The air around the Temple grounds became electric with excitement as the news began to spread. Only a short while before, and old beggar man, lame from his mother's womb, was seen walking and leaping and praising God!
"And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the other people ran together, greatly wondering." When Peter saw it he spoke boldly of Jesus to the astonished crowd. "And many who heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about 5,000.
But there were others standing by whose grim faces reflected nothing but disdain for what had taken place. In fact, the priests and the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees were "grieved that Peter and John taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead", so they laid hands on them and put them in hold that night to await questioning.
Next morning there was a big meeting of the Temple leaders and peter and John were called before them. "By what power, or by what name, did you do this?", challenged the high priest.
Filled with the Holy Ghost and faith, Peter proclaimed, "By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, this man who was lame is now standing before you, well!"
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and realized that they were uneducated, ignorant fishermen, they marveled and understood that they had been with Jesus.
As for the miracle that was done, they could say nothing.
"What shall we do with these men?" the priests asked of one another. "For a notable miracle was performed through them, and we cannot deny it."
But to avoid the further spreading of this strange new doctrine, they commanded them not to speak any more in the name of Jesus. Then they let them go, for fear of the peoples' reaction, "for all men glorified God for the miracle which had been done."
Returning to the court, and hearing the decision of the priests and rulers, "Peter and John answered and said unto them, 'Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than God, you must judge. For we can only speak of what we have seen and heard.'"
After threatening them further, the council allowed them to leave. But the Apostles went away with no thought of stopping their work.
Returning to the brethren, they told all that had been done, and everyone prayed with one accord, "Now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy Holy Child Jesus."
The place was shaken where they prayed, and the Lord filled them with even more power to witness! More people were healed, the disciples witnessed even more, and God gave great grace to them all.
It was just like in the days when Jesus had been there! People began flocking into Jerusalem from nearby villages, bringing sick folks, and "believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women."
This was the last straw for the priests and rulers. "They were filled with envy." They could not bear to see these followers of Jesus more popular than themselves. So once more they had them arrested and put in the common prison.
But these men could not be stopped! No sooner were they in than they were out again! "The Angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 'Go, stand and speak in the Temple to the people all the words of this life."
So Peter and John went from prison to preaching. And there in the Temple they witnessed for Jesus and the Truth as though nothing had happened.
Yet all this time the priests knew nothing about the Apostles' escape. When the time came for their trial they "sent to the prison to have them brought". But there were no prisoners there! Greatly embarrassed, the officers returned, saying, "We found the prison securely locked and the sentries standing at the doors, but when we had opened it we found no one inside."
You can imagine the astonished outrage of the council. "What!", they cried. "The prisoners gone? Where can they be? How did they escape through locked doors?"
At that moment a messenger rushed in with the shocking news that the escaped prisoners were once again "standing in the Temple, and teaching the people!
"Bring them here!" cried the chief priest. The guards found them and "brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned!"
"We strictly charged you not to teach in this name", raged the high priest, "yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teachings and you intend to bring this man's blood on us."
"We must obey God rather than men", answered Peter and the other Apostles who stood with him. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom you killed! But God has exalted Him to be a Prince and Savior to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses of these things!"
When they heard that, they were cut to the heart and took counsel to slay them. But Gamaliel, and honored member of the council, interrupted their rantings with his wise advice, "Take care what you do with these men", he warned. "If this counsel or this work be of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them, lest you be found even to fight against God!
There wasn't much that the council could answer to the wise words of Gamaliel, so it was decided to let the Apostles off with a beating.
When the beating was over, the Apostles left the council "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the Temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ!"
So in the outcome of this story who was guilty? Those who broke the unkeepable, unholy laws, or the ones who made them? - Are the people really guilty who break laws which they in obedience and devotion to God cannot keep, or is he guilty who created a law which is impossible for a follower of God to keep?
There were some laws which the Apostles seemed to have a lot of trouble obeying and great success in defying and great blessing by God Himself in breaking! What were they? - The laws that prohibited their witnessing, winning souls, preaching of the Word or standing up for the Truth!
That is what this World needs today, men of conviction, men of faith, who are loyal - not just to people or political persuasions - but loyal to the Truth, and to ideals and principles.
Unfortunately in today's World, most men change loyalties like women change clothes, depending on what's suits their fancy at the moment. The Bible says that double-minded men, who are never sure of where they stand from moment to moment, are unstable in all their ways. (James 1:8)
May God forbid that this be said of any of us! Lord, give us men of courage and conviction, men who know the Truth and what is right, and who are willing to stand up for it, even to their own hurt, if need be.
You cannot stop the man of faith! You cannot dissuade him! He'll go on with or without you, or right on over you, if necessary. He is sure of what he knows to be the truth, and he is willing to stand up and fight for it, come what may!
If ever there was a time in the World's history when we needed men of strong principles, faith and convictions, it is right now! You have to have convictions, or you can't live, and then you have to do something about it or you can't live with yourself. There's nothing that tears you apart more quickly than indecision!
If you don't receive and obey and be loyal to the truth when you first get it, you are about to be deluded by a lie, and will wind up in utter confusion!
If the truth is worth living for, it's worth dying for! Otherwise what is our reason for living? May God help you be true!
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