Startling events of the day of Pentecost changed the congregation of the Nazarenes as nothing else could have done. There was no turning back, no doubt about their commission to go forward and preach the Gospel in the power and authority of Christs Spirit to as many who would listen. The 120 believers who gathered in the upper room that night knew God was so close they could feel his hand upon them. But what should they do with three thousand people who had immediately received the Holy Spirit, were baptized, and had joined them in one day? Where should they meet?
In the morning, Peter had the answer. Last night, the Spirit revealed to me that we should meet daily at Solomons Porch in the Temple, the same place where our Master taught the multitudes. The authorities should leave us alone, at least for now, since we are sons of Abraham, have the right to teach in the Temples courts, and our congregation is peaceful. They believe that crucifying Jesus ended any threat of political uprising, so we must immediately spread word to the new brothers and sisters of our gathering place. We have much to teach them about our Lord and their newfound faith. We will start here and tell the story over and over again so none of us can forget it.
Peter and the rest of the disciples went to Solomons Porch and began to teach. A small group began to gather. As the leader of Christs church spoke, more and more people listened. Soon they were surrounded by an eager crowd who wanted to hear more about the previous days events. Afterwards, the apostles went with great joy throughout the crowded city to fulfill the Great Commission the Lord had given them, spreading the good news unceasingly to all who would listen; with their words backed by further signs and wonders.
Everything in Common
The first church was extremely simple: loving one another and sharing the good news of eternal life. All those brought together by their faith in Jesus remained in close fellowship, sharing all they had with each other, even to the point of selling their belongings and real estate so that they might minister to those who had need. The rich were happy because they could give, the poor were happy to receive. The sense of love was so great they pooled their property so they could remain together as a community.
In the weeks that followed Pentecost, believers continued to regularly worship together at Solomons Portico, where they held their public meetings and witnessed to the crowds that gathered. Then, by households, they went to their private homes for fellowship, communal meals, sharing in the Lords Supper, and in prayer. There was no pride, no hypocrisy; only beautifully childlike trust as they cared for each other.
People were impressed with what they saw; it was so refreshingly different from their own lifestyles. As a result of practicing what their Master preached, the infant church enjoyed the favor of the multitudes and day by day the Lord added new converts to their number. Believers were no longer doubting, ashamed, nor afraid, and were continually praising God in the Temple. The church became a supernatural living breathing representative of Christs indwelling Spirit. Pentecost was only the beginning of his greater work that would spread hope and salvation throughout the world.
Peter Heals Crippled Beggar
Sometime after this, Peter and John went to the Temple one afternoon to participate in the three oclock prayer service. The two apostles entered the Royal Porch through a southwest corner gate and crossed the outer court to the Beautiful Gate that opened into the Court of Women on its east side. As they approached the gate called Beautiful, they noticed a lame man sitting there. Micah had been crippled from birth and was over forty years old. Each day it was necessary for him to be put beside the gate so he could beg from the people going in, counting on their piety and generosity. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.
The two close companions did not look away as most did. They noticed that Micahs legs were shriveled and useless, either from some wasting disease or from birth, and they were filled with a deep sense of compassion. Now their indwelling Lord prompted them to take a personal interest in this man.
Peter told him, Look at us!
The startled Micah immediately turned toward them eagerly, and something in their eyes made him expect a gift.
But Peter had something better to give himnot to be bought or sold with money. He spoke with power and authority, I have no silver or gold; but what I do have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!
Micah had heard of Jesus of Nazareth, but the Healer had been crucified. How could walking be possible? There was no more time to think about it. The tall apostle bent over, grabbed his right hand, and helped him up. As he did, Micahs paralyzed feet and anklebones were suddenly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk with Peter supporting him! Tears of joy began to roll down his cheeks as cried, God be praised! I am healed! He had never walked before, but encouraged by Peter, he took a tentative step on his own, followed by another and still another, each time stronger and more sure of himself. Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the inner precincts with them.
When the people realized he was the lame beggar they had seen so often at the Beautiful Gate, they were absolutely astonished! Word spread like wildfire around the inner and outer courts. They all rushed to Solomons Portico, expectantly waiting for Peter and John to explain this miracle. It was a known fact Christ could heal, but how did his disciples do it?
Soon the two apostles appeared with Micah holding tightly to them. Ascending one of the low platforms on which the teachers usually taught at a slight elevation above their pupils, Peter began to speak, People of Israel, why are you so surprised? Why do you stare at us as though we had made this man walk by some power and godliness of our own? It is the God of our fathers who has given the highest honor to his servant Jesus, whom you handed over for trial and disowned before Pilate, despite Pilates decision to release him. You asked for the reprieve of a murderer, and killed the Light of Life. But God raised him from the dead and we are witnesses of this fact!
Turning, he pointed to Micah, now standing perfectly well on his own. The name of Jesus has healed this man whom you see and know. Faith in Jesus name has caused this healing before your very eyes.
Every eye was fixed upon Peter. His voice rolled out across the multitude now thronging the porch, Friends, I realize that what you did to Jesus was done in ignorance, and the same can be said of your leaders. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had previously declared about the Messiahthat he must suffer all these things. Repent and turn to God, so you can be cleansed from your sins. Then you will be ready to receive that spiritual renewal which comes through the presence of the Lord. If you do this, God will send Jesus your Messiah to you. However, he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his prophets.
All the prophets from Samuel onwards predicted what is happening today. You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed. When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you people of Israel to bless you by turning every one of you from your sinful ways.
No one listening failed to realize that he spoke with authority and conviction greater than even the most learned of teachers. So strong was the power of the big Galileans preaching that many in the crowd surged forward, ready to receive spiritual renewal and to be accepted into the company awaiting the return of Jesus their Messiah.
But word had reached the Temple authorities that two of Christs followers had performed a great miracle and used it to prove to the crowds that, on the authority of Jesus, there is a resurrection of the dead.
Before Peter and John finished speaking, they were interrupted by arrival of the leading priests, accompanied by the captain of the Temple guard, and infuriated Sadducees who say there is no resurrection. The crowd began to drift away, fearing arrestexcept Micah. At the command of the captain, guards quickly surrounded the two apostles and former cripple who were then hustled into a secluded room in the Temple and locked inside. Since it was near the end of the day, they were held in custody until the following morning.
Only a few months before, Peter would have been seized by fear at the prospect of painful death. But there was no fear in his heart now, or in that of his slighter companion John, even though they were in the same danger that Jesus had been in on the night of his arrest in Gethsemane. Instead, the two taught Micah the prayer Christ had taught them and which they had all come to love, asking only that the will of God be done.
First persecution of the new church had come; but Peter had said enough. Although they were imprisoned, the message continued to spread. Many of the people who listened to their preaching that day joined the believers, bringing their number to about 5,000 men, plus women and children.
Peter and John before Priestly Council
The Great Sanhedrin, highest court of Hebrew authority, met twice a week in a building of its own on the west side of the hill upon which the Temple stood. Peter had expected that they would be brought before the great court and charged there. But shortly after the beginning of the following day when the guards came for them, to his surprise the three were taken to a smaller room where about a dozen men were gathered behind a table. Micah was pushed over into the corner as a witness for the prosecution.
Caiaphas, the high priest and bitter enemy of Jesus, was in the group, with his father-in-law, the old high priest Annas, whom he had succeeded in office. The rest were prominent Pharisees and Sadducees, with a few lawyers. This, Peter realized, must be the so-called priestly council which the lawyer Nicodemus had told him was largely responsible for the bargain with Judas and the subsequent condemnation of Jesus. At last, he was face to face with his Lords conspirators.
Caiaphas sat at the center of the table, staring angrily at the two who had dared to preach the Nazarene heresy in the Temple. However, when he spoke, his voice was guarded, and Peter realized that the high priest was afraid. He could not accept the fact of Jesus resurrection, even when testified to by the guards at his tomb. Caiaphas could not purge his own soul of the fear that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, and Peter realized that the high priest must be slowly undergoing destruction by the knowledge of his own guilt.
The tall apostle had felt no personal fear, even when he and John had been shut up in the room. Now, with the realization that the man responsible for Christs death was afraid, he was filled with a new sense of assurance. Drawing himself up proudly, he waited for his accusers to speak.
Caiaphas asked the anticipated first question, This man you healed yesterday near the Beautiful Gate, by what power and in whose name have you done this?
As Peter spoke, the Spirit of Truth penetrated the accusers hearts, Leaders and elders of our nation; are we being questioned because we have done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to you and to all the people of Israel that he was completely healed in the name and power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,
The stone that you builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
You are the builders who rejected the stone. There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.
It was not the rough and unlettered fisherman of Galilee who spoke, but a leader of menstrong, resolute, and sure of himself as the designated leader of the church.
Members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. But there was no way to refute Peters statement. The man who had been healed was standing right there among them, and they could plainly see that the limbs which had been paralyzed were now filled with strength so that he was able to walk and even run and leap. There was no need to question the witness, and the council had nothing more to say. So they released Micah, but ordered the guards to escort Peter and John out of the council chamber and into the hallway while they discussed the matter among themselves.
What should we do with these men? they asked each other. We cant deny they have done a miraculous sign and all the people in Jerusalem know about it. But hopefully we can stop it from spreading any further. Well warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus name again. They called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus.
Filled with the Holy Spirits power, Peter and John declined, Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard. To obey them in such a case would be to deny God, and that would never happen again.
The council made further threats, but finally let the two apostles go because they didnt know how to punish them without starting a riot. For the multitude was praising God for this miraculous sign.
As Peter and John were leaving the temple and returning to the upper room, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea met up with them.
We came as soon as we heard you were to be brought before the priestly council, hoping to help you, Nicodemus exclaimed breathlessly. But we now see that you needed no help.
Peter was glowing, What the Master taught us when we were first sent out two-by-two as missionaries came true, When you are arrested, do not worry about what to say in your defense; for when the time comes, the words you need will be given to you. It will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Nicodemus agreed, Yes, the Spirit spoke, but also what stopped them today was your boldness, Peter. They expected anything but that, and were not prepared to combat it.
I didnt have it until I began to speak; then the words came with the power and authority of our Lord. It was that they could not withstand.
John looked at both of them for a long moment, then he smiled. You are both right, he concluded. After all, Jesus told us at the Last Supper, Anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to the Father.
Joseph looked ahead into the future, And this was just a taste of what is to come, and I hope to live long enough to see it!
In great joy, they went back to the upper room and told the other believers what the leading priests and elders had said. Then all the people were united as they lifted their voices in prayer:
O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them.
Give your servants great boldness in their preaching.
Send your healing power;
may miraculous signs and wonders be done
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
After this prayer, the building where they were meeting rocked, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
In His Footsteps
The apostles continued to meet regularly at the Temple in Solomons Portico, for it accommodated large crowds and was near the popular gate from the Jericho Road. The atmosphere was like that of Jesus Galilean ministry, for the Lord continued to perform the same signs through the apostles, which gave powerful witness to his resurrection.
More and more people believed and were brought to the Savior as a result of the apostles work. It reached the magnitude where sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peters shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds flocked in from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spiritsand they were all healed! When the people returned to their homes, the good news spread to the provinces and beyond, and even more became followers of the Way, as they were now called. No one could ever again doubt that the Lord was constantly indwelling and guiding his thriving church!
Ring the bells of heaven; sing forth the angelic welcome of worship, carry it to the utmost bounds of the earth! Shine forth from Jerusalem, fire of Pentecost, and chase away the earths mist and darkness, for heavens golden day has broken and the Light of Life has come to us!