I can’t count the number of times the Bible tells us not to be afraid. So I Googled, and it’s roughly about 80 times. But how many times have you heard that phrase? Fear not! Don’t be afraid! I’m sure my mom said it many times a night for many many years before I was old enough to say it to myself.
Being afraid is something we inherently understand. Fear is bred into us. Parker has fears, he’s scared of doing things. He certainly doesn’t have as much fear as I do, but I can see when he contemplates doing something, like trying to get off the couch he’s climbed on to and he’s not so sure about just falling. At least half the time.
We all have experienced fear. Fear for our safety, our heath, our hearts. We fear. And so did Peter and John. Last week, we heard about Peter and John healing the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate. They didn’t really stop to think about it, they saw the man, saw he was in need, and then they healed him b the power of the Holy Spirit which they received through Jesus Christ.
What Peter and John didn’t know was their actions in healing that man earlier in the day was going to have repercussions and ripples throughout. Peter was bold enough to stand in front of the man and say he believed and that God was there for them. He was bold to claim his faith, something he hadn’t been bold to do before in his life. Peter the denier, right?
He used to doubt his faith, his ability, his relationship with God, but now he doesn’t. Now he’s bold. Now he has strength in the meaning of Christ. Most of us are like Peter in this way. Our faith grows slowly over time. This is especially true if we were raised in the church. Some of us may have conversion moments that we can point to that connect us more closely to Paul, but I’d still say the majority here in this church, are more like Peter. Slow and steady to learn about faith and to take boldness in its grasp.
Healing that man was an example of how Peter took that boldness and used it. How he had no fear except fear of God, fear of not doing his duty as a follower of Jesus. This is important, because once Peter was bold, he couldn’t go back.
People were there to witness the miracle he performed, the healing of this man who was forty-years-old at least (which was considered old age back then, by the way). People witnessed the miracle. They witness the healing. But, most essentially, they witnessed the holy boldness of Peter. They saw what he was capable of through his belief in Jesus. And in turn, they then came to believe.
Now these past few weeks, the scriptures have been telling us all about those who have converted. Three thousand here. Five thousand there. Daily they added to their numbers those who were saved. It sounds like a lot of people, but it’s important to note at this point, that it was not everyone.
Not everyone believed. Not everyone converted and became a follower of the resurrected Jesus. Some people couldn’t get their heads around the resurrection to open their hearts to the love Jesus had for them. That created a division, a split; it created conflict.
Peter and John healed the crippled man. Then Peter preached his second sermon of the book of Acts. Then he was interrupted. Now, I gotta say, interrupting the preacher? That’s a no-no in some congregations. But in others, it’s natural. It’s more of a dialogue. This, however, had an agenda.
Peter was interrupted when he was preaching, which is where our passage brings us in today. He was sharing the love of Jesus with those who had witnessed the healing of the crippled man, and suddenly, he was stopped. “While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.”
A few things happen in this passage. Peter and John are arrested, they claim they healed the crippled man by the power of the Jesus and the Holy Spirit which was given to them through baptism, they are told to stop preaching and teaching. Wow. Can you imagine? Can you imagine if every person who preached and taught the gospel was told to stop and just rolled over and complied?
The church certainly would not look like it does today. That’s because of holy boldness. It’s because of the strength and meaning and love Peter takes from the Gospel message, from Jesus’ message. He was bold in his faith, and he stood up and he said no. No, he would not stop preaching and teaching. No, he would not stop sharing the gospel message.
He would not accept that as the result of his actions, and Peter stood firm and steadfast through the conflict, through the chaos, through the division he was witnessing. Be bold. Be strong.
Peter had that down pat. Peter and John said they wouldn’t stop preaching and teaching, they wouldn’t stop using the power the Holy Spirit had given them to heal. They would not deny their faith by not carrying out their calling. And you know what happened?
Because Peter and John were bold with their faith and performed a miracle and witness and shared the gospel message, people were there to witness to the crippled man’s testimony, to witness to what Peter and John were preaching and teaching and doing. Because Peter and John were bold, refused to deny their creator, refused to back down when told to do so, they were released.
No consequences. No repercussions. They were given an opportunity once again share the gospel, to witness to the resurrection of Jesus, to be bold in their faith and to allow others to be bold beside them. They were no longer afraid.
Evangelism is hard. And a lot of people are afraid of it. They’re afraid if they talk to a friend about their faith or pray in a restaurant for dinner that there will be consequences, they will face hate and anger. But what does it mean to be a bold witness for Christ?
I think it means we become more like Peter and John. That we take this faith we have been given, this faith we have grown into, and we grow even more. To be bold, to have holy boldness, means that we fear no one except God. Fear not. Do not fear. Be not afraid.
If God is the only person we are afraid of, how would that change us? Certainly we’d act different. We wouldn’t have those hesitations about praying in public, about sharing our faith or even talking about what it is we do on Sunday mornings. We would know and feel the full power of the Holy Spirit as it rushes through us. Our holy boldness will have the same results as Peter’s and John’s. We will be released from our fear, and we will witness the wonders of God’s power.