How do you feel when you meet with someone very important? Even better, what if you had the opportunity to spend time with someone really important? Generally speaking, there is usually a sense of excitement when someone anticipates meeting someone they’ve only heard of but not actually met.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered one of my friends many years ago who met someone important and shook hands with them. Jokingly, he raised his hands and said, “I’m never going to wash this hand again”.
While it is always exciting to have the opportunity to meet with famous people, the effect of that meeting soon fades away. In come cases, after spending time some famous personalities, people have often come away with a sense of disappointment because they discovered that while the person they met may have projected a certain persona, in person and at close quarters, they are not really the image they projected themselves to be.
Which brings us to the question, “Have you been with Jesus?” In Acts 4, Peter and John were speaking to the people. In chapter 3, they had gone to the temple at the time of prayer and came across a man lame from birth at the template gate called Beautiful. When Peter and John walked up to him, he looked up expecting to some money from them but they had something better. Peter told him, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6) The man was healed that instant and you can imagine the excitement of the man as he walked on his feet for the first time in his life!
Those who saw this man every day, lying at the temple gate, were amazed and wondered how this could possibly happen and Peter seized the moment to tell the people about Jesus by whose power this man was healed.
While Peter and John were still speaking to the people, the Sadducees came to the scene and were disturbed by the fact that the apostles were preaching about Jesus resurrecting from the dead. To understand why the Sadducees were disturbed, we need to understand a bit about who they were. The Sadducees were a powerful religious group and they controlled two important institutions of Jewish society - The Jerusalem Template (Known as Herod’s Temple) and the Sanhedrin. Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas are two High Priests named in the New Testament (Matthew 26:3, Acts 4:6) They were both Sadducees and they both played critical roles in the execution of Jesus.
The Sadducees theology rested on the following;
- They believed the Bible (Old Testament) was the only authority in matters of faith and life
- The believed in unrestrained free-will - meaning God has no role in the personal lives of humans.
- They rejected the supernatural - they don’t believe in angels, demons, heaven, hell and the resurrection. As far as they were concerned, souls die when the body dies.
- They believed in ritual purity as prescribed by Moses so they make sure nothing disqualified them from leading temple services that generated income. Wealth was a critical part of their belief system.
You can therefore understand why they not only hated Jesus so much and by extension the apostles. They thought they had got rid of the man who had given them so much grief and now some other people have now come into the picture claiming to perform miracles in His name! Due to the influence the Sadducees welded, they were able to influence the arrest of Peter and John. They were thrown in jail till the next morning since they were arrested in the evening.
The next day, Peter and John were brought before the elders and teachers of the law. They were asked the question, “By what power or what name did you do this? It was as if they gave Peter the ammunition he needed to unleash the gospel message. When he was done talking, the Bible tells us in Acts 6:13, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus”
This verse really challenged me when I read it. The teachers of the law found themselves being schooled by men who had no formal training of the law. They had not gone to Bible school and did not train under any Rabbi. Yet, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke with authority and with power!
Even in the face of intimidation, they refused to be cowed. They were warned to stop speaking and teaching about Jesus but Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:18)
You and I may have not met Jesus physically but the moment we gave our lives to Him, that was the beginning of our ‘being’ with Jesus. The question is, how has that being with Jesus impacted our lives? Have people come in contact with us and gone away thinking, “That man or woman must be a Christian”. I remember many years ago as a young Christian, I got on a bus and paid the fare. When the conductor gave me my change, I noticed he had overpaid me. You would think it would have been easy for me to call his attention to it but that was not the came. I simple pocketed the change. I justified my action with the numerous times bus conductors had short-changed me and in come cases did not even give any change at all because I left the bus in a rush.
From the moment I pocketed the change, I had no peace. Just as I was about to disembark, I called the attention of the conductor and told him he overpaid the change. I will never forget the look of gratitude in his eyes. He thanked me and said something I I will always remember, “You must be a Christian”
Romans 8:19 tells us that “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are” There is something special about being a Christian. We carry the presence of God wherever we go. What we do with that presence is another matter. It is not simply doing good, giving to the needy and helping those who need help - these things are good but it is about demonstrating God’s love to those we come in contact with.
What were the characteristics that made it evident that Peter and John had been with Jesus?
Compassion - When they saw the man at the temple gate, they had compassion on him. They didn’t heal the man just to show they can show off their new found power to heal but they did it because they had the same compassion they master had.
Courage - It took courage for Peter and John to speak to the people at the temple. They knew that some of the things they preached about would not go down well with the religious leaders, especially the Sadducees. It took even more courage to disagree with the religious leaders when they were told not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. We need that same courage today.
You might be asking the question, “but how can I find this courage?” The clue is in the scripture we just read, Acts 4:8. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them….” The source of our courage is the Holy Spirit. Remember, this was the same Peter who denied Jesus, the same Peter who became afraid and began to sink when Jesus invited him to walk on water. When he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he had the boldness to speak about Jesus wherever he went. That same power of the Holy Spirit is available today.
Commitment - The apostles had total commitment to the Lord. There was nothing or anyone more important to them than Jesus and they were committed to preaching the gospel at any cost - even if it meant giving up their lives. These disciples were uneducated. They were untrained. They didn’t have a lot of influence; didn’t have a lot of power; didn’t have a lot of intellectual brilliance, but they were mighty servants of God because they had been with Jesus.
How is my commitment to Jesus? How often do I use every opportunity I have to speak about Him to someone? When people see me, do they see compassion, courage and commitment to Christ? That is the challenge for you and I today. May the Lord help us all to truly exhibit that character of someone who has been with Jesus.