That was quite some way to disrupt a prayer service. The man who had been healed stood clutching at Peter and John, not this time to steady himself, but just because he didn’t want to let go of the men who had changed his life so unimaginably in an instant. Standing beneath the arches of Solomon’s Colonnade, Peter looked round at the crowd and saw row upon row of faces gaping wordlessly at him.
“Why are you looking at us like that?” he asked. “It’s not as if we’ve made this man walk by some power or godliness of our own.” And he went on to recount, as he had done in his first sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the story of how the people had rejected Jesus as Messiah and handed him over to be crucified, even demanding the release of a criminal rather than acquit Jesus. But God had proved his Messianic credentials by raising him to life again.
There was some sceptical eyebrow-raising among some of the crowd at this point, so Peter assured them, “We’re not making this up. We witnessed it with our own eyes.” Then he pressed home his point, gently ushering the healed man to stand in front of him: “It’s by faith in the name of Jesus that this man was made strong, someone who you see daily and know very well. It’s the name of Jesus, and faith in that name, that has brought complete healing to him, as you can all see for yourselves.”
The incredulity on the faces in the crowd began to give way to nervously exchanged glances of guilt and even fear, so Peter hurried to reassure them. “I know that everyone involved in Jesus’ death acted without really knowing what they were doing. But if you go back to the Scriptures and read the prophets, you’ll see that God predicted all these events in advance. So abandon the mindset you’ve had until now, and turn around towards God so that where you’ve fallen short the record can be erased. And you’ll find that face to face with God, seasons of refreshing will come in the person of Jesus the Messiah, whose coming has been proclaimed to you.”
There was scepticism from some sections of the crowd at this – cries of, “Where is he then?” and “We don’t see this Jesus.”
Peter responded, “Jesus will remain in heaven until the time appointed by God for him to come and restore everything. You know that all this was promised by so many of the holy prophets. Moses told you God would raise up a prophet like himself from among the people and that you must listen to him, on peril of being cut off from the people if you don’t. In fact, look at all the prophets from Samuel onwards. They’ve all predicted these very days that we’re living through now.
“And the good news is that all this is for you! You’re the heirs who inherit the words of the prophets and the covenant God made with Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs. Didn’t God say to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all peoples on earth will be blessed?’ Well, this is that blessing! That’s why God raised up His servant Jesus, to bless you by turning you from the malice that has been holding onto you.”
Before he could say any more, there was a sudden commotion. A row of angry priests whose prayer service had been disrupted marched up to Peter and John, along with some of the temple guard come to keep order. “What do you think you’re doing, standing here making a speech as if you had a right to preach here? And what’s all this nonsense about Jesus and resurrection from the dead?”
They grabbed hold of Peter and John, prising the healed man’s hands from them. And because the day had got on and the light was now fading, they took the pair of them and threw them into prison overnight. But though they might imprison the apostles, they could do nothing to lessen the power and impact of their words. By the time the day was over, the community of disciples in Jerusalem had grown to about five thousand, as those who had accepted the truth of Peter’s teaching came and joined them.