Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
From Acts 4:23-31
Everyone loves a happy ending. We might call a particular type of happy ending a “resurrection ending.” It is the happy ending with a twist of the morose first. And it is the morose that makes it all the sweeter.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy gives viewers a taste of the resurrection ending. In the final film in the series, “The Return of the King,” at the final battle before the Black Gates of Mordor, we see Merry and Pippin, two hobbits, fighting alongside the men of the West. As the Ring of Power sinks into the lava of Mount Doom, never to rise again, the Tower of the Great Eye of Sauron collapses and explodes. The earth then opens up and swallows all Sauron’s forces. The battle for Middle Earth is over. Merry and Pippin are the first to realize that Frodo has destroyed the ring. They begin to shout, “Frodo, Frodo” in celebration of the victory, only to watch the top of Mount Doom explode. In less than a second, Merry and Pippin’s faces change from joy to grief, and their “Frodo, Frodo” chant turns to a lament of the same refrain. They believe their friend just died to save them all. Frodo and Sam’s last conversation on the side of Mount Doom surrounded by fire and ash is about what Sam would have done if he had survived. Those who watched Mount Doom explode and those on Mount Doom when it exploded believe they are dead. But Gandalf and the eagles go anyway to scour the lava-filled landscape in a desperate search for the two small heroes. They do find Frodo and Sam alive and return them to Gondor. One of the film’s final scenes is a touching reunion with the Fellowship of the Ring, those few companions Frodo and Sam had set out from Rivendell in the first film. Death to life is the theme. It’s a resurrection ending. “Frodo lives!” Those two words were graffitied everywhere on bridges when I was a child. “Frodo Lives.”
Last week we saw Peter and John standing before the Supreme court of all the Jewish people. Its official name was the Sanhedrin. It is the same court that condemned the Lord Jesus Christ. The same court that set up a sham trial and received knowingly false witnesses to testify against Him. The same group of men handed Him over to be tried and crucified by the Romans. The same group of men stirred up the crowd to release Barabbas, an insurrectionist, and a murderer, instead of Jesus when Pilate sought to release Him. I very much doubt the Church in Jerusalem ever thought they’d see Peter and John again after hearing of their arrest in the Temple the day before. I doubt Peter and John thought they’d escape either. If Jesus, with all His power and wisdom, did not escape the Sanhedrin’s traps, how can Peter and John have been expected to do so? Yet here they are today, restored to their brothers and sisters with a story to tell. It is a resurrection ending or beginning, if you would.
After receiving them back from the dead and hearing of their ordeal, the Church’s response is to go to the Lord in prayer. Let’s listen to their prayer and learn what we can.
23 When they (Peter and John) were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
Look for What & How To Pray In The Face Of Fear Part 2 tomorrow!