” (4:34). They did that by sharing everything. The haves gave to the have-nots. Do you think the closing verses of this chapter, 4:32-37, should indict Christians who vote for political representatives who promise to cut taxes by slashing social services to the people who are at greatest risk in our culture—such as the sick, the children, the elderly, the single parents?
LIFE APPLICATION. Joseph, nicknamed Barnabas, sold some property so he could give the proceeds to people who needed the money (4:36-37). People still do that from time to time. When have you seen anyone do that?