Text: Acts 4: 20 “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
The change that the Disciples of Christ experienced after the Resurrection and Pentecost was amazing. Contrast this passage with the passage telling about how Peter, when questioned by a servant girl in the courtyard of the High Priest, denied that he even knew Jesus. It is like he is two different people! What was the reason for such a drastic change? What motivated the Apostles to face hostile crowds who persecuted them and eventually even put them to death? Where did they gain their courage?
Let’s review the information we have about Peter and John in particular and see what the Holy Spirit can teach us.
I. PETER AND JOHN BEFORE THEY MET CHRIST.
a. From the information we have in the Gospels we know that Peter and John and John’s brother James were fishermen. Speculation from historians suggests that they were more than likely involved in a highly successful commercial fishing business on the Sea of Galilee. They probably marketed their catch to the wealthy in Judea as well as to those in Galilee. We are told at the time of Jesus’ arrest that John was known by the house of the High Priest (See John 18: 15), lending speculation that his family was well-off financially and that they probably had business contacts among the wealthy Judeans and especially with the Jewish Religious Leaders. And we know that Peter and John definitely had different personalities. Peter was the obvious leader—and probably in his younger days, the instigator. He tended to speak before he thought. And you always knew where you stood with Peter—he would tell you. And, while we sometimes tend to think that John was a little more passive in temperament, it was he and his brother James who wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy the Samaritan village that rejected Jesus. I would suspect that both Peter & John were muscular from having labored with the fishing nets. And they probably could tell some pretty good fish stories. These were men’s men, strong, boisterous, with a good sense of business in their heads. They were destined to continue their families’ commercial fishing business. And we know also that Peter and John were religious Jews. They had no doubt been schooled in the local synagogue in their hometown of Capernaum by the local Rabbi—that was the custom of that day. And, because of their religious training they were aware of the Promise of a Messiah King who would someday restore Israel to its former glory days. Simon Peter’s brother Andrew had become a disciple of John the Baptist, so it is very likely that Peter and the other fishermen were aware of this unusual prophet who was spreading the news that the Messiah would soon arrive. So, we assume from the knowledge and the probabilities in accordance with the culture of that time and place, Peter and John were good men, good Jews, and inclined to lean towards the Religion of their people.
b. As I think about these men prior to them becoming disciples of Jesus, I realize they were much like our children. Raised in a Religious setting, exposed to the secular world, developing their own opinions of politics and refining values of their own—Good people who stood at the cross roads of their life purpose. I think of my own experience. When I was a young boy, church was not the priority of my family’s life. My dad had been raised a Methodist and my mother had attended a Pentecostal church out in the country where she was raised. We went to church occasionally, but I really don’t remember us being regular attendees up until I was about 10 years old. My folks were honest, hard workers, and well respected. People often came to Dad to get his opinions about situations they were facing. While Dad wasn’t the oldest son in his family, he really filled the role of an older brother. By outward appearances we were solid folks—Religion was accepted as a part of the culture, but was not to the extent that anyone would have thought us as being religious. And in our present world there are a lot of people who live very similar lives. I have heard so many times people say they moved to Branson because they felt God was directing them here. And many of those people are good people, but they really are not connected with any particular church. It is more a cultural relationship with Christianity than anything else.
II. BUT THEN THEY MET CHRIST.
a. Jesus was raised in Nazareth, a little village not far from the Sea of Galilee and not far from Capernaum which was the hometown of Peter and John. There is even some speculation (by me mostly) that Jesus may have been a cousin of James & John, but that is not really provable. We really don’t know when Jesus first met these men, but it does seem likely that he was acquainted with them prior to their leaving their fishing nets to follow him. From John’s Gospel we are told that Andrew was one of John the Baptist’s disciples who had witnessed the baptism of Jesus and had followed him afterwards and had decided that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. He had then gone and found his brother Simon Peter and brought him to Jesus, telling him, “We have found the Messiah.” (See John 1:35-42). It was sometime after that that Jesus had invited Peter to leave his fishing boat and follow him “to become a fisher of men.” (See Matthew 4: 18-23). Immediately after that, Jesus had invited James & John to become his disciples and they too left their fishing boats and followed Him. Their schooling under Jesus went on for the next three years as Jesus mentored them and taught them about the Kingdom of God. He had trained them to minister to others. They had witnessed miracle after miracle performed by Jesus—miracles of healing, miracles over winds and waves, miraculous catches of fish, miraculous supplies of food for vast multitudes. They had seen the love of Christ as He ministered to those who were “like sheep with a shepherd.” They had even seen Jesus bring the dead back to life. And as they followed Jesus he gradually released them to minister to others as they had been sent out 2 by 2 to go to various towns and villages to prepare them for Jesus’ arrival.
b. “Were they truly saved? “ I have heard people ask. And I have to say, “Yes, they were.” They were new followers. They had much to learn. They were being mentored to become leaders, but they were works in progress. They were “walking in all the light they had” at that time in their lives.
c. And I have to say similar things of all who first come to Jesus. We experience His love, His forgiveness, His peace, His Joy. But we are mere infants with so much to learn. We may not yet be mature, but we should be moving towards maturity. Our progress may involve unlearning some of our pre-conceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. We will make some mistakes and have to seek God’s forgiveness. As we mature, those mistakes should become less and less frequent, but reality is that we will always be “In progress” even when we are much more mature as Christians. Remember how Peter thought he was being so mature when he asked how often he should forgive a person, suggesting maybe up to 7 times? And Jesus set him on his heels when He told Peter, “70 times 7,” indicating that we should reach a place where we freely forgive and have compassion and mercy towards others. We should always be learning.
d. The disciples were definitely different after becoming followers of Christ. They indeed were learning how to become fishers of men! Have you allowed Jesus to teach you how to become a “fisher of men?”
III. AND THEN THERE WAS THE CROSS AND ALL THAT FOLLOWED.
a. We are told that all his disciples forsook Jesus and fled that night when Jesus was arrested. Only Peter followed, but when push came to shove, he lost his nerve and denied that he even knew Jesus. But the Crucifixion, Burial, and Resurrection certainly had a profound effect on Peter and John and all the other followers of Jesus. They had seen his torture and death. They had witnessed the Roman soldier ramming the spear into his side and penetrating His heart so that blood and water poured out. They had seen His dead body placed in the tomb. And then, they had met Jesus face to face, the Risen Lord. He had taught them for 40 days until one day when Jesus suddenly was taken up into heaven. They had tarried in Jerusalem until the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit had suddenly come upon them and empowered them to be His Holy Witnesses. And now, in the streets of Jerusalem and in the Courtyard of the Temple, they had told everyone what they had seen and heard. This is the same Peter who had cowered before a servant girl. And he and John and the others had hidden behind locked doors fearful that someone would be coming to arrest them after Jesus was crucified. But now, faced with the threats of the very same people who had arrested Jesus, their response: “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4: 20). The threats of beatings and imprisonment and even death, did not deter them—they HAD to tell what they had seen and heard.
b. And that brings me to us: What will it take for us to be so compelled that we are willing to risk rejection and even ridicule and still be willing to tell others what we have seen and heard in Jesus!
c. Leighton Ford, an evangelist similar to Billy Graham, in his book “Good News is for Sharing, copyright 1977, published by David C. Cook Publishing), wrote this: In preparing for this book, I have talked to a lot of people, and the fear issue comes up front again and again. What makes people hesitate to share their faith? Here are some of the fears that have been mentioned to me:
– “I am afraid I might do more harm than good.”
– “I don’t know what to say.”
– “I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions.”
– “I may seem bigoted.”
– “I may invade someone’s privacy.”
– “I am afraid I might fail.”
– “I am afraid I might be a hypocrite.”
Perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected. A survey was given to those attending training sessions for the Billy Graham crusade in Detroit. One question asked, “What is your greatest hindrance to witnessing?” Nine percent said they were too busy to remember to do it. Twenty-eight percent felt the lack of real information to share. None said they didn’t really care. Twelve percent said their own lives were not speaking as they should. But by far the largest group was the 51 percent whose biggest problem was the fear of how the other person would react! None of us likes to be rejected, ridiculed, or regarded as an oddball.
I think the biggest reason we have so many bench warmers in the church is that too many have not really focused on the Cross. If we really get our eyes focused on the love displayed on Calvary, if we really encounter the living Lord, if we really are filled with His Holy Spirit, if we are really fully yielded to His Control—How can we help but tell others the Good News about Christ!
We should never have to beg for Sunday School Teachers and Vacation Bible School Workers, and other workers around the Church. We should never be hung up on what style of music the church is singing—we should be so excited about the Living Lord that our number one desire should be to tell others about Jesus and do all we can to see others coming to know our Savor and Lord!
Fear Not “for we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”