VIDEO I Am the Light of the World

John MacArthur Mar 2, 2014

Open your Bible now to the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John.  It has been a profound blessing in my own life to be preparing these messages in the Gospel of John and spend time in this truth, and at the same time, it is a challenge to articulate for you what has been embedded in my own heart.  So I always ask for the Lord’s help in delivering the truth.  We come in coming to chapter 8 to a familiar story.  The story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery.  And the very familiar line, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And at this particular point, I face a decision, which I’ve already made, and I’ll explain.  This familiar story, which actually embraces the last verse in chapter 7, the one that says everyone went to his home, this familiar story does not appear in the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament.  It does not appear in any of them at all.  Manuscript study is very important to guaranteeing the truthfulness of the text.  There are about 25,000 New Testament manuscripts, ancient manuscripts.

The oldest of those uniformly do not contain this story.  And so you will find in your Bible probably a note in the margin that says, “Later manuscripts added this,” and that is correct.  Because we have so many manuscripts, there’s really little doubt that this was added later.  If something isn’t in the oldest and shows up later, obviously it was added. 

There’s nothing in this story that is un-Christ like or unlike the behavior of Jesus.  There’s really nothing in the story that’s unlike the behavior of the religious leaders.  It’s a wonderful story of forgiveness.  Very likely, something like this happened and was passed down orally from person to person to person, and eventually, someone decided that the story ought to find its way into the New Testament, even though it wasn’t in the original.

And so they put it there.  In most old manuscripts, it is placed here.  But sometimes in Old Manuscripts, we find it somewhere else in the Gospel of John, and we even find it sometimes in the Gospel of Luke.  So apparently, it was a story that floated around that somebody decided should find its way into the New Testament. 

The problem with that is the church from its earliest years has known it didn’t belong there.  In fact, if you’re looking for ancient commentaries on this story written by church fathers and leaders, you won’t find one until the 12th century.  And even when you start to find the commentary in the 12th century, the notation is made that this doesn’t appear in the earliest manuscripts.  Why is it here?  Because somebody put it in.  Why is it in your Bible now?

Because once it found its way in, it became traditionally a part of Scripture, and apparently, Bible translators are unwilling to remove it, so they just put a notation.  I’m happy to tell you that when this does happen, and it happens here, and it happened also at the end of Mark, there is a similar addition to the Gospel of Mark in the 16th chapter from verse 9 on.  I’m happy to tell you we know they are additions because we have those ancient manuscripts. 

Consequently, we know that the Holy Spirit has then enabled us to preserve the true text.  I have written some notes about this story in the study Bible footnotes.  I’ve written something about this in the commentary on John in deference to people who would be interested in some kind of an interpretation, but the problem is if it didn’t appear in the original text, then it is not inerrant.  There’s no guarantee that it’s accurate.  There’s no guarantee that it’s without error, like every other part of Scripture.

Furthermore, it interrupts the story that’s going on here.  I guess you could call this internal evidence.  It interrupts the story.  We are at this point starting in chapter 7 with Jesus at the feast of tabernacles.  It lasted a week in the fall of his final year, six months from the cross.  We have been going through the events when he arrived in the middle of the week, went to the temple and began to teach.  What follows this story in verse 12 is part of the ministry that Jesus had during the feast of tabernacles. 

So this interrupts those events and the obvious sequence.  It should go from verse 52 to chapter 7 immediately to verse 12 of chapter 8.  So that’s what we’re going to do this morning.  Let me begin reading in verse 12.  By the way, for a more extensive explanation of that, you can check the McArthur commentary on John or any other commentary for that matter.  Let’s begin at verse 12. 

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world.  He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.’  So the Pharisee said to Him, ‘You’re testifying about yourself.  Your testimony is not true.’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I cam going.  You judge according to the flesh.  I’m not judging anyone.  But even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for I am not alone in it, but I am the Father who sent me.  Even in your law, it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.  I am he who testifies about myself and the father who sent me testifies about me.’”

“So they were saying to Him, ‘Where is your father?’  Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my father.  If you knew me, you would know my father also.’  These words He spoke in the treasury as He taught in the temple, and no one seized Him because His hour had not yet come.  Then He said again to them, ‘I go away, and you will seek me and will die in your sins.  Where I am going, you cannot come.’”  We’ve already seen this conflict escalating, and it will escalate fiercely through this chapter in John and through the final six months of Jesus’ life until it reaches the full flame in passion week and takes him to the cross in God’s perfect time.  But the things that Jesus said were the things that kept escalating the animosity of the religious leaders.  And one of those statements is found here in verse 12.

When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world,” they knew exactly what He was claiming, exactly.  This is one of the I am statements in the Gospel of John, of which there are seven.  This is a notable one and a memorable one and one with which we’re all familiar.  But I don’t think we may fully understand the essence of this and the way those Jewish leaders received it.  I’m going to help you with that, I hope, but let’s break the little narrative down into some subsection so we can kind of track our way.

Let’s start with the area.  The area, that would be the first point to consider, and for that, I want to take you to verse 20.  When I say the area, I mean the exact location where these words were uttered.  These words He spoke in the treasury as He taught in the temple.  I want to start there because that sets up absolutely everything.  These are remarkable words, but Jesus doesn’t just speak these words out of nowhere.  There is a compelling scenario that He captures, and we saw that already back in chapter 7, verses 37 to 39 when He talked about being the living water, and He said that at a moment when they were going through a ritual remembering the provision of water in the wilderness, which was a daily part of the celebration of the feast of tabernacles, which was designed to commemorate the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.  And Jesus, when He said that He was the living water and if anybody drank of that water they would never thirst was contrasting that spiritual water with the water being poured out in the ritual.

He had a way of capturing the moment, turning it to himself, and He does it again here.  So it’s really critical to know exactly where He is.  He’s in the temple, and a section of the temple where the treasury existed.  Now one of the things that people did when they came to the temple was give money, and there was a massive courtyard in the temple that had 13 receptacles around the entire area.  Thirteen of them.  It was in the courtyard called The Court of the Women.

There was a courtyard beyond that, and that would be the Court of the Gentiles where anybody could come and traffic.  But once you left the Court of the Gentiles and came in, it was for Jews or duly processed proselytes, men and women.  But women could go no further.  They couldn’t go into the next court.  They could go into the Court of the Women.  So naturally, they put all the places to give an offering where both the men and women could come.  It was in that very place that the widow gave her last two coins.  The first court, again, is the Court of the Gentiles.  The second is the Court of the Women where the women are allowed to go.  The next would be the Court of the Priests, and that’s restricted.

Restricted even to men who went in to offer sacrifices with the priest.  And around the porch of this massive Court of the Women where there would be tens of thousands of people at this particular time in the feast of tabernacles because they came from everywhere, there were 13 allocated places to give money, and according to historians, they were trumpet shaped, which means probably they had a larger opening and funneled down, and the money went into some kind of container.

They were very specific as to their connection.  Number one and number two trumpet receptacle was designed for the half shackle temple tax that everyone had to pay.  Number three and number four were where women put money to purchase the two pigeons that they needed to offer to purify themselves from childbearing. 

Number five was where the money went to purchase the wood for the fire on the alter.  Number six also for the incense in the alter.  Five and six then for things related to the sacrifices.  Number seven was designated as the receptacle to keep up the golden vessels of the temple.  To hire the people to clean them and have money to replace them.  Then you have eight through 13.  Those were for the general fund.  Anything and everything else.  There’s where Jesus is.  He’s in this Court of the Women.  It would be the most packed court in the temple.  Just keep that in mind.

At some opportune moment, go back to verse 12.  “He spoke to them again, as He had been speaking.  ‘I am the light of the world,’ he said.  ‘He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.’”  He didn’t say, “I am a light in the world,” which some rabbi or some teacher might say that He was a light in the darkness.  He said, “I am the light.”  He didn’t say, “I am a light in Jerusalem.”  He didn’t say, “I am a light in Judah.”  Some teacher might say that.  He said, “I am the light of the world.”

This is exclusive.  This is all encompassing.  More importantly, this is a direct claim to be the Messiah, and they knew it.  They were very, very familiar with the Messianic promises that came through the Prophet Isaiah, and in Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and 53, you have Messianic chapters of Isaiah in which the Messiah is called the slave of Yahweh or the servant of Jehovah.   And in chapter 42, you have this prophecy about Messiah.  You will be familiar with it where the Father speaks of Messiah, His servant, His slave.  “Behold my slave, whom I uphold my chosen one, in whom my soul delights.  I have put my Spirit upon him.”  There is a prophecy of the Messiah’s coming and His empowering by the Holy Spirit.

It goes on to speak of things concerning Him.  All of this, verse 5, “Thus says God the Lord who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.  I am the Lord,” and He’s speaking now to His Messiah.  “I have called you in righteousness.  I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people as a –” what?  Light to the world.

“As a light to the nations.  To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.  I am the Lord.  That is my name.”  He says that the servant of Jehovah, the Messiah, will be the light of the world.  Again, in Isaiah 49, here again this servant of Jehovah is presented.  Verse 5, “And now says the Lord who formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob or Israel back to Him so that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the site of the Lord and my God as my strength,” he says, “Is it too small a thing that you should be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel?  And not just Israel.  I will also make you a light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth,” thus says the Lord, “The redeemer of Israel and its holy one.”  This is from God.  Messiah will be the light of the world.  When Jesus says, “I am the light of the world,” he is making the claim to be the prophesied Messiah.  To be, in the words of Malachi, the son of righteousness who is now rising with healing in his beams.

John even begins his gospel with reference to this.  “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  There was that true light, which coming into the world enlightens every man.”  So right at the very outset of his gospel, he identifies the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the light.  The light and the life. 

The light, of course, is a magnificent metaphor.  Light is the active power that dispels darkness.  And Jesus Christ is the light of truth that dispels the darkness of falsehood.  Jesus Christ is the light of wisdom that dispels the darkness of ignorance.  Jesus Christ is the light of holiness that dispels the darkness of impurity.  Jesus Christ is the light of joy that dispels the darkness of sorrow.

Jesus Christ is the light of life that dispels the darkness of death.  When He says, “I am the light of the world,” He even uses the tetragrammaton, the I am.  The claim to be God, and the claim to be Messiah.  To say, “I am the light of the world,” is to identify yourself as God.  Psalm 27:1.  The psalm has said, “The Lord is might light and my salvation.”  First John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.”  They understood what he was saying.  He was claiming to be God.  He was claiming to be the Messiah, the light. 

But the question comes up why here, why now?  Why does he say that?  Now we learned back in our last message, chapter 7, verse 37, when He said, “If anyone is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink,” and then spoke about the rivers of living water that would flow from the innermost being of those who came to Him. 

We know why He said that there because He was capturing that moment of the pouring out of the water, and He turned it to himself.  Well He does the same thing here, and so in order to grasp this amazing moment, it’s really important to understand another ritual at the feast of tabernacles, another very important ritual.  He could have said, “I am the light,” just out of nowhere, and of course, it would have made sense in the world of darkness.  We all understand that.  All of us are characterizing Ephesians 5:11 as doing the unfruitful works of darkness.  “We walk in darkness.  The way of the wicked is darkness,” the Scripture says.  “The foolish heart is darkened.  We are darkened in our understanding and excluded from the life of God.”  Scripture talks about that frequently.  It’s a common description.

We have been delivered out of the domain of darkness, so there was certainly theological understanding of the notion of darkness.  Even Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament said, “The fool walks in darkness.”  Isaiah said, “Men substitute darkness for light.”  So I suppose Jesus could have just popped up and said, “I am the light of the world,” and it would have had some impact because people use the metaphor of darkness for the disastrous reality of the human condition even then.

But there’s far more going on here than that.  Far more.  And let me help you with that.  When the feast of tabernacles began, candelabras were set up all through the Court of the Women.  Candelabras really all around the Court of the Women.  As far as historians say, they literally filled the Court of the Women with the capability of light.  Every night, they would go around, and they would light these large candles, and they would burn all night. 

This was actually called by the Jews the illumination of the temple.  And the reason they did was because remember now, the feast of tabernacle is they’re celebrating what?  They’re celebrating the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness.  And how did they know where to go in the wilderness?  They were led by light.  They were led by a pillar of fire at night and a lighted cloud in the daytime.  This was the light that led them in the wilderness.  To commemorate that, they had this illumination of the temple, and they lit all these candles and let them burn all night.

There’s some interesting descriptions of it by historians, ancient historians who describe it as a stunning vision, like a diamond in the midst of the city of Jerusalem was the temple ground with like floodlights coming up across its perimeter walls.  Every night they were lit, the temple became a flashing diamond, a symbol of the pillar of fiery light and cloud that led them in the wilderness.  Some have said they actually quoted Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6.  “I will be a light to the nations.” 

I can visualize Jesus standing there.  “Maybe they’re just lighting them.”  We don’t have the exact moment.  “Maybe they’re just lighting them.”  Or maybe He’s there earlier in the day, and they’ve been extinguished.  And maybe He looks at those extinguished Candelabras and says, “I’m the light of the world, and I never go out.  If you follow me, the light will never go out.  You will never walk in the darkness.  But you will have the light of life.”  It’s a profound moment.  “I’m the light that never is extinguished.  And as the pillar of light in the day and the night led Israel to the promised land, I am the light that will lead you to the kingdom.  I will lead you to God, to heaven, to everlasting life.  It’s not a light to be looked at.  Not a light to be admired.  It’s a light to be followed.  It moves.  It’s to be followed.”

Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let me deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  He said to His disciples, “Follow me.”  They followed the cloud, they followed the pillar, and they were led to the promised land.  That whole generation died, of course, and only the next were able to go in.  Jesus said, “If you follow me, you will go in.  You follow me, this will light you all the way to – you receive the full promise of eternal life.”  So rather dramatically and beautifully and powerfully and effectively does Jesus capture the crowd and the stunning temple ritual turns to Him.

“I know the way out of darkness,” He says.  “I know the way out of the darkness of ignorance.  I know the way out of the darkness of sin.  I know the way out of the darkness of sadness and sorrow.  I know the way out of the darkness of death.  Follow me, and I will lead you to life, eternal life.”  What does it mean to follow?  Just the word itself.  Follow me.  The way it’s used in ancient usage, it’s used of a soldier following his commander as the believer follows Christ as his sole commander.  It’s used of a slave following his master as the believer is to do the same.

It’s used of someone following a wise counselor.  It’s used of someone following the law obediently.  It’s used of a student following the teacher’s line of argument.  That’s what it means to follow all of those things, to follow Christ as a soldier follows his commander, as a slave follows his master, as a person in ignorance follows a wise counselor.  As a disobedient sinner turns to follow the law obediently.  As a student follows the teacher’s line of reasoning and argument.

To be a follower is to give yourself totally to Christ.  To say with the psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”  Where as it also says in the Old Testament, “The Lord shall be an everlasting light.”  “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I’ll lead you to the heavenly promised land.  I’ll be the light, the true light.”  It might interest you to know that the rabbis even declared that Messiah’s name is light.  They knew what Isaiah was saying.  So Jesus is claiming not only to be the I am, not only to be God who is the true light, but to be the Messiah prophesied.  So we go from the area to the assertion.  That’s what he asserts.  It’s a powerful, dramatic moment.  Captivating the people, and they understand. 

Certainly the leaders understood because you see the antagonism that rises immediately.  The antagonism appears in verse 13.  So the Pharisee said to him, “You’re testifying about yourself.  Your testimony is not true,” which is to say you can’t do that.  That’s not how it works.  They accused Jesus of an invalid claim because He’s making it for Himself.  You’re just boasting.  Why should we believe you?  There are no witnesses to confirm this. 

This is another calculated attack, and of course, they’re saying essentially this is an illegal claim because you cannot claim anything, and we cannot confirm it to be true unless it is confirmed by at least what, two witnesses.  And that’s exactly what Jesus refers to later in the discussion.  Verse 17.  “Even in your law, it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.”  So they go onto that legal aspect, this calculated attack.  It’s biblical law.  You have to have at least two witnesses.  You can’t possibly think that just because you say it, it’s true.  In fact, it’s invalidated because there are no confirming witnesses. 

This is how unbelief operates, by the way.  Unbelief never has enough proof.  His words alone should have been convincing enough.  They had enough hearing of His words to know that He spoke like no other person ever spoke, and that’s exactly what was reported to them by the soldiers they sent to arrest Him in the last chapter.  His works, ubiquitous works of healing, power over disease, demons, death, and nature.  His effect.  But unbelief never has enough proof.

Go back to chapter 7 verse 17.  “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak for myself.”  If you’re willing to know the truth, you’ll know the truth.  If you’re willing, you will know the teaching.  They weren’t willing.  Their unbelief begat ignorance.  Now you can be an unbeliever because you’re ignorant.  That’s a better situation.  Because if we can just remove the ignorance, perhaps you’ll believe.

But the worst possible scenario is to be ignorant because you’re an unbeliever so that when you’re given the proof, your unbelief locks you into your ignorance.  That was then.  They weren’t unbelievers because of ignorance.  They were ignorance because of unbelief.  They didn’t process anything He said.  They didn’t connect any of the evidences, which were replete.  They just wanted Him trapped and dead.  And I would just say, generally speaking, that you want to be very careful if you’re rejecting Jesus Christ in unbelief.  You’re in a safer condition if your unbelief is because you’re ignorant than you are if your ignorance is because of your unbelief.

That’s terminal.  Because if ignorance has been met with truth and you’re unwilling to see it, you are locked into the kind of ignorance that is hopeless.  John 7:17, “If you’re willing, the truth is there.”  The truth is there.  Are you willing?  When somebody says, “I don’t believe the gospel.  I don’t believe Jesus is the son of God.  I don’t believe in Him as the Savior,” there’s usually two things to say.  Number one, “That’s such an amazing and such an astute conclusion.  You must have studied the Bible intensely for years to come to that conclusion.”

Because the world is full of people and has been for centuries who have studied it deeply their whole lives and are convinced He is who He said He was.  So for you to overturn that, you must have made some kind of an extensive and erudite effort to understand everything in Scripture.  That’s not true.  That’s a very humiliating thing to say to someone who probably hasn’t even read the New Testament.  The second thing you’d want to say is, “Are you willing?  Are you willing?  Is your unbelief because of ignorance so that if ignorance is removed, you’re willing?”  These weren’t.  There Pharisees, these leaders, they weren’t.

So you go from the antagonism to the answer in verse 14.  Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true.”  You know, Deuteronomy 19:15, another passage in Deuteronomy, talk about two or three witnesses.  That’s for people who are liars.  That works for us because we’re all liars.  We all live in a world of lies and deception.  We’ve got to confirm things with several people hoping to get the truth.

But that doesn’t apply to God.  Jesus said, “Even if I testify about myself, my testimony is true.  I’m not subject to those laws that are meant for a world of liars.  I know where I came from, and I know where I’m going,” and He’s saying there, “I’m eternal.  I’m transcendent.”  “The law was made for man, not for God.  The Sabbath was made for man, not for God.  I speak the truth because of who I am.”  So His answer is, “First of all, my claim is valid because of who I am and where I’m from and where I am going.”

We know where he’s from.  The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, but it was the eternal Word who was with God.  And I know where I’m going, John 17.  “Father, restore me to the glory I had with you before the world began.  I came from the Father.  I’m going back to the Father, but you don’t know where I come from or where I’m going.”  In fact, they didn’t even know what town He was from.  They thought He was from Nazareth.  They never bothered to check.  Why would they?

Their unbelief confined them to a willful ignorance.  They never looked at the records to see that He was born in Bethlehem where Messiah is to be born, and He was of the line of David, both father and mother.  And you remember that discussion from our last message.  So first of all, He says, “You don’t know anything about me, even temporally.  You don’t even know what town I’m from.”  Back in chapter 7, verse 28, He cried out on the temple teaching saying, “You both know me and know where I’m from.”  He’s saying that sarcastically.

We know where you’re from.  You’re from Galilee.  You’re from Nazareth.  The Messiah doesn’t come from there.  He says, “You think you know me and where I’m from?  I’ve not come of myself, but He who sent me is true whom you do not know.  I know Him because I am from Him and He sent me.”  And they were trying to seize Him, kill Him.  He’s saying it again.  When He says, “I know where I came from,” they know He means God.  And I know where I’m going.  Back to God. I’m transcendent.  I’m eternal.  I am God. 

Their denial of His testimony is willful ignorance.  Ignorance is cheap. Ignorance is common, and ignorance in the face of evidence is terminally deadly.  Jesus says, “You judge according to the flesh.”  Verse 15.  You judge according to the flesh.  Your judgment is superficial.  By the way, they judged everyone.  That’s what Jesus referred to in Matthew 7.  A sermon on the mount when He said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  Stop the judgment.  The final judgment is at your rendering.  That’s what the leaders were doing on everybody, but they judge according to the flesh.

You don’t know me.  You don’t know me at all, and yet you sit in judgment on me and judgment on my testimony.  All you know is external.  All you know is physical, and you don’t even know the town I came from.  You haven’t even checked the temple records.  You don’t even know what you could know.  And you’re the judge of my like you’re the judge of everybody else. 

Verse 15, He then says, “I’m not judging anyone,” in that way he means.  “I don’t judge in the flesh.”  Apostle Paul, you know, in 2 Corinthians 5:16 said, “I judge no man in the flesh.”  What did he mean by that?  He meant I don’t judge people superficially.  If you’re a Christian, you judge people spiritually.  You don’t judge people superficially.  You judge them spiritually.

Pharisees judge superficially, behavior.  Jesus said, “I don’t judge that way.”  But, verse 16, “Even if I do judge, my judgment is true.”  And by the way, He will judge.  Back to chapter 5, verse 22, “And following all judgment is given to Him, and one day, He will raise all the dead to a judgment of life and a judgment of condemnation, and the Father has given all judgment into His hand, and He will judge.

But according to verse 30 of that fifth chapter, “He will judge in perfect harmony with the Father.  Next time He comes, He will come as the judge.”  Back in chapter 3, He said He didn’t come to judge, but to save the first time.  “I’m not here to judge, but if I do judge, my judgment is true, for I am not alone in it, but I and the father who sent me.  I judge in accord with the Father.”  John 5:30.  He says exactly the same thing. 

And then He goes to the second point.  Not only because of who I am from heaven going back to heaven, sent by God going back to God in perfect coordination and harmony with God.  Then there’s a second reason, and at this point, He exceeds to their expectation.  Okay, even in your own law, it has been written that the testimony of two men is true.  I’ll give you that.  I am He who testifies about myself, and the Father who sent me testifies about me.  There’s two.  You want two?  You have two.  Myself and the Father.  Myself and the Father.  This again is an infuriating claim, very much like the claim he made back in chapter 5.   My Father is working until now and I am working, and they wanted to kill Him because He was making himself equal with God. 

Here He says, “I judge and my father Judges.  I testify and the Father testifies.  Two reasons that my claim is valid.  Number one, who I am, and number two, the testimony that my Father corroborates.”  And of course, their response is predictable.  Verse 19, they were saying to Him, “Where is your father?”  Scorn, ridicule, sarcasm, mockery.  I don’t know whether they were throwing some slur at Him as an illegitimate child, which of course appears in ancient times.  I don’t know whether they were mocking the fact that no one knew His father because His father was long dead by the time He was in ministry.  I don’t know really what they were saying, but it was intended as scornful mockery.  “Where is your father?”

Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father.  If you knew me, you would know my Father also.  You don’t know me.  You don’t know my Father.  You wouldn’t know God if he came up to you.  You don’t know Him.  You don’t know me.”  Back in chapter 5, he said similar words.  In verse 23, “If you don’t honor me, you don’t honor the Father.”  Later, he will say to the disciples, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”  But this is the final insult.  They prided themselves on knowing God.  They knew God better than anyone.  He says, “You don’t know Him at all.” 

Matthew 11:27 says, “The son reveals the father.”  You don’t know God.  You don’t know Him at all.  This is a devastating statement.  This is a characterization of the leadership of Judaism in the time of Christ.  They didn’t know God at all.  Still true of those who reject the Savior.  So that was the answer, devastating answer.  Verse 20 then, we already looked at these words He spoke in the treasury as He taught in the temple.

They are now so infuriated that again, again, they want to seize Him to kill Him.  But they can’t.  They tried three times in chapter 7 unsuccessfully.  They can’t because His hour had not yet come.  He’s on a divine schedule.  They can’t do a thing.  Final statement is the avenging.  The avenging, verse 21.  Then He said to them again, “I go away.  You’ll seek me.  You’ll die in your sin.  Where I’m going, you cannot come.”  That’s final.  Earlier, He said, “I’m not going to be around long.  I’m just going to be here a little while,” as if there’s still some time.  Here we are only hours later, at the most, days.  “Your ignorance is confirmed.  It’s willful, and it’s the product of your unbelief in the face of the revelation.”  We know how extreme their rejection was because they attributed what He did to Satan.

So He said, “I’ll go away.”  Not six months from then, but as far as they were concerned, He was gone.  “You will seek me.”  You know, that’s the horror of lostness.  And I told you that last time.  Hell is where you now know finally who you need and you seek but never find.  That’s why there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Where I go, you cannot come.  You will die in your sin. 

I want to close with just a look at chapter 12 because I think it ties this together, and I won’t take long because time is up.  Chapter 12, and we’ll obviously get to it, but for now, verse 35.  Verse 35 is a good concluding portion.  So Jesus said to them this just before His last supper with the disciples in John 13 at the end.  “For a little while longer, the light is among you.  Walk while you have the light so the darkness will not overtake you.  He who walks in the darkness doesn’t know where he goes.  While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.”

That’s the cry, isn’t it?  It’s the same thing He says in chapter 8.   But what’s so stunning is immediately in verse 36, it says, “These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid himself from them.  They didn’t have much time.  “Believe now, or I’m gone.’  And He hid himself.”  Verse 37 explains why.  “Though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him.”  Was that a shock to God?  No, it was a fulfillment of prophecy.  It fulfilled the word of Isaiah who said, “Lord who has believed our report, to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 

For this reason, they couldn’t believe.  They wouldn’t believe, and now what?  They couldn’t believe.  For Isaiah said He is – this is from Isaiah 6, the first one from Isaiah 53.  “He has blinded their eyes, hardened their hearts so they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.”  These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory and he spoke of Him.

Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 6 is a prophecy of Jesus being rejected, and then God rejecting the rejecters.  But thankfully, verse 42, many even of the rulers believed in Him, say, “That’s good.”  Not so good, but because of the Pharisees, they were not confessing him for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.  What a sad reality.  He is the light of the world, the only light.  Walk in the light or experience darkness forever.  Lord, thank you again for the truth, the compelling and powerful word of Scripture comes through to us as always.

And we bow beneath its glory, its urgency.  Help us to understand how serious these truths are.  Believe while you can, come to the light while the light is available before it is hidden, and the one who would not believe cannot ever believe.  Willful blindness becomes judicial blindness.  Lord, may the light shine on hearts today.  May Christ be the light of life.  May many follow Him.  Not walk in darkness, but follow Him all the way to that glorious light of heaven.

Father, now we ask that you would use these things that we have learned today to enlighten us and to open the hearts of some who perhaps have been and still are in the darkness and to make us all aware of how important it is to be lights in the world, for this terrible darkness that binds men’s hearts.  Use us, Lord, to be the light.  We thank you for that great privilege.  Do it by your power, we pray.  In Christ’s name.

How to Handle Persecution, Part 2

Oct 1, 1972 John MacArthur

Let’s bow in prayer as we come to our study. Father, we do thank You for the wonderful opportunity that is ours to look into Your book, and to see what it is that the Spirit would teach us this morning. Make us to be open, and help us to be teachable, and not that we only learn it in our heads, but that we translate it into our lives. Bless our time, Father. May Jesus be lifted up, we pray in His name. Amen. Take your Bible, if you will, and look at Acts, chapter 4, which will be our passage for this discussion this morning.

And we are dealing with the subject how to handle persecution, and this is our second and concluding study of these verses in this particular section. In our continuing study of the early church, we have come in chapter 4 to the first persecution. The book of Acts, as you well know if you’ve been with us at all in our study, records for us the life and times of the early church, from its birth through the early years of its growth and its spread to the world. Now, along with the birth of the church, we were to anticipate a reaction from the world.

In John, chapter 15, Jesus Himself had warned by saying, “Don’t be surprised if the world hates you; they hated Me. And they will kill you eventually,” chapter 16 of John tells us. So, Jesus warned that there would be hostility to the church, just as there was hostility to Him; that it is to be expected, that it is inevitable. And so, it comes in chapter 4, in the very early days of the church. The church has been born in chapter 2; through chapter 2 and chapter 3, the great sermons of Peter, the church grew.

And by the time we come to chapter 4, verse 4, it is likely that there were probably at least 20,000 people involved in the early church. The 5,000 of verse 4 has to do with men; in addition to that, women and children would be included, or young people. And so, the threat to the Jews is very serious. They had attempted to get rid of Jesus Christ by executing Him, and now they are having to live with people going all over everywhere proclaiming that He rose from the dead, and it isn’t a handful anymore.

It’s probably between 10,000 and 20,000 of them that are doing this in Jerusalem, so, they’re scared, and opposition naturally comes, politically and religiously. Now, the event that teed off the persecution is recorded in chapter 3. Now, you’ll remember that Peter and John went for the afternoon prayer time down to the temple, and coming through the gate called Beautiful, they came across a lame man, who for 40 years had been lame, and was probably a fixture at that particular gate, where he would daily beg for alms.

At that point, they healed the man; he jumped up and hopped all over everywhere, praising God. And such a thing drew the crowd into the courtyard; so startling was the miracle, and so familiar was the man, that everybody gathered around. And Peter and John jumped on Solomon’s porch, and with the man standing between them, Peter preached a great sermon on Christ. Announced that their Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth, that they had rejected their own Messiah and executed Him; and he indicted them for that, and then offered them salvation through the grace of God.

Now, as a result of this, many believed, and the number came to be about 5,000 men, as we see it in verse 4. In response to this sermon and to the growth of this new faith in this Jesus, there came to be a tremendous antagonism on the part of the leaders of Israel, and in chapter 4 that breaks out. And it progresses to be more severe as we go through Acts, even as it did in the case of Jesus. Now, the persecution in Acts takes the form of physical abuse. Although there is some threatening in the beginning of this persecution, it finally finds its way to personal abuse.

And in most cases, you might say, “Well, that really doesn’t relate this text to me very well, because we don’t have that kind of persecution.” Well, I’m not sure we wouldn’t if we didn’t – if we did confront the world in the same way that they did. But aside from that, I think Satan is subtle enough to know, that as we said last time, the kind of persecution that gets to your ego may be more severe than that which gets to your body.

The kind that hits you in the area of status, or acceptance, or pride, or makes you fearful of losing your reputation or your position in the community, may be the most subtle and devastating of all. I think that Christians are wont to depreciate their testimony, and to back off from naming Christ as they ought to, because of the fear that somebody might not like them. Or the fear of being ostracized from their society. Or the fear of being fired from their job. Or the fear of being shut out of a community of people that they’d like to be a part of.

Or the fear of being ignored as some kind of a strange commodity. I think we fall prey to the temptations and the persecutions in the area of ego, and acceptance, and pride, more than anything else, and if I’m honest in examining my own heart, I think that’s what gets to me. Now, there have been several occasions where physical abuse has been a reaction in terms of my preaching Christ, and that didn’t have a negative effect at all; it had a positive effect.

But there are times when I feared to name the name of Christ because I’m afraid of being an outcast, or looked down upon, or spurned, or being shut out, or being thought to be some kind of a weird individual, or a religious nut, or a freak, or whatever. But one way or another, a Christian who really confronts the world is going to get some reaction from the world, and we went into that a little bit last time. In 2 Timothy 3:12, we took a key from that, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

It’s just a known fact, revealed in the word of God repeatedly, that if you live for Christ in the face of the world, you’re going to get some flack. That has to happen, because you’re running cross-grain to the system. It can’t be smooth. The apostle Paul recognizes this, and in Philippians 1:29, he says this – now, listen: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” That’s part of being a Christian. That’s not a foreign element to the Christian life.

That’s a natural response to the Christian who really lives his Christianity in the world. And he says in verse 30, “You should have the same conflict which you see in me, and hear to be in me – if you’re doing what I’m doing, then suffering is a part of it.” And so, when you say to somebody, “You ought to suffer for Christ’s sake,” that doesn’t mean run out and, you know, do something masochistic, beat on your head with a hammer or something, so you can – it simply means, “If you confront the world as I do,” Paul’s saying, “you’re going to get what I got when I did it.”

It’s the measure of your commitment, you see. Now, as we saw last time, the persecution begins in the first part of chapter 4. But the great instruction that we want to look at is in verses 5-31, because this gives us principles for handling persecution, and that’s what we began to study last time. But let me just preface it by giving you a kind of a little picture of persecution that maybe you’ve never seen before. If handled right – now watch it – if handled right, persecution is a blessed experience.

It is a wonderful experience. It is a plus, not a minus. It is a positive, not a negative. I’ll show you what I mean. Look at James, chapter 1, to begin with, and we’ll just kind of pick up a couple of points there. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” When you have problems, whether persecution or whatever, consider it a great joy. Why? “Knowing this, that the trying” – or the testing – “of your faith works patience.” God has a plan. He wants to make you patient. “But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.”

Don’t avoid the persecution. Don’t get away from it, because in it, God’s going to bring you to maturity. Let it have its perfecting work, you see. In your life, God has a desire, and His desire is to bring you to maturity. That’s very clear. The plan of God is that you be perfected, or made mature. And there are really two things that bring you to maturity. Number one is the Word of God, 1 Peter 2:2; this is what makes you grow. But number two, trials; and under the area of trials, persecution, suffering, problems, whatever.

These two things are to bring you to maturity. And so, you must allow for persecution as part of the process of spiritual growth. So, if you’re going to grow, you’re going to have to be confronting the world and getting persecuted. That’s part of growing. You don’t run away from it, you accept it; verse 12. “Blessed is the man that endures temptation” – or trial or testing – “for when he is tried, he’ll receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” So, what do we learn from James?

We learn that persecution, number one, brings maturity; persecution, number two, brings reward; maturity and reward. Now, I want you to listen to Peter. Now Peter knew a lot about persecution. In 1 Peter 2:20, listen to this – interesting. “For what glory is it, if, when you are buffeted for your faults, you take it patiently?” In other words, you know, if you’re being punished for your sins, that’s not persecution, that’s punishment for your sins. No glory in that. “But if when you do well” – you serve God – “and you suffer for it, you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

Verse 21: “For hereunto were you called.” You were called to suffer. Now, some people have gotten it all twisted around, and there are some people who have become concerned with making themselves suffer. There’s a certain order of the Catholic Church, for example. I met a man in that order, who desired to suffer. Therefore, this man wears around his waist a belt that has inserted into it sharp, pointed nails. He wears it all the time, because he does not understand what it means to suffer. He thinks that to suffer itself is redemptive.

And there are other people in Europe, and you’ve seen them on television at certain periods of time, called flagellants who go down the streets, and with cords filled with bits of glass, beat themselves until the blood runs out of them. And they do this in the name of Jesus Christ, because they are feeling that they must suffer. But you see, they are suffering by a masochistic effort to suffer, not as a result of confronting the world with the truth of the gospel, and getting the reaction that God has naturally promised will happen.

You see, to suffer independent of proclaiming Christ is ridiculous. And some people would go around and say, “Well, my husband is my suffering. Well, I bear my cross, it’s my son.” That is not your cross. Now, that may be one of the problems, but to suffer for Christ is to get the response of the world to an open proclamation of Jesus by your life and your lip. And that’s the only kind of suffering that pleases God. The kind that comes as a result – in terms of persecution – that comes as a result of your active, aggressive, living godly in Christ Jesus in the face of the world.

And that is exactly what Peter is saying. “This is what you were called to, but suffering apart from that kind of life has no significance in terms of persecution.” Now, look at chapter 4 of 1 Peter, verse 13. Now, here’s his attitude in persecution. “But rejoice” – isn’t that terrific? In verse 12, he says, “Don’t think it’s some strange thing when fiery trial comes. Rejoice, inasmuch as you’re partakers of Christ sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.

“For if you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Isn’t that wonderful, to get persecuted? The Spirit of Glory and the Spirit of God rests on you; glory is connected with persecution. You want to really experience glory? Persecution brings it. Back in chapter 1, he said, “The glory of man fades as a flower of the grass.” If you put yourself in a culture, and you try to accommodate yourself to the culture, and accommodate yourself to the society, you may grab a little temporary glory, but it’ll fade like the grass.

But you accommodate yourself to Jesus Christ, you confront the world with your message, boldly proclaim Jesus Christ, and you may get flack from the world, but you get glory from God. And so, he simply says, “If you suffer, happy are you,” because glory is involved. In verse 16: “Yea, yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God.” So, what do we learn? Persecution is wonderful. It brings growth, it brings glory, it brings joy, and it brings reward; terrific.

And I warned you by what I said earlier, that that doesn’t mean you run out and suffer, and then say, “Boy, am I racking them up with God. I’m beating myself.” No. Something else Peter says in 1 Peter 5:10, “That the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus” – there’s glory, again connected with suffering. All through Peter, he connects glory with suffering, because first the suffering, then the glory – “unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

You want to be established, strong, settled, and perfect? How are you going to be it? Say it. Suffer. That’s hard to say, isn’t it? That’s part of growth, you see. That’s part of maturity. That’s part of arriving where God wants you. And as I say, it’s not masochistic; it’s the proclamation of Christ by your life and your lip that sets up a reaction in the world by Satan, and you get it. And yet, there’s nothing negative about it, you see? There’s nothing negative at all about suffering. It’s entirely positive, from beginning to end.

You say, “Well, I get scared out there. What happens if I get out there, and the Lord leaves me?” That’ll never happen. I’ll read you – you know this passage – Romans 8:35. It says this: “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or” – what? – “persecution?” No. And he says in the next verse, “As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all day long.’” We’re expendable. “’We’re counted as sheep for the slaughter.’ But in all these things we are more than” – what? – “conquerors.”

That’s victory, you see? I mean, to go through persecution is a fantastically wonderful experience. It’s growth, it’s glory. It’s joy. It’s reward. It’s conquering. It’s all those things. Listen to Paul’s attitude. Second Corinthians 12:9. And here he’s kind of saying, “Lord, I’ve got a thorn in the flesh, and Satan buffets me with it, and it could be possible that I could rid of it, if You’d like, Lord. But, he says in verse 9, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

I like you weak, Paul, because then you lean on Me. Then he says this, “Most gladly therefore will I glory” – there’s that word again – “in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Now, listen to this; this is a statement that is strange, apart from what we have said. “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmity, in reproach, in necessities, in persecutions.” You say, “He really enjoys his persecutions. Why?” “For when I am weak, then I am” – what? – “strong.” You see, when I’m being persecuted, I lean on Jesus.

God save us from a placid life where we never get persecuted, because then we can hack it on our own. But when the going really gets tough, and we are weak, and we are incapable, and we can’t make it, that’s when we lean on Him. And so, we pray that God would bring us trials, and God would bring us persecutions, that in our weakness, His strength may be made perfect. And so, you see, all the way through this thing, persecution is a plus. It is never a minus.

Paul said – and this is good – in Philippians 2:17 – I’ll give you two more things that he said, and then just take off from here. But 2:17. “Yea,” and he says, “if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” That is terrific. Now, Paul didn’t suffer for his own sake; he was already saved. He could have grabbed his scrolls, tucked them under his arm, and taken off for the hills, you know? Sure. I mean, he could have said, “Look, people, I don’t need to do this.

“I mean, I don’t need to go into town and get stoned” – with rocks, of course, you understand. He could have said, “I – this – I don’t need this. I’m saved. I mean, I know what the Spirit-filled life is like. I don’t have to do this.” But he said, “Look, if I can be offered for your joy, I get a joy out of it. If my life is a sacrifice, if I have to die to reach you, man, that’s a great thing.” And Paul considered persecution a blessing, because he was getting persecuted in order that others might hear about Jesus.

He’d go into town, and he’d preach Jesus. People get saved, and they’d throw him in jail, and he’d say, “Hey, you know something? I got thrown in jail for preaching Jesus, and people got saved; why don’t I do more of this?” Because, you see, his life was expendable. This is the whole point. As a Christian, as we said last time, your life is expendable. You can spend your life on somebody else, and if you die in doing it, what a blessing if you’ve brought somebody to Christ. We’re expendable.

We have to look at persecution as an opportunity to suffer for the sake of somebody else. You know, you might have an opportunity to preach Jesus or to talk about Jesus somewhere, and you’ll clam up to protect your ego, and because of that somebody won’t hear the message of Jesus Christ. And therefore, you have considered your own pride, and your own status, and your own selfish comfort, above the salvation of that individual. True? True? You see, it’s only when you recognize that you are expendable, and that you, like the apostle Paul, will say, “I will sacrifice myself for you.”

That is when you understand the blessing of persecution. It is not because you get some intrinsic joy in suffering; it is because you know that you’re suffering, number one, so somebody else can know Jesus. That’s a blessing. Listen, there’s a second reason that Paul suffered, and this is beautiful. Colossians 1:24. This verse confuses a lot of people, and they find it difficult to understand it. It isn’t really that difficult. Let me see if I can open it up to you a little bit. Colossians 1:24, here’s another way Paul looked at his suffering.

This is beautiful. He says, “I, Paul” – verse 23, he’s talking about himself – “am made a minister” – and then he goes on – “Who now rejoice in my sufferings” – what are the next two words? “for you.” You see? But that’s the first thing about it is, I’m not doing this for me, it’s for you. I’m expendable. And this is the whole point of Paul’s life. “If I live, I live unto the Lord; if I die, I die unto the Lord. So, if I live or die, I’m the Lord’s, and it’s for you.”

But he says this, “I rejoice in my sufferings for you” – and here’s a second thing he loved about his sufferings – “I fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, the church.” Now, there’s two things he’s saying here; number one, I do it for you. I suffer for your sake, for your sake, for your sake. But secondly, I have the wonderful opportunity of filling up in my flesh the afflictions that are meant for Christ. Now, watch what he means by this. Beautiful thought.

Since the time the world began to persecute Jesus, they haven’t stopped. Today, the world is still hating Jesus. And you know what it is about you and me that the world hates? It is not us, it is Jesus. True? So that when we are persecuted, who is it that they are really persecuting? It’s Jesus Christ. They don’t even know us. I mean, I may go into some place and proclaim Jesus all over everywhere, and they may attack me, and they don’t understand that just personally I am a nice guy. You know? I mean, I am not that bad.

I mean, I’m not a warmonger. I’m not a murderer. I’m not there to assault anybody, but they’ll get infuriated, and they may pounce upon me, and it has absolutely nothing to do with me at all. Who is it that they’re after? It’s Jesus. And you see, since the time the world began, they finally got so far that they killed Jesus, but that didn’t stop it anyway. They’re still trying to kill Him again and again and again. There are people in this world, and there always have been, who are after Christ constantly.

All the false systems in the world are after Christ, persecuting Christ. And when any Christian, standing really in the place of Jesus Christ, gets persecuted, he is really getting that which is directed at Jesus, but Jesus isn’t around anymore to get it, so we get it instead. True? That’s exactly what he’s saying. “I fill up that which is still left behind of the afflictions meant for Christ.” You see? In other words, “In my body I bear” – Galatians 6 – “the marks” – of whom? – “of Jesus.”

These aren’t meant for Paul. They’re meant for who? You see, people are still trying to kill Jesus. They’re still trying to get rid of Jesus. And because He’s not around anymore, those who stand in His place are the ones who get it. And so, Paul says, “You know something, folks? Persecution is so wonderful, because after my Lord suffered so much for me, can I do less than suffer some for Him? I mean, He bore all my reproach. Can I bear a little of His? I mean, He died and provided all that for me. Can I take a few of the darts meant for Him?”

He endured because it was necessary, to be a blessing to the church to endure, and secondly, because he loved the fact that what he was suffering was meant for Jesus. You know, I think that there are some people in your life that you might suffer for. I’ve often thought that – and you have too, probably – that if one of your children went through something extremely painful, you might have thought to yourself, “You know, I’d have gone through that for them. I wish it had happened to me.” Ever thought that?

Or some pain and anguish that somebody went through, and you thought because you loved them so much, “I wish it had happened to me, and not them.” You don’t say that about too many people, do you? But the ones you deeply, deeply love. Now, that’s how much Paul loved Jesus. He said, “You know what, I’ll take it all for Jesus. If He can just be up there in glory, getting what He deserves, I’ll stick around down here and I’ll take it. I’ll fill up in my body the afflictions meant for Jesus.”

So, persecution is a good thing. It’s good for the sake that Paul says, that we are allowed the wonderful privilege of taking in the arrows of Satan meant for Jesus. So, it is in this sense that all true believers who live godly stand in the place of Jesus Christ, and get the afflictions that are meant for Him. That’s what Mark 13:13 means when it says Jesus said, “You shall be hated of all men for My sake.” See? “Not because they hate you, but because they hate Me in you.” Second Corinthians 1:5, Paul said this: “The afflictions of Christ overflowed toward us.”

You see? “That which the world had meant for Him came to us.” He says, “I’m always bearing in my body the putting of Jesus to death,” you see? The world is always trying to kill Jesus, and they can’t get to Him, and they keep getting to me. “I’m always bearing in my body the putting to death of Jesus.” What a tremendous testimony. “I’m out there confronting the world, constantly face to face with the world, and I am so representative of Christ that I keep getting what they mean for Him.” And he says, “Oh, what a joy.”

And he even prayed further in Philippians 3:10: “Oh that I may know Him and the fellowship of His” – what – “of His suffering.” I get to share in what is His to suffer. You see, that’s great joy. So, for the Christian persecution is a wonderful thing. It produces growth. It produces glory. It produces reward. It produces joy. It produces blessing. It produces salvation and encouragement to those whom we reach. And it produces the privilege of identification with Jesus Christ, to fill up the sufferings that are meant for Him.

Now, maybe you don’t love Jesus enough to want to do that, but Paul did, and so did Peter and John. And so here, as we look at Acts, chapter 4, we see this kind of spirit. And here we’re going to find – that’s the introduction; now I’ll get to the sermon. You say, “Boy, MacArthur, I never thought of persecution like that.” I know. That’s the way to think about it, though. That’s the only way. And if you really live Godly in the world, and confront the world, you’re going to have the wonderful opportunity of getting persecuted, and having all those blessings come to pass.

But the beauty of this passage – now, understanding that the persecution began – was how they handled it, and there are seven principles here for handling persecution. Last week, we looked at the first three. And here we’ll look at the remainder, reviewing briefly. Seven principles involving how to handle persecution. Now, they got it, Peter and John did, and here’s what they did. Number one principle – you have an outline in your bulletin, which we’ve changed a little bit from last week, so you might want to follow along.

Principle number one in handling persecution: be submissive to it. Remember that from the beginning of chapter 4 clear through verse 7, to the time they got set down in the middle of the hall of hewn stone where the Sanhedrin met together, they hadn’t resisted at all. They had just willingly gone right along. And they weren’t cowards, and they weren’t afraid; they were submissive. They said this in their minds: “God brought us this far, He must have some reason. Let’s see what He’s going to do.”

And they didn’t fight against it. They – when persecution came, they willingly submitted to it. You never hear Paul doing anything but that. In the Philippian jail, when the jail started to fall apart at the earthquake, what did he do? Say, “At last we’re free, and wheem.” And no, he didn’t. He just stayed in there. He submitted, because he knew God had purpose. It’s a good thing he stuck around, too. God wasn’t finished with what He wanted to do in that place. But you see, they were submissive.

Whenever God brings you into a situation of persecution, stick around and see what God’s going to do. Don’t fight it, be submissive. That’s principle number one. And we went into that in detail, and you remember that Paul and Silas stuck around in the Philippian jail, and they could have gotten away. They could have gotten out of there fast, and they stuck around, and who got saved? The jailer and his whole family. Now, do you know what? The key to the salvation of that jailer, apart from the theology, the circumstantial key to the salvation of the jailer was persecution, right?

They got persecuted. They got thrown in jail. They were having a great time singing songs in there. The place got all rattled. Everybody was panicky. The man was going to fall on his sword. Paul introduced he and his whole family to Jesus, and it all came about because of persecution. Again, a classic example of Satan doing his best, and being overruled by God. Second principle we saw last week, not only be submissive to persecution, but secondly, be filled with the Spirit. Verse 8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit.”

You get into a situation like that, and you’re going to have to lean on some power other than your own. And so, he yielded to the Spirit of God, he and John. And that was victory in itself, right there. They didn’t try to handle it in their own strength, and develop their own techniques, and their own cunning. They yielded to the Spirit. Third principle, boldly use it as an opportunity to present Christ. And this dynamic. They got into this situation, and they saw an open door to present Christ right in the middle of a persecution.

And it would have been so easy to say, “Boy, am I scared and we may never get out of this.” See? And they didn’t really have any historical precedence as a church either. This was brand new stuff. And they could have panicked at that point, and just kind of faded away, and just clammed up, but they didn’t. They – and they could have watered down their message, and as I told you last week, they could have come out with a few little religious platitudes that would have been innocuous and inoffensive to anybody, and just kind of gently accommodated themselves, but not them.

They used it as an opportunity to present Christ. Jesus had told them “I want you to go into all the world to preach the gospel to” – whom? – “every creature.” And here was some “every creatures,” sitting right there. They may have had a big sign on them, Sanhedrin. Boy, that didn’t make them not “every creatures.” And so, Peter and John say, “Hey boys, we’re here; we’ve got to do it.” Off Peter went. Verses 8-13, he preaches Jesus. And he even indicts them for crucifying Him.

And then in verse 12, he says, “You know there’s no salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” He lays it on the line. He says, “Guys, this is the only hope, is Jesus. This man was made well by Jesus physically, and you will be made well by Him spiritually, or you will not be made well at all.” No other name but Jesus. And so, they are bold, unbelievable boldness, in the face of persecution, and to the Sanhedrin, the highest court in Israel.

That’s how to handle persecution: be submissive, be Spirit-filled, boldly use it as an opportunity. Now, what was the effect of it? Look at verse 13, and we’ll move into our study for this morning in terms of this text. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant” – which means that they were not educated in the rabbinical schools, not versed in prevalent Jewish theology, and the word ignorant means they were amateurs as opposed to pros – “they saw that they were unlearned amateurs, they marveled.”

They were shocked. I mean, how could you explain two unlearned amateurs handling a disputation with the Jewish high supreme court, and coming out on top? “And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” See, only the Ph.D.s were supposed to be able to handle these tougher matters, but these two guys had such poised assurance and bold confidence that they were shocked. And the boldness is unbelievable in the face of possible death. And it says in verse 13 – I love this: “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”

Now, I’m not going to spiritualize that, because I don’t think it needs to be spiritualized. It’s not some foggy ethereal thing. It simply means this: they kept remembering that these guys had been associated with Jesus, and what reminded them of it was the fact that they were doing what He did. Because it was exactly what Jesus did, that they were doing. What do I mean? Just this. The thing that shocked the Jews about Jesus was this: “He taught them as one having” – what? – “authority.” And He had never been to the rabbinical schools.

He didn’t go to the right school. In fact, He came out of that cruddy place, Nazareth; would anything good come out of there? Not only that, He was an amateur. He wasn’t one of the pros. “He taught them as one having authority.” Well, what happened? Not only that, what else had Peter and John done here? They’d done a miracle, hadn’t they? And what did Jesus always do? Miracles. Another thing that Peter and John had done so well is in verse 11, handling the Old Testament, and Jesus was the master at handling the Old Testament and applying it.

And they had done the same thing, just as masterfully as Jesus did it, because they did it directly under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were like Jesus, in the fact, number one, that they had authority; number two, that they did miracles; and number three, that they interpreted the Old Testament. They were just like Jesus. And they were saying, “Wow, it’s obvious that these guys have been with Jesus. Here we go again. We’ve got this same problem all over again.”

None could equal Jesus in person, but they were the equal of Jesus in the miracles and the message, because it was Him speaking through them. And so, they took notice of them, that they had been with Jesus, because they had the same pattern that He had. And they marveled. And then that brings us to the fourth feature in handling persecution: be obedient to God at all costs. Verses 14-22, be obedient at all costs. In this little simple narrative, you’ll see how obedient they are.

Verse 14: “And beholding the man who was healed standing with them, they couldn’t say anything against him.” Well, what are you going to say? The guy’s been 40 years a cripple. All of a sudden, he’s jumping around, having a great time. And he’s standing there, and everything seems to be in great order, you know. His legs are doing terrific. And if I read my Bible right, he’s been standing for at least three hours. Now, if you haven’t stood in 40 years, standing for three hours is pretty good. And he’s still hanging on to Peter and John; they haven’t gotten rid of him yet.

Not that they wanted to, but he’s hanging on. And so, what happens is, it says in verse 14, “And beholding the man who was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” I guess not. What are you going to say? They really didn’t have any argument. It’s a tough problem. What are you going to do? But it’s interesting that though they couldn’t argue about it, and they couldn’t deny it, they wouldn’t accept it either. This is the blindness of sin. Here they were face to face with truth, with power, with all of these things, and they blindly had their eyes shut.

And John 3:19 tells us that it’s simply that, “Light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light” – why? – “because their deeds are evil, and they don’t want to come to the light, because if they come to the light, their deeds will be reproved.” So, they know the truth, but they avoid the truth. And Jesus hit it right on the head in John 8 when He said this: “You are of your father” – whom? – “the devil, and from the beginning he was a liar. And so, because I speak the truth, you don’t understand.”

Now, if I talked lies you’d read Me clear. And so, they know the truth, but they reject it. Boy, that’s the character of unbelief. In the face of absolute evidence, they reject. People say, “Well, if – I’ll believe if God will do a trick. Do a trick, God, and I’ll believe. Do a miracle.” Oh, you hear that all the time. “If there’s a God, why doesn’t He do a miracle?” Listen, in the case of Lazarus, you remember, and the rich man? The rich man said, “I want to go home and tell my brothers.” And it was said to him, “If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe that one rose from the dead.”

And you know something, somebody did rise from the dead, and they don’t believe. It’s not a miracle that brings people to belief. It’s that brokenness of spirit, and that conviction of sin, and the knowledge of the truth. Now, a miracle may have a part in it as a sign, but miracles alone don’t do it. They have a very limited use, even in the life of Christ. And so, they simply do not do anything positive about it at all. They’re going to figure out what to do negative.

Verse 15: “When they had commanded them to go aside out of the council” – they sent Peter, John, and the man outside; they had a committee meeting – “they conferred among themselves, saying, ‘What shall we do to these men?’” Now, that is a stupid question to begin with. What had they done to deserve you doing anything to them? “What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable miracle has been done by them, is manifest to all those who dwell at Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.”

Now, if that doesn’t give you some insight into the terrible plight of the blackness of their unbelief; they had a miracle that was obvious, they could not deny it, there was no way they could set it aside, and yet they were intent on rejecting it and getting rid of these people. Now, that is the character of unbelief in its hardest type. And so, they have to have a meeting as to what to do with these people. I mean, they didn’t have any laws against doing miracles. And they didn’t have any law against good deeds, either.

And Peter and John were now popular heroes, you see. I mean, they were – they had healed a guy, and so everybody – it would have been disastrous to the public relations department of the Sanhedrin if they had pulled off some deal and punishment for Peter and John, because they were heroes. So, they had to find a compromise without starting a reaction among the people. And here’s their decision, verse 17: “But that it spread no further among the people, let us threaten them.” They say, “We’ll lay it on them with our authority.”

“And that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” And they all decided “Yea, we’ll do that.” So, they brought them in, verse 18, “And they called them, and they commanded them not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus.” “That’s it. Do not speak and do not teach in the name of Jesus.” They command them never to mention Jesus again. And I’m sure they put all their authority behind it. Isn’t it an interesting thing that the early church had to be commanded to be quiet, and the modern church has to be commanded to speak?

Boy, we’ve come a long way. I’m not sure in what direction. So, they desperately wanted to be rid of the name of Jesus. You know, they still can’t get rid of the name of Jesus. You know, it’s such a strange thing, but they had thought they might get rid of Him when they killed Him, but they didn’t. Now there’s 20,000 people running all over Jerusalem proclaiming Him. And it just got worse.

And you know, even today, as I was in Israel, the thing that struck me the most, I think, the most – the clearest thing that I could see in terms of just kind of identifying certain factors, the thing that overwhelmed me every day, was that right in the middle of Judaism, which rejects Jesus, are all of the things that relate to Jesus. I mean, just think how much easier it would have been if Jesus had been a Chinese individual, and it just cleared away – of course, then it wouldn’t have started the conflict.

But just imagine having to live in Israel, and one bus load after another of pilgrims coming to see the places where Jesus was. “There goes another one.” They’re all over the place. And everybody’s carrying around little olive wood New Testaments, and little Jesus symbols, and everywhere you go in the midst of Israel there are churches with crosses and Jesuses everywhere. They cannot get rid of Jesus, no matter how they try. They can’t. And here, they hope that they had gotten rid of Him when they killed Him, and now they hope they can get rid of Him by shutting up Peter and John.

Do you realize that if they had shut them up at this point, that church history would have been totally different? What a disaster. I mean, it all boiled down at this point to two guys who were really the ones. Boy, am I glad they were faithful. So, they said, “We don’t allow you to speak.” And the word they use for speak there in verses 18, 17 and 18, is an unusual Greek word, used only one other place in the New Testament. It means to speak publicly, to speak aloud, public speaking. So, they put a ban on preaching; no more preaching about Jesus.

And they put all their authority behind it. And they hoped this would shut them up, and it didn’t. Peter and John recognized a higher authority. Jesus had said “Go into all the world and” – do what? – “preach the gospel to every creature.” So, you know, if they had been like me, and like most of us, they’d have probably said, “Now, look let’s not say anything. Let’s just play it real cool, and we’ll get out of here and do what we want.” See? But no, they’re so bold. Verse 19: “Peter and John answered and said unto them” – now, I don’t know if they had this memorized so they could do it unison, but anyway.

“Peter and John answered and said unto them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” Whoa, what a bomb that is. He says, “You’re the supreme court of Israel. You judge this. Here’s the decision. Is it right to listen to you or God? Help.” If they say, “Listen to God,” then they can’t say anything to them. If they say, “Listen to men,” they reject their faith in God. They’re stuck. They’re not only on the horns of a dilemma, but it has also been determined that they and God are at opposite ends of the world.

And so, with holy courage, they don’t sneak away. They don’t cower away. They simply say, “We have a higher authority.” You say, “But doesn’t Romans 13 say, ‘Be subject to the powers that be, for they are ordained of God?’” Sure, and I think in the general rule and the general principle, this is absolutely accurate. Peter himself, in 1 Peter 2, even says that we’re to be subject to the king, and the governors, and those that rule over us. But when it comes into conflict with a higher command from God, then that’s different.

Do you remember Daniel? The king said, “You will not pray, that’s a new edict.” What did Daniel do? Prayed. Somebody may come along and say, “You will not read the Bible,” but the Bible says it needs to be read. Somebody will come along and forbid you to proclaim Jesus, but Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Somebody may come along and command you to do something that is wrong, and against the direct statement of God and the word of God. Don’t do it. You see, there comes a point when you must be obedient to God.

Peter and John knew that they were to be subject to authority. Christians should be the finest citizens possible. But at the same time when it comes to violating the command of Jesus Christ, that’s when we obey Christ and disobey the government. And they don’t argue, and they don’t hassle, and they don’t make a big deal out of it. They simply say, in verse 20, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” We must do what God says. Now, here they are, obedient at all costs.

They realize they’re expendable by putting their life on the line, but they want to be obedient. Over in chapter 5, verse 29, they said the same thing, “we ought to obey God rather than men.” And so, they don’t snivel around, and they don’t sneak out, and they don’t hide. They courageously state who they will obey. Somebody said the trouble with most Christians is that the voice of their neighbors is louder in their ears than the voice of God. But not in the case of Peter and John. They knew to whom their allegiance belonged.

You know that historically there have been great times in the history of God’s dealing with Israel that disobedience has been important, and I mean disobedience to governments. In Exodus 1:17, you know that they want to get rid of the Hebrew babies in Egypt, and so there was an edict sent out. but it says in verse 17 of chapter 1, “The midwives feared God and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.” You know, it’s a good thing they did that. It’s a good thing they did that.

It’s a good thing they disobeyed the king and saved the children. For they are the progeny of the race. Then there was an interesting command: “And Pharaoh” – verse 22 – “charged all his people, saying, “Every son that is born you shall cast into the river.” Well, that’s a pretty good – you say, “Well, did they disobey that?” Well, sort of, they threw Moses into the river, but they had a boat, you see. But they disobeyed and isn’t a good thing that they disobeyed because Moses was God’s chosen instrument.

You see, whenever conflict arises between the command of God and the command of men, whom do we obey? We obey God. And this is all, you can trace this all the way through the Old Testament, suffice it to say, at that point. So in the great tradition of men of God, they obeyed God, even though they knew it could mean their lives. And I love it in verse 20: “For we” – what is the next word? – “cannot.” Remember what Paul said, “woe is unto me if I” – what? – “preach not the gospel.” I can’t do anything else but speak this.

“We can’t be silent,” they said; “we have to speak this.” And so, the Sanhedrin lays a heavier threat on them. Such obedience. It would be so convenient, you know, to get into persecution, and say, “Well, I’m going to obey you and not preach Jesus, because I’m going to subject myself to the powers that be. Romans 13:1, see, I’m all right.” They knew who their higher command was. Verse 20 – 21, they had threatened them more. “So when they had further threatened them” – they really laid it on now – “they then let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people.”

You see, they were all involved in politics. All involved in prestige in keeping their position. “For all men glorified God for that which was done.” Why? Because the man was 40 years old in whom the miracle of healing was shown. So, they were afraid of the people, and so they just had to let them go, after they’d really put the heavy threats on them. And so, we see here complete obedience to God’s will. Persecution breaks out, but it doesn’t break them. They remain obedient in the middle of it.

You don’t ever want to stop doing what you’re doing just because you get persecuted. No bribes, no threats, should ever tame our spirits, should ever steal our zeal. No claims, mental or physical, against us, no chains that would bind us, should ever make us violate the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love the statement of Chrysostom, the great Christian of the early years. He was summoned before the Roman emperor Arcadius, and he was threatened with banishment. And he didn’t – he had preached Jesus, and Arcadius said, “If you do not cease to preach Jesus, you will be banished.”

And this is what he said: “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will slay you,” exclaimed the angered emperor. “No, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.” “Your treasures will be confiscated.” “Sire, that cannot be, my treasures are in heaven where none can break through and steal.” “Then I will drive you from men, and you will have no friends.” “That, you cannot do either, for I have a friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

Ultimately, he was banished to Caucasus, which is on the edge of Armenia, but when he got there, he was so greatly influential by the letters that he was writing all over the world, that his enemies determined to banish him further away, to a place called Pityus, and he died on the journey getting there. Couldn’t stop him; couldn’t stop him. No threat broke his spirit. No threat broke his obedience to God. He knew his priorities. And so we are to be obedient; obedient. How do you handle persecution?

Be submissive, be Spirit-filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, and be obedient at all costs. Skip some thoughts here, the time is gone. Number five, bind yourselves closer together. And this is beautiful, look at verse 23: “And being let go, they went to their own company.” They got together with their friends. They went – you know, persecution drives us together. We often talk about the unity of the body, but persecution is such an important ingredient.

If we all confronted this world, and if we all had to live in a hostile world, and if the world was persecuting us, it would drive us together. You know, I think sometimes Christians get so tied up in picayune little dumb things, you know, and we all sit around, and our whole Christian life boils down as to what we wear to church or, you know, “Well, lookit, there’s Mrs. So-and-so, she’s had some terrible things to say about Mr. So-and-so.” And you know? And we live in these little, really dumb little things, that we get all involved in.

And we spin our wheels on piddlies, you know? When, if we’re really out there confronting the world, we’d be getting so much heat back that we wouldn’t have time to mess with all that stuff. And we’d be driven together for the common love and security of the body. If we really confronted the world, there’s a key to our unity. It would drive us to each other. As it is now, we don’t confront the world, so we live a kind of a placid, innocuous existence, and there’s not enough trouble so that we need anybody else.

We can buy our way out of our problems, you know? Because everything’s so nice. But they were persecuted, and they bound themselves together. Over in 32-35, it talks about the fact that they had one heart and one soul, and if anybody needed anything, somebody else provided it. The next thing, the sixth one – and this is what they did when they got together – is bless the Lord. This is the next reaction to persecution. Verse 24: “And when they had heard that” – they reported to them, all the chief priests and elders, it said.

“And when they heard that” – it says – “they fell on their face and cried, and said, ‘O God, save us.’” Is that what it said? No, it doesn’t say that. It says, “They raised their voice to the Lord in one accord, and said, Lord thou art God.” Isn’t this terrific? “And you made the sea, and the heavens, and the earth, and everything that’s in it.” They acknowledge God. “God, You’re in this. You made everything. You’ve allowed this to happen.” They didn’t come back in a state of mental depression.

They came back rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. I mean, they had just been filled with the Spirit. They had just preached to the Sanhedrin. What greater thing could have happened? And they all might have come back with the attitude, you know, better a live chicken than a dead lion. But they didn’t. They were a whole gang of Joshuas and Calebs, you know; they believed it could be taken for the Lord. Their reaction is PTLA, Praise The Lord Anyhow, and they’re happy.

And they address the Lord as Lord, and the Greek word there is the word that – it’s a very unusual word for Lord; it’s a word that translates into English, despot. It’s the most severe kind of dictatorship. They recognized their absolute bondage to Christ. “Lord, You’re running the show, and if this is what You want, great, we’re in it.” They praised God for His sovereign power. “You’re on it. You made the sea, You made the heaven, You made the earth. You made us, You made the situation, You know what’s going on.

“It’s Your deal, and we’re going to go right in it with You.” Praise the Lord. And then they quote the Old Testament, Psalm 2, verse 25, and I’ll give you the translation of this. “Who by the Holy Spirit through the mouth, of thy servant David” – that phrase should be in there – “has said, ‘Why did the nations rage and the people imagine vain things. The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers are gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’” And here, they say, “Hey Lord, clear back in Psalm 2, You said the world would persecute Jesus.

“Clear back in Psalm 2, You said the world would kill Jesus. You said all the nations are going to get together against Him. We know that. So this whole persecution deal, You know all about that, don’t You, Lord? For a truth, boy, it happened, against Thy Holy servant Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed or made a Messiah. Herod, Pilate, the nations, and Israel gathered together, Lord, just like you said: persecution.” But when it was all over, look at verse 28: “They did whatever” – Whose hand? – “Thy hand and”- whose counsel? – ”Thy counsel determined before to be done.”

Isn’t that something? The world gave its best shots to Jesus and was all done. You know what they had accomplished? They’d accomplished salvation. Psalm 76:10 simply says, and gives us the principle, “He maketh the wrath of men to do” – what? -”praise Him.” And see, they’re comforted in the fact that Jesus got persecuted, but when His persecution was over, through His death, salvation was provided for the world. And again, Satan had overdone himself. And that’s exactly the point right here. This is their comfort.

The God who turned the persecution of Jesus to salvation can certainly turn their persecution into something wonderful. Now, you see, that’s what you need to recognize when you’re getting persecuted. “Hey Lord, what wonderful thing are you going to do out of this? Why, when Jesus got persecuted, You brought the redemption of all men. What are you going to do about this?” So, they’re just praising God and having a wonderful time. That’s trust.

I’m reminded of the story of Joseph. You remember Joseph got persecuted, first of all by his own brothers. Genesis 37:8, he got persecuted by his own brothers, remember, sold into slavery? Then he got into Egypt, and he went to work for some guy name Potiphar, and he got persecuted by them. And they – his wife told all kinds of lies about Joseph, and had his coat to supposedly prove it. And Joseph got persecuted by Potiphar. Next thing you knew, he got into jail, and he was in there and he got – he had done his best to help some people, you remember the butler and the baker situation? He got persecuted by them.

He got nothing but persecuted, persecuted, persecuted, and when it was all over with, he got exalted didn’t he? To the highest place next to the king in Egypt, and he was able to supply everything for everybody that they needed, even those who persecuted him. And the book of Genesis wraps up with a fantastic statement in chapter 50, and the statement is in verse 20: “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it this day, to save many people alive.”

You meant it for evil, God meant it for good. And this is the principle of these verses. They’re praising God and saying, “Bless the Lord, because look at this evil coming that God can turn into good.” That’s the only way to look at persecution. So what’s the principles, then? To handle persecution, be submissive, Spirit-filled, boldly use it as an opportunity, be obedient, bind yourselves together, and bless the Lord, the last one. Beseech God for greater boldness. You say, “Are you kidding?

“You mean, they want to go back into the thick of it again?” Sure. Verse 29: “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants” – slaves, connected with that same word, Lord – “to Thy bond servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word.” With how much boldness? All boldness. “We want to go right back out and speak again.” You say, “Oh, they told you not to do that.” See? Well, we need power to do it. “And then, God, stretch forth Your hand to heal; and do some signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.”

“Let’s really give it to them, both barrels, God. I mean, they’re talking against You. Let’s go.” That’s exciting. They prayed, and they didn’t pray for the Lord to smash their enemies. It was too good. Why eliminate the joy, right? “Lord, don’t – just let them do what they’re doing, we love it.” So, they were looking not for an out, but an in. They were looking for not an escape, but a power. And so, they said, “God, give us power.” You think God will answer prayer like that? Yeah, He did, in verse 31.

“And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled.” Some of you can relate to that. You know what that experience is like. Can you imagine when that whole thing’s shaking? “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.” There they go, He answered their prayer. You know what persecution did? Did it have its effect? You better believe it did, but its effect wasn’t the one Satan meant it to have. They flew out of that place, and verse 32 says, “And the multitude of those that believed were of one heart and one mind.”

They went out of there, and people got saved all over the place. It doesn’t even tell how many; so many, they didn’t even count. They asked for more power, and God gave it. This could be your experience, beloved, if you live godly in Jesus Christ. Now, some of you have never experienced this, because you’ll never really live a godly life. You may be a Christian, but you’ll never confront the world, so you’ll never know this. Others of you will live godly, and persecution will come, and you’ll crumble, and that’ll be it.

A few of you will live godly, you’ll suffer persecution, and in the midst of it, you’ll be submissive, you’ll be Spirit-filled, you’ll boldly use it as an opportunity, you’ll be obedient at all costs, you’ll bless the Lord, and you’ll beseech God for great boldness, and yours is the victory, and the growth, and the glory, and the reward, and the joy. Let’s pray. Father, we thank You this morning for teaching us again how it is that we’re to be responsible to confront the world with the claims of Christ.

O God, we pray that we might be bold for Jesus. And even as we go from this place, Father, we pray that we might put into practice in our own hearts and lives those things that You’ve taught us by Your Spirit this morning. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.


Holy Week Is Here: What Christians and All Faithful Need to Know


“I hear this one often, but that’s really not the case at all,” notes author J. Warner Wallace. “For example, Jesus uses the name “I Am,” which is really reserved for God, the Father, and when he does this in John 8:59, the people take up stones to throw at Jesus.” In other words, the crowd understood Jesus as saying, ‘I am God.’ “He always assumes the identity of God even when he begins a proclamation,” the detective adds. “It was very clear that Jesus claimed to be God.”

Holy Week Is Here: What Christians and All Faithful Need to Know

At the heart of this blessed period on the calendar is the pascal mystery of Jesus Christ

Spring cleaning, cherry blossom festivals, vacation travels and so much more seem to be the focus for many people during this time of year.

But for devout Christians, Holy Week has a unique significance.

It marks the pascal mystery of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On Palm Sunday, Holy Week began with Our Lord’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, with the masses praising him and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:9).

Yet sadly, many of the onlookers in this crowd would later be saying, “Crucify him, Crucify him!” when Pontius Pilate presented Jesus for judgment.

The takeaway for Christians. All good deeds are inspired by God and brought to fruition by the power of His grace, although our humble collaboration is certainly needed. God is the protagonist.

Jesus also teaches us not to trust too much or be overly dependent on public opinion — for as He learned, that can turn against even the most innocent and noble of individuals. The only totally honest and lasting opinion that truly matters is God’s.

On Holy Thursday, Jesus gathered with His beloved disciples for the Last Supper, leaving an example of tremendous humility through the washing of His disciples’ feet and making present His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, in an unbloody manner, through the offering of His body and blood in the form of bread and wine.

The takeaway. Jesus came to serve, and He assumed the role of slave by washing and drying the feet of each one of His disciples. He also instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist by giving this power to His disciples to consecrate the bread and wine into His body and blood.

Jesus is fully present in every Catholic church around the world, becoming present during the moment of consecration in the Mass and within the confines of the tabernacle in the form of the consecrated Host. He is fully present, and He patiently waits and hopes for us to arrive for a heartfelt visit.

On Good Friday, after enduring a long night of trials and torture and three hours of agony and intense suffering on the cross — both moral (for carrying the weight of the sins of all humanity) and physical — Jesus “bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19: 30).

The takeaway. Jesus teaches us the value of suffering with nobility and generosity.

In spite of the physical pain He endured and the radical injustice of His sentence, Christ finds the magnanimity to forgive all of His accusers — even Judas who betrayed him, though he did not accept the forgiveness of Jesus. He pardons the good thief, promising him paradise that same day, and He gave the greatest gift of all, His Blessed Mother, to St. John and all future disciples who are willing to follow in His footsteps.

Whatever one’s current state of suffering, this priest encourages all to hold a crucifix in your hands, look at it closely, and try to understand that He endured this out of love for all of us.

This brings us to Good Saturday and Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday was a day of holy expectation. The stone by the tomb was firmly sealed, the guards had been placed to prevent the disciples or anyone else from stealing the body … but then Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, arrived at the tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint the body.

“When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him” (Mark 16: 4-6).

He stands each day at the door of our hearts, gently knocking, even begging for us to invite Him into our lives.

The takeaway: The mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdalen, and the apostles in the upper room all saw the Risen Christ.

Jesus is alive!

He is alive and well — and He wants to walk with all of us and be at the center of our lives.

The greatest gift of being Christian is having Jesus as someone real and available — someone who desperately wants to accompany us on our life’s journey. He stands each day at the door of our hearts, gently knocking, even begging for us to invite Him into our lives.

His resurrection is also a sign of our future resurrection — if we, too, walk in these footsteps and imitate His example of total self giving and dedication the Father’s will: “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).