On the day of Pentecost, Jesus used miracles and preaching to challenge Jerusalem’s sins (Ac 2:14-36). Now he is doing so again, with a dramatic healing and another bold sermon from Peter (Ac 3:1-8). The effect is powerful and, this time, the city’s rulers feel the pressure to act (v1). They thought they had killed off Jesus’ movement by striking him dead, but that is being counteracted by the apostle’s message of his resurrection (v2). So they snatch Peter and John from the temple and imprison them, pending a council hearing the next morning (v3). However, their tough action does nothing to prevent striking growth among the Christians (v4).
The following day, the top men in Jerusalem meet to try Peter and James (v5,6). Jesus, at his own trial before this group, used a quote from Psalm 110 to speak to these men of his coming rule with the power of God (Lk 22:69). The council found such a claim from a beaten and bullied man (Lk 22:63-65) to be self-condemning nonsense (Lk 22:71). But before their very eyes, it is coming true. Peter previously pointed out the clear evidence for Jesus now being at God’s right hand (Ac 2:33-36). The giving of the Holy Spirit, the miracle of tongues and the gathering of a community of love in which signs and wonders are performed (Ac 2:43), all testify to Jesus being alive and exercising divine power! The council may demand to know the apostles’ authority for their healing and preaching (v7) but Jesus has already given them the answer in no uncertain terms!
Nonetheless, the Lord brings it home to them once more. Peter is enabled by the Holy Spirit (v8) to speak boldly and clearly to the council (as Jesus promised – Lk 12:11,12; 21:12-15). Do they demand to know the source of this kind act to a lame man (v9)? The answer is Jesus Christ (v10)! The man from Nazareth whom they despised. He, in response to their wicked attitude, refused to say if he was the Christ when asked by them (Lk 22:67,68). Now, however, his representatives say it plainly for God has raised him from the dead and his status is clear. Jesus has become like the author of Psalm 118 (v11) who having suffered at the hands of enemies then, by God’s mercy, wonderfully overcame them. That songster wrote of himself as being like a rejected builder’s stone which is later rescued from the junk pile in order to play the most important role in the structure (Ps 118: 22): Jesus fulfils that perfectly (Lk 20:17,18). He has risen to a unique place in heavenly glory: he is the saviour of the world (v12). Others may help us to live in this world but only he, the overcomer of death, can fully heal a life and bring us back to God.
Peter’s powerful speech to the rulers was evidence of the claim Jesus made at his trial and fulfilled his promise of the Spirit’s help for Christians who have to speak in times of persecution. But his words are also an inspiration for Christians today. They encourage those persecuted now to believe the Spirit will help in their time of trial. And for those of us living for Christ in ordinary, everyday ways, they inspire us never to embarrassed of our Lord. He is the capstone of God’s eternal temple, the saviour needed by all. We may not be given the ability or opportunity to speak like Peter, but in our own ways we can honour the Lord as we live as part of his church. We just need to keep growing in our appreciation of Jesus. In the end, that’s what really stood out about the apostles at their trial: not learning nor training, but simply that they’d “been with Jesus” (v13).