Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


Invincible Trust

Acts IV. to V. 32.

"Through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises."

R ECAPITULATE last Lesson. What miracle? Where? Where was Peter's sermon preached? (ch.  iii. 11). What a daring thing to preach in the very temple buildings about the crucified Christ, within hearing of the clergy and officers who had pursued Him to the death! How very fearless the Apostles had grown. Why? (1) Power of Holy Ghost gave courage and enthusiasm for God. (2) The certainty about the Resurrection and the sense of their Master's presence with them, made them care very little for what men could do.

However, it was not likely they could escape. Who came upon them? Why Sadducees? See v.  2. Compare Luke xx. 27. This explains the change of persecutors since our Lord's time. He was so stern against cant and formalism, therefore the Pharisees  were angry. The Apostles made the Resurrection the centre of all their teaching. (See Lesson for Easter Day.) Therefore Sadducees  persecuted. Notice through the Acts how the Sadducees are the chief persecutors. It shows how firmly the Apostles insisted on the truth of Resurrection, and that publicly in the very city where Christ was crucified, and within a few months of the time. What a strong proof of the truth of it! So the daring preachers locked up all night in prison; but what of the hearers? (v.  4). Worth while preaching that sermon—aye, and being locked up for it, too! The other Apostles would be, perhaps uneasy for their comrades: but how happy and busy they must have been that night teaching and baptizing the crowd of new Christians. Surely God was showing Himself amongst them!

Next morning a great gathering together of Sadducees in high position; in from the country and the neighbouring towns, assembled for the trial of these presumptuous preachers. Only a few months ago that same court had met—many of these same members—to condemn Jesus of Nazareth to death. Trouble and excitement since, and much talk of His Resurrection. Very vexatious and disturbing. Their own consciences uneasy, perhaps, at the cruel killing of Jesus—disturbed again now—"intend to bring this man's blood upon us." Now determined to stop this annoyance, and this foolish talk about Resurrection.

They began with a question. What? And straight and fearlessly Peter lets them have its answer. What? (v.  10). They cannot charge him with presumption. He is but answering their own question. But what a powerful and fearless answer! "By the Name of Jesus Christ." Ye crucified Him; God raised Him from dead. His Name has cured this man. His Name is the one hope of salvation for you, proud priests and rulers, as well as for us. Neither is there salvation in any other name than in that of this poor, crucified, despised Nazarene.

No wonder that they marvelled. We should have marvelled ourselves if we had seen those "unlearned and ignorant" fishermen, with perfect calm and confidence, teaching the chiefs of the clergy and rulers. Especially if we had seen Peter, who, through fear of a maid-servant, had denied his Lord a few months ago, now challenging the greatest and wisest of his nation in the name of Jesus Christ.

Did he convert them? No—too obstinate and bigoted. We never hear of a Sadducee being converted. Did they disprove the miracle? (vv.  14-16). Did they then, with honest, candid mind, inquire about the Christian teaching? Not they! It was a troublesome teaching, disturbing their consciences, and upsetting their own strange, cold notions of religion. They believed in a God; they read the five books of Moses. But believed not in a resurrection, an angel or spirit. A cold, hopeless sort of creed. Might do for prosperous, aristocratic Sadducees, but too cold and hard for the poor struggling world. How did they settle question about the preachers? (v.  18). That plan often tried since, using force against the truth. But God is the God of truth, and must hate all such methods. Did the Apostles obey? (vv.  19, 20).

Would you have courage to do that for Christ's sake? They risked scourging—imprisonment—death? Why? Because it seemed worth bearing anything for the love of Christ, and the joy of knowing that their kindly comrade and friend was really Almighty God in disguise. They saw traces of His presence all around them, and you may be sure Peter did not forget the misery of his late cowardice and the wondrous love that forgave him. What cared he now for applause or shame, for life or death, but only that his Lord might approve of him? Have you any such trial for Christ's sake? Have you courage to do right, even if laughed at? Could you rebuke your comrades for mockery of religion? The same Lord is just as much present now, just as glad of the brave disciples, and as disappointed by the cowardly.

Now, "being let go," they went where? To the faithful, true-hearted comrades who loved the Lord. In all the city these were the friends they most cared for—were most in sympathy with—liked best to be with. That is the great test. When "let go" from restraints, where do we naturally turn? Boy "let go" from school. Young people "let go" from restraints of home. Men and women "let go" from work. Good test of life. What sort of companions, books, amusements do they turn to? Good or evil?

Now think of that little company—weak, afflicted, threatened, in danger of life, yet so strong, quiet, calm in God.  Ah! that is the secret of strength and peace! Peter and John come and tell them of the danger and the threats. Does it frighten them? Not the least! They go to the Great Refuge. Whom? What Scripture do they quote for comfort? Who do they say were chief enemies? (v.  27). But whose will were these enemies doing? (v.  28). Listen to the prayer about the threatenings (v.  29). Do they pray, "Lord, help us to escape"? Not a bit of it! "Lord, give us more boldness to risk more peril, to dare everything for Thee. All is in Thy hands. What matter though heathen rage," etc.? (v.  25). "Lord, look on their threatenings. We leave all to Thee. We care not for ourselves what they may do. What matter about us. We are safe with Thee. Only let not Thy work be hindered and spoiled by our cowardice. Give boldness, give signs and wonders in the name of Jesus."

Did an answer come? How soon? How? The very answers they wanted—more of the power of the Holy Ghost—more boldness. That is the best sign of God helping us—to be growing more brave and strong and determined and successful in fighting our temptations. So they were more confident than ever in God's presence, and spoke the word with boldness. Do you not think theirs was a brave, happy life—full of love for God and enthusiasm for righteousness and confidence in the Divine protection.

What a grand lesson to learn. What matter anything if God be with us! Never mind what anybody says of us. (Inscription on walls of a Scotch college—"They say—What do they say?—Let them say!") Never mind what they try to do to us, if only we are certainly on the path of right. "Who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good?"  "The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our Refuge!"

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