George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Peter and John before the Council -- Part II
The priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus--Act 4:1, Act 4:2, Act 4:13
You Can Tell Who Has Been with Jesus
The next thing that we observe is this, there is no mistaking one who has been with Jesus. When they saw the boldness of Peter and of John, they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. That is not the mere statement of a fact of history. It does not mean that it dawned on the council then that these men had been in Jesus' company. John was on friendly terms with the authorities, and I fancy that all of them had heard of Peter. It means that when they saw the boldness of the two, they recognized the spirit of Jesus Christ. Like a flash, the demeanor of Christ upon His trial rose up before them; it was He who spoke through the two prisoners. There is no mistaking one who has been with Jesus. He may speak out as Simon Peter did, or like John he may not open his lips, but the world has an instinct for the Master's presence and can tell when a man has truly been with Christ. I dare say you have all heard the eastern story of the lump of clay that exhaled an exquisite fragrance. And when someone asked it how it smelled so sweet, it replied that it had been lying near a muskrose for days. There is an unmistakable fragrance in a life that dwells continually near the Rose of Sharon.
Loyalty to God Our First Duty
Again this noble truth breaks from these verses, that loyalty to God is our first duty. It must have been hard for Peter to disobey the council. I think it would be harder still for John. They were both Jews both steeped in Jewish feeling, nor had they lost their reverence for Jewish rule. Now comes the moment of crisis in their history. They are faced by the greatest choice to which a man is called. On the one hand is the past--the world--authority. On the other hand is the clear will of God. We know what Peter and John chose in that hour. It was very simply and very quietly done. Yet the future would have been far different for them both, and the story of Christendom would have been altered, had they swerved from the will of God in that decision. We can never tell the issues of our choices. They reach far further than we ever dream. We only know that when we choose as Peter did, we may leave the future with John's and Peter's Lord. The scene reminds us of Luther at the Diet, refusing to comply or to retract, and saying "Here stand I. I can do nought else. God help me. Amen."
Factual Demonstration of the Resurrection
Lastly, we mark this in the story, the great arguments for a risen Christ are facts. It was not the preaching of Peter that silenced the council. It was the presence of the man who had been healed. It was a man, touched by the power of heaven, who was the sure witness of an ascended Lord. It is by facts that we prove the resurrection. It is by the long history of Christendom. It is by the experiences of countless hearts that are inexplicable save for a living Christ. Men may deny that rising from the dead. They may think it is but an idle tale. But when they behold the man who has been healed, like the Jews they can say nothing against it.
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