Acts 4 – Peter and the Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

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Today’s PassageActs 4

In today’s chapter, a good deed goes unpunished, but only barely.

Having healed a man crippled from birth and then preached to the onlookers that Jesus Christ was the true author of the miracle, Peter draws ire and fire from the Sadducees. Remember the Sadducees’ claim to fame, their denial of the possibility of bodily resurrection? A cornerstone of Peter’s message to the crowds at the healing was that Jesus Christ, the giver of this healing power, was also the giver of true life, to the extent that he himself had undergone resurrection and returned from the dead in the flesh. So the Sadducees, with the temple guard and the priests, accost Peter and John on the spot, putting them in jail overnight.

Peter knows how to argue his case, though. The next day, when questioned, he tells the Jewish religious leaders, “if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man…let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ…this man stands here before you in good health” (9-10). Peter takes advantage of the moment to preach Christ’s resurrection, but he also defends his case. When the formerly-crippled man left the temple that day, he was able to do so on his own two feet for the first time in his life. At the end of the day, he came out ahead, and no one was the worse for it. Moreover, the religious authorities can’t find a real cause for punishment, and they can’t dispute that “[the people] were all glorifying God for what had happened” (21). As Peter’s speech indicates, his role was secondary to Christ’s, but Peter played a part–and he took flack for doing good.

Peter has learned from the best. And by “the best,” of course, I only mean one man: Jesus of Nazareth. Peter’s defense recalls Jesus’ own words whenever he made waves. “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9). “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” (John 10:32). “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me” (Matthew 26:55). If you’ll indulge my wordplay, Jesus has made Peter’s life a living well, and that’s the best revenge.

When Peter and John return to the other disciples, everyone rejoices. As they pray, they quote Psalm 2, and I can’t help noticing an irony. The psalm begins, “Why are the nations [Heb. goyim, “peoples, Gentiles”] in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1). But Jesus’ followers are applying it to their fellow Jews! The chief priests, the elders and scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees are the ones who’ve got their robes in a knot here. They’re the ones trying futilely to silence the new movement among the Jews preaching a crucified and resurrected Messiah. One can only guess whether David suspected his psalm would point ahead to his own countrymen raging against the God from the machine.

Wordplay again. It’s my blog, fam.

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2 thoughts on “Acts 4 – Peter and the Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

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