Peter and John Are Brought
1The apostles were still talking to the people, when some priests, the captain of the temple guard, and some Sadducees arrived. 2These men were angry because the apostles were teaching the people that the dead would be raised from death, just as Jesus had been raised from death. 3It was already late in the afternoon, and they arrested Peter and John and put them in jail for the night. 4But a lot of people who had heard the message believed it. So by now there were about 5,000 followers of the Lord.
5The next morning the leaders, the elders, and the teachers of the Law of Moses met in Jerusalem. 6The high priest Annas was there, as well as Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and other members of the high priest's family. 7They brought in Peter and John and made them stand in the middle while they questioned them. They asked, “By what power and in whose name have you done this?”
8Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and told the nation's leaders and the elders:
9You are questioning us today about a kind deed in which a man who could not walk was healed. 10But there is something we must tell you and everyone else in Israel. This man is standing here completely well because of the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth. You put Jesus to death on a cross, but God raised him to life. 11 He is the stone you builders thought was worthless, and now he is the most important stone of all. 12Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.
I have never been in prison, but before the sun sets today many more followers of Jesus will join millions who have been jailed, tortured, and killed because of their faith. This tragic reality hit home for me again when I produced an episode of CONTEXT called Believers Under Fire. We profiled the growing persecution of Christians around the world.
How do believers sustain their faith under the crushing blows of violence and persecution? The pattern today is much the same as in the early church. Luke shows us in the Acts of the Apostles how the first disciples responded. As his story unfolds, we see how the apostles centred their lives on Jesus; how they were filled with the Holy Spirit to proclaim their faith with boldness; and how they followed Jesus at great cost – even unto death.
What was it about Peter and John’s message that angered the authorities and landed them in jail? They were proclaiming that “the dead would be raised from death” (v 2). Just as God raised Jesus, so God will vindicate those who trust in him no matter how dark and painful life becomes. This rock-solid belief that life does not end in death gives profound hope to those who suffer today in countries like Egypt, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan. Jesus said that those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake are blessed – and that the kingdom of God belongs to them (Matthew 5:10-11).
What does this mean for me here in Canada? First, I can pray. Ministries like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs send prayer requests for the persecuted church. I can raise my voice publicly to advocate on behalf of believers who suffer. Like Jesus, I can also live out love for God’s people and for their persecutors.
O God of the exodus, hear the cries of your people who are suffering. Uphold and protect their faith; and strengthen our resolve to see that your will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In the name of Jesus the crucified, we pray. Amen.