By What Power?

April 25, 2021
by Pastor Joel Plisek
4th Sunday of Easter
Scripture Reading: Acts 4:5-12

God works in mysterious ways.  I truly believe that.  I have witnessed it many times in my life.  Just this Tuesday morning I was on call for the over night hospital chaplain, which is something new I’m doing for the church and community. At 5am I received a call from ICU to visit someone was dying.  They don’t give you a name or anything when they call. When I arrived, I walked into the room nervous, but then I saw a familiar face.  The patient was Tom Walker and his wife Lorene was sitting beside the bed in shock.  She recognized me and that brought her a lot of comfort because I was not just some chaplain but I am her pastor.  That was the first time I have been called in.  What are the chances that it happened to be family associated with our church? 

God works in mysterious ways.  We don’t always understand His ways, but the last thing we ever want to do is stand in the way of His plans. In our lesson for today we have a continuation from last week’s text.  Peter and John had just healed a man who had been born lame. 

You try to do something nice for a guy. Try to proclaim the gospel and pronounce healing and forgiveness over him and what do they do? They bring you to court. 

Being only weeks removed from the death of their beloved Jesus, the experience must have been somewhat overwhelming for Peter and John.  After all, this was the very place where the rulers, elders, and chief priests brought Jesus to stand trial.  In fact, some of the very same people who tried Jesus then were now presiding over their examination.  They must have wondered if their fate would be the same for them as it was for Christ.

The court had only one question for Peter andJohn, and it was a fully loaded one.   “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 

The proceeding didn’t begin with a debate on whether or not the healing was legitimate.  The healing didn’t matter, though the officials didn’t really care to specifically acknowledge it either.  The fact that a man born lame was now walking about of his own accord didn’t phase or move them at all.  What the court really wanted to know was in connection with what or whom were Peter and John able to do such a thing?

Now, different religious parties made up the court of 70 or so men known as the Sanhedrin.  Some in the court were a class of people known as the Sadducees.  They were the ones who instigated the arrest of Peter and John and it was most likely their party who filled most of the Sanhedrin court room in which Peter and John now stood.  The Sadducees were religious in their following of the Law of Moses, but mostly because they believed that material wealth and power came from close adherence to the Law.  Theirs was the prosperity gospel of the day.  If you do this, then you will receive this. However, while most Jews believed that at the end of time there would be a resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees did not.  For them there was no afterlife.  There was just this life and your success in this life was determined solely by your works according to the Law.

Of course, the court knew Peter and John.  They were specifically arrested and brought before them because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that Jesus was raised from the dead; proclaiming that this man whom this court demanded to be crucified, whose body mysteriously and infuriatingly disappeared three days later, was indeed raised from the dead by God!  They knew these men.  They were a threat to the Sadducean way of life.

Their way of life may seem ridiculous and perhaps foreign to us, but the idea of our own personal prosperity being connected to God’s favor as a result of our works is not as farfetched as it may seem.  Of course, if one follows that logic through, one must say that any disaster that befalls us must be because of a lack of good works or because of a particular offense against God.

I met an older gentleman who once told me that his son tragically died because he was too prideful of his son.  He believed that God took his son from him in order to put his pride in its rightful place.  Living as though our works alone determine God’s attitude toward us for good or for bad is a fearful way to live, yet we are all helplessly drawn to that kind of thought.  The Old Adam within us will always look inward to what we have done, and in the end, all we can do is hold our works up as a measure to determine what God’s judgment upon us will be.

When the disciples respond to the Sanhedrin court, Peter uses some subtly nuanced words that get a bit lost in our English translation.  But they strike right at the Old Adams standing in judgment over the disciples.

If we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ.”

When Peter says that the man had been healed, he uses a word that implies more than that.  The word is often used in Acts to refer to salvation in the spiritual sense.  This man has been more than healed.  He has been saved.  Peter goes on to say that this man stands before the court in good health.  The word he uses for that implies “wholeness.”  His physical healing is part of that, but not all of it.  All of it is because of the resurrected Jesus. 

“You want to know by what name we did this deed?  You want to know by what power this man stands before you?  By the power and name of Jesus Christ, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.  This man was saved and made whole and stands as a witness to the living power of the living Jesus Christ.” 

Peter went on to tell them, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” 

Outside of Christ, one cannot find salvation.  There is no other power, no other name through which one can find salvation.  Salvation only comes through Christ.

When the Sanhedrin heard these words and the boldness in which he spoke they were so taken back.  The first time Peter was witnessing a trial, Jesus was the one standing the trial and remember what happened by the end of it? Three times he denied that he ever knew Jesus. 

Now he is bold, he is speaking words of truth and wisdom that they cannot argue with.  They are scratching their heads wondering what happened?  What happened was a thing called Pentecost and the Holy Spirit living inside of Peter’s heart. 

You see Jesus said in Matthew 10:16-20 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” 

We are seeing the fulfillment of this scripture before our very eyes.  It was Peter speaking, but God speaking through Peter and the Sanhedrin did not have an answer.  The same is true for us whether we are at work dealing with an angry boss or a disgruntled co-worker, at school facing a bully, in our family with a sibling that we find difficult to get along with, or in any situation that God has placed you in. 

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (1 Timothy 1:7).

If God has placed you there and you are facing difficulty and don’t what to do or say, say a prayer, sit back, and watch what God has to say.  Trust him that he will show you through.

Faith moves you forward in God’s way, in God’s timing. And there will come a moment when you must act on what God has said. Focusing on the Lord is essential. And consecrating yourself to the Lord is vital.  But we will never be able to step if we don’t stand in faith.  Then watch what God will say through you. Amen!