For those of us who have grown up in or live in the West, persecution for being a Christian isn’t really a thing. There might be the odd joke (The ‘Bible basher’ kind) but serious and systematic persecution isn’t really on our radar. We have the freedom to gather for worship, we can openly and legally engage in conversations with others about what we believe, and we carry no daily fear of being arrested for simply declaring faith in a risen Jesus.
In Acts 4.1-6 we see eleven individuals or people who come together against Peter and John. What began back in 3.1 has ended here in arrest. We read of the priests, the captain of the temple (a temple police force), the Sadducees, their rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and the family of the high priest. Eleven groups of individuals who had come together to put a stop to what Peter and John were saying:
“…they were teaching the people and announcing in Jesus the resurrection of the dead”.
(Acts 4.2b, NET)
Teaching that Jesus died and rose was (and is to some) such a shocking idea that Peter and John found themselves in custody until the next day. The truth that Jesus died and rose and offers this to those who believe and follow Him is so infuriating and inflammatory to some because it renders all of our man-made structures, policies, procedures, and plans as pointless. Those who find their identity in work, deeds, religion, status, or wealth (as many of that list above did) are confronted with the truth that it is, at best, all nothing.
Peter and John were persecuted for sharing a truth that changed the world and stands ready to change individual lives if they accept it. Those persecuting are, usually, those who would lose out the most from accepting the truth of Jesus. Those with power, wealth, status, or those with a contrasting and conflicting worldview ready to be proven wrong are usually the most vociferous opponents to our faith and, therefore, the primary proponents of persecution.
Peter and John were confronted with actual, real persecution. They weren’t made fun of, excluded from the cool table at lunch, or not invited to the latest office party. They were arrested and detained for teaching in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. When we feel like our lives are hindered in some minor way because we are believers, we would do well to remember those around the world who are facing what Peter and John experienced here. We would do well to pause and to pray for them, and we would do well to view our own experiences with some right and proper perspective.