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A Time to Speak

It was a strange situation indeed, in which Peter and John found themselves. In the name of Jesus they had healed a man, lame from birth, and had not concealed in whose name and on whose orders they had been acting. Now Israel's highest representatives at the time were calling Peter and John to account for this healing. The Jewish authorities had been convinced that, following the death of Jesus, his case could be filed away forever. But in this they were thoroughly mistaken. The one ignominiously crucified proved to be more alive than ever!
It was clearly impossible to deny the miracle that had happened on their doorstep. However, if the fact could not be denied, it should at least be hushed up. In the eyes of the Jewish rulers, a new flaring up of the Jesus-movement would be neither good nor salutary. It could all too easily lead to a political and national disaster. The Romans would surely not take it as a joke if they felt their power was threatened by a Jewish Messiah. The Jewish authorities also had very serious theological objections to the man from Nazareth. In their eyes he had not been the promised Messiah but a dangerous seducer and blasphemer. All publicity for him had to stop. So they ordered Peter and John not to speak about Jesus.

With all due respect for this august committee, Peter and John could not obey this order. Neither of them could have healed the lame. Therefore it would have been a sin, and disobedience against God, to conceal the name of him who had in fact revealed his healing and saving power to the sick. Moreover, Israel had to know that, in the person of Jesus, the long promised Saviour and Redeemer had come. Peter was absolutely convinced of this fact, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This message was, and is still, for the Jews; indeed for the Jews first of all (Acts 13:46; Romans 1:16). The apostles had therefore no option but to confess, “We cannot help but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

Today, the task to which the followers of Jesus of that time felt unreservedly obliged is highly controversial, not only among Jews but even among Christians. Unfortunately, down the centuries, a lot of good reasons for Jewish people to mistrust the gospel have piled up. However, as Christians we should realise that it was not obedience, but disobedience toward the word and will of our Lord which so much discredited the gospel. The answer to the failure of many Christians to prove themselves true followers of Jesus toward Israel cannot be to conceal the truth about the salvation revealed in Jesus. This would only be another form of disobedience and unkindness. If indeed the love of Christ is burning in us, we too cannot keep from speaking of the great gift God gave us in Jesus, and we cannot keep from making Israel jealous through love (Romans 11:11-15).

Hartmut Renz
Director of Evangeliumdienst für Israel and a member of CWI’s Council of Management
This article first appeared in the December 2004 edition of the Herald

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