April 11, Saturday
The next day Jesus’ apostles were questioned by the leading members of the council. The elders and scribes were there along with Annas the High Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and the whole of the High Priest’s family. “Who gave you authority and where did you get the power to heal this man?” they asked.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, responded by saying, “Leaders of the people and elders, apparently we are being interrogated today because of a kindness done to this handicapped man. You want to know how he was healed. Well, it is high time that all of you and the entire nation of Israel knew that it was done in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth — yes, the very One Whom you crucified but Whom God raised from the dead! It is by His power that this man stands here perfectly restored. Jesus Christ, the ‘stone rejected by you builders has become the Chief Cornerstone.’ The fact is that He alone can rescue men from their helpless condition; in His Name alone is there any hope of deliverance.”
The Council was thrown off-guard by the boldness and competence of Peter and John, mere fishermen who were obviously uneducated and untrained. They recognized them as men who had traveled with Jesus. Because the man who had been cured was standing right there, they didn’t know what to do. So they ordered them out of the Sanhedrin in order to discuss it among themselves.
“What are we going to do with these men?” they asked each other. “Everyone in Jerusalem knows that they’ve performed this miracle, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But we’ve got to do something to prevent any more of this kind of thing. Let’s warn them not to say anything more to anyone in this Name or there will be severe consequences.”
The disciples were called back in and commanded not to speak one more word about the name of Jesus, but Peter and John weren’t about to be swayed by their threats. “You’re going to have to decide,” they answered, “whether it is right in the eyes of God for us to obey what you say rather than what He says. We cannot help talking about our experience!”
All that the Council could do at that point was to threaten them because the people were thrilled with the healing of this poor man who had suffered for over forty years. Everyone was praising God! Everyone, that is, except for the Jewish religious leaders.
Immediately upon being released, the two apostles went back to their friends and reported to them what the chief priests and elders had said. You might think that some would have been frightened, but just listen to what they did. Upon hearing the report, the believers raised their voices in prayer: “Ah, Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, You are not moved by the futile threats of men!
“You declared through Your servant David in Psalm 2, ‘Why do the nations rage and the people waste their time with futile plans? The kings and rulers of the earth conspire together against the Lord and against His Christ.’
“Yes, that is what happened to Your holy servant Jesus Whom You anointed. Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel all gathered together to accomplish precisely what Your hand and Your purpose determined beforehand had to be done. Now, Sovereign Lord, You have heard their threats. Would You give us, your servants, fresh boldness to declare Your Word? Would You confirm the Message by stretching out Your hand to heal? Grant that mighty signs and wonders may be done through the Name of Your holy servant Jesus.”
And God responded. When they finished praying, the meeting-place was shaken; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God fearlessly. The apostles testified forcefully as they proclaimed the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
An extraordinary unity and love pervaded the large group of Christ-followers. They were so focused on one purpose that they willingly shared all their possessions in common. Such a spirit of generosity existed that no one experienced need. Any who owned property sold it and brought the proceeds to the apostles for them to distribute as needed.
One brother by the name of Barnabas sold his farm and brought the money to the apostles. Another couple, Ananias and Sapphira, wanting to give the impression that they were just as generous, sold their property but kept back part of the proceeds for their own use, pretending they were giving it all. However, when he brought the money to Peter, Peter confronted him, saying, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has convinced you to cheat the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the price of the land? Before the land was sold, it was yours; and after the sale you were free to do whatever you pleased with the money. What has come over you? You have not lied to men, but to God!”
Upon hearing Peter’s words, Ananias collapsed and died. Fear struck everyone in the room. Some young men got to their feet and after wrapping up his body carried him out and buried him. About three hours later Ananias’ wife came in not knowing what had taken place. Peter spoke directly to her, “Tell me, did you sell your land for so much?”
“Yes,” she answered, “that was the price.”
Then Peter said to her, “How could the two of you have agreed to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? Listen, I hear the footsteps of the men who have just buried your husband coming back through the door. Now they will carry you out.” Immediately she collapsed and died. When the young men came into the room, they saw her lying dead at Peter’s feet. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband. The whole community of believers, indeed everyone who heard about it, was filled with holy fear.