Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. – Acts 4:13-22
Spy novels and movie thrillers themes will regularly have the bad guys trying to “handle” a situation. Rub out the trouble-maker. Fix a nosy two-bit cop who is getting close to the true corruption. Cast a bad light on the detective who is on their heels. Such is the stuff of Hollywood and pulp fiction. But it’s as old as the hills. It’s happening here in this encounter between the Jewish leaders and the won’t-go-away-Jesus-followers on this occasion.
There is a story to be told here. Jesus has risen from the dead. His followers are continuing his mission to bring the rule and reign of God into the lives of more and more people. A man has been healed. But from the standpoint of the Jewish leaders, this is all getting out of hand. They have no authority to do this. They are undercutting the powers that be in the Jewish system. They are getting out of hand and if not contained who knows what will happen?!?
So they try to handle it. They figure out that if they just slap their wrists for this incident (a significant slap mind you), they can power down this new and growing movement. They will put them in jail for a night to cool their overwrought fervor. They will put a gag order on more talk about Jesus. They will handle it. It will be neat and tidy. Life can go on as it should…uninterrupted by itinerant religious idealists.
What they didn’t realize, however, was that this was not an overheated meltdown of religious fervor. This was not some misguided fanaticism gone bad. Something really has happened. Jesus had risen from the dead. The Holy Spirit had come to his people. A new wave of believers were being brought to the front lines of the church’s growth. God was moving. People were being saved and healed. Lives were being changed. This was no gimmick or magic trick.
Handling life seldom really works. We may be able to manage our way through crises of various kinds. We may have our emergency fund set aside for a rainy day. We may have ways to control much of our own life’s context. But when God steps into the equation all bets are off. You simply do not manage God.
Peter’s declaration, in the face of the council’s gag order is worthy of all of Jesus’ followers: “We cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard.” It’s best not to try to manage God’s work, but to proclaim it loudly and rejoice in his work of grace and redemption in our own lives.