Yesterday’s reading ended with Peter and John being taken into custody for teaching the people and proclaiming Jesus’ victory over death (verse 2).
Our reading today begins with their trial before the rulers, elders, scribes, and priests.
Peter and John are forced to stand before the entire political and religious establishment and give an answer for their actions and teaching about Jesus.
When it is time for Peter to speak he experiences the fulfillment of a promise Jesus made before his crucifixion.
Jesus is preparing his disciples for the persecution they will one day face. In verses 19-20 he says,
“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, responds to the ruler's questions by witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection, his power to heal, and the salvation given in his name.
The rulers have no response to Peter’s testimony and the proof of Jesus’ healing power because the formerly lame man is now standing beside him (verses 13-14). So they order Peter and John not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (verse 18).
“But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’” (Acts 4:19-20).
Now and again, we all face moments when we must take a stand for what we believe in.
In their moment of decision, Peter and John declare being faithful to God is more important than following the rules of men.
After they are released from custody Peter and John, along with the entire community of believers, do not pray for the persecution to stop. Instead, they pray for boldness to witness in the face of persecution (verse 29) and ask God to
“stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and
wonders performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus" (verse 30).