Peter and John had just healed a beggar at the the entrance to the temple. They were almost immediately arrested because they were using that healing to teach people about the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of salvation that comes with believing in it. The next morning they were questioned by the Jewish leaders about what they were doing and teaching. The rest of this passage gives two very different examples of motivation. Peter and John are motivated by God’s opinion of them. The Jewish leaders are motivated by the peoples’ opinions of them. And there are pretty big differences in how those motivations lead them to act.
Peter and John are operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are speaking boldly, confidently, and without any fear, even though they’re basically on trial. They proclaim the truth of the gospel, even though that’s the very thing that landed them in this trouble. The only concern they have is pleasing God and being obedient to him, and that allows him to move in very powerful ways on their behalf.
The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, are so concerned with their own power and ambition that the opinions of the people completely control them. They try to conceal the truth, but ultimately they can’t. The healed man is standing right in front of them and the people are praising God for his healing. They are operating out of fear and insecurity that they could lose their status, so their only concern becomes pleasing the people.
Two very different motivations. Two very different results.
So, where am I in this story? Am I more like Peter or more like the Jewish leaders?
My first instinct is to say that I’m more like Peter, of course! But, am I really?
Nope. Not even close.
The reality of it is that I do fall into the trap of pleasing people. I worry about what people will think about me, and that ends up controlling what I say and what I do. And it can creep in so slowly that I don’t even realize I’m doing it. I start trying to do things in my own power, my own way, on my own terms. And before I know it, I look up and I’m so disconnected from what God wants me to do that I’m not even sure what that is.
Why do I do that? I know that chasing the opinions of people will never lead to anything but insecurity and feelings of failure and inadequacy. I know that that it is impossible to please everyone all the time. I know that what people think of me will constantly change and I’m never going to find any worth or value by changing along with them.
Man, do I want to be like Peter! I want to live for Jesus and Jesus alone. I want to boldly step forward in the power of the Holy Spirit with no fear or hesitation. I want to pursue God’s will and God’s plan, even if people don’t approve. I want to live with the kind of obedience and conviction that compels people to turn their eyes to the cross and the truth of the gospel. And, I want to give 100% of the glory for the results right back to God.
Whose opinion matters most?
Lord, let it be yours.
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” ~Acts 4:19