Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
Today’s verse presents such a dynamic challenge to every believer. I find my thoughts returning to it over and over as I reconsider the very real truth that, like Jesus, every disciple needs to stand out – to reflect Him, to be the salt and light and to be colour and flavour in an otherwise grey world. It’s a sad reality that wherever we look, lines are getting blurred and the truth is swallowed in compromise and ‘grey areas’ that are, in reality, the products of man’s unwillingness to take God at His Word.
Every one of us will readily agree that the Word says we should be different – separate, set apart, a living testimony to Christ. And every one of us will no doubt also agree that this is sometimes easier than other times. We’re human, and that makes us weak and imperfect. We’re subject to emotional responses and wayward thoughts, we’re tempted by worldly things and we’re easily distracted or confused. This is the reality of living in the world, and it’s often a constant struggle to keep our light shining, or to find the courage to be the salt in a situation of compromise.
But this verse presents a remarkable truth that is so easy to overlook in our daily ups and downs. Peter and John confront the religious leaders – a dangerous and tenuous position – yet it’s not what they say so much as what they are that catches the attention of the council. These learned men recognise a few things that confound them because they point unerringly to Jesus.
Firstly, they are bold. I think we often misunderstand bold. It doesn’t mean having no fear. It means, essentially, to not be governed by fear – whether it’s personal fear of stepping out of comfort zone or fear of repercussion to our actions. Boldness is essentially thinking beyond fear. It’s more, even, than courage. It implies a willingness to step beyond what is ordinary, expected or acceptable. Boldness is, to a large degree, a concerted focus on what is right and a willingness to do whatever is required to maintain it.
Secondly, they were unlearned men. While all Jewish men were required to know the Scriptures, these two displayed a knowledge and wisdom, and a revelatory understanding, that by far exceeded their level of learning. These humble fishermen were able to debate and challenge the religious leaders and scholars, those who spent their entire lives immersed in the Scriptures and who were trained and well versed in religious and traditional exposition and interpretation.
From these two startling realisations, these religious leaders can draw only one truth: the disciples had been with Jesus. And herein lies the wonderful comfort, encouragement and assurance we need to meet the challenge of representing and presenting Jesus to the world. There can be absolutely no doubt that these men – powerful and dangerous leaders in a world fraught with political maneuvering and intimidate – were confounded by the simple manifestation of a supernatural truth.
The mark of one who truly manifests Jesus, who really lives as salt and light, is that we cannot do it in and of ourselves. The manifestation of Jesus in us is beyond our ability – which of course is why we struggle with it – but rather the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will always manifest Himself through the willing and surrendered life. He will always honour the obedience of a vessel humbled and yielded to His will. It will always be entirely supernatural – above and beyond our limited human ability or comprehension.
It’s so important that we take hold of this, because it’s the difference between our striving and His doing. We may be working so hard at ‘revealing Jesus’ that Jesus doesn’t have the opportunity to reveal Himself. We may be committed, earnest, zealous and focused, but all of that simple gets in the way and sets us up for disappointment. We cannot, no matter how much effort goes into it, create or sustain something that is entirely a supernatural act of God.
So where, then, do we find the solution? This is a beautiful truth. Peter and John were clearly recognisable as having been with Jesus. That’s our part. That’s where it starts and that’s where our ‘effort’ ends. This is what is required from us in order to live as salt and light, to stand as a living witness for Christ. Spend time with Jesus. How wonderfully simple and joyful that is!
We cannot disguise, hide or dilute the fact that we have been with Jesus. Consider Moses on Sinai, and the glory that shone from him when he returned to the people. The principle is exactly the same. The more time we spend with Him, the more His glory will begin to shine through us – like the glass on a lamp. We cannot help but reflect Him. It’s a fundamental spiritual principle that occurs without our effort or conscious thought. We don’t have to strive and we don’t have to struggle. We simply have to spend time with Jesus.
How remarkable that these ‘enemies’ of Christ should recognise that truth with such startling clarity when often those who truly love Jesus don’t always see it. Yet it’s a ‘universal’ truth that underpins every single aspect of our Christian walk – which could be defined as ‘walking like Christ.’ How do we be living water? Spend time with the source. How do we minister to the broken hearted? Spend time with the divine physician. How do we reach the unsaved? Spend time with the one who came to reach the sick and sinful.
A desire of my heart has always been to ‘be like Enoch’ – to walk with God. This is a beautiful summation of everything contained in today’s devotional. Perhaps, instead of praying ‘help me reach the lost,’ help me to teach, preach, minister or whatever is on our heart’ we should be asking simply that the world will see that we have been with Jesus. We can preach, teach, minister, give up everything we have for others, go off to the outer reaches of the world…unless people can see that we have been with Jesus, all of this is worthless. It is human commitment, human desire, human plans and human effort.
It is Jesus alone that brings the supernatural dimension to anything we’re involved with. He alone is able to set us apart so dynamically that the world cannot deny the truth of Him in it. We live in an age that craves spiritual signs and wonders and supernatural manifestations, yet we ignore the fundamental truth that governs all interaction between God and His people. Jesus said: ‘I am the Way, The Truth and the Life. No one comes to the father but through me.’ If we seek the supernatural without doing it only through Jesus, we may have results but it won’t be Christ.
If we want more of Jesus, we have to be with Jesus more. There is no other way. What a joy and a blessing this is. The grace of our God is overwhelming, for He always provides a ‘solution’ that utterly perfect for every need. Instead of striving and struggling, let us make the choice today to rather simply spend time with Jesus, without plans, without petitions, without desires or requests. We have the absolute assurance that, as we do, He will manifest in a way that is beyond our comprehension and expectation but which is wholly focused on Him and which reveals His glory alone.
Thank You, Jesus, that in You, we find every provision for every need. Forgive us for the times and the situations in which we have strived and struggled in our own strength. Draw us closer to You, so that we may know the joy of simply being with You and in a place where we can learn to surrender all. It’s Your glory, Lord, never ours, and we know that in You is perfect grace, no matter what the circumstance.