“… during the night, an angel of the Lord opened
the prison doors and brought them out, and said,“Go and …
speak to the people all the words of this Life” (Acts 5.19-20).
I have recently been watching a series of videos from a guy on YouTube named, Nathaniel ‘Coyote’ Peterson. Peterson is a wildlife educator who does some crazy things to get his teachings out to the world. If you haven’t seen him in action, it’s fairly entertaining. Some of his more recent episodes focus on him and his crew as they go out to find the most venomous of God’s creatures to intentionally be stung or bitten by them. His crew stands idly by to film Coyote while he ends up in a significant amount of pain to prove his point. To me, it all seems meaningless, while at the same time, incredibly funny. If our message is insignificant, why would we create pain for ourselves to live it and share it? What if we believed that the message we had to share was truly the most important and weighty in all the world? Would we take risks and be bold enough to get it out there?
Our reading for today is part of Luke’s focus on the expansion of the early first-century church in Jerusalem (3.1-6.7), and the conflict and opposition that come with it. His intent is to reveal to us how the gospel overcomes all obstacles. In spite of what we might face on a daily basis, God is faithful to open doors and show his power to us who believe. In fact, we find the following summary statement (or something akin to it) regularly posted throughout the book: “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7) (cf. also 2:46-47, 9:31, 12:23-4, 16:5, 19.20, 28:30-31). All of these ‘progress reports’ highlight Jesus’ work by his Spirit through his people.
This section records the follow up to the apostles’ imprisonment for teaching and proclaiming the gospel (4:1-3). God miraculously frees them, and they are back at it again, annoying those who would not believe the message. Verses 27-32 show the exchange between those who would prefer to shut the message down and this group of faithful men. Peter’s response is a clarion call to continue speaking about “this Life” (v. 20) no matter the consequences: “We must obey God rather than men.”
And what about us? How does their example challenge us in the 21st century? Do we speak up in places where we have the opportunity? Are we bold about telling others about Jesus? Are we afraid to get our message out there? Granted, we must be careful about the time and the place. We shouldn’t talk when we should be working for our employer. Nor, should we lose our sense of what is appropriate and end up being rude just to get our message across. But, in a day when the world around us wants to shut down God’s truth in every form, let’s remember ̶ we have the words of life and the witness of the Spirit of God within us. In one way or another, there will be times when we are told to go home, be quiet and keep the gospel to ourselves. But the Spirit will always push us out of our comfort zone, just like he did with that early church.
When we are obedient, we’ll find that God is faithful to use us to impact the person or persons he has put in front of us. Remember Jesus’ words, “When you are brought before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say. For at that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say” (Luke 12:12).
Back to Coyote Peterson. I DO like the way he ends his videos, and it is a good word for us as we take our cues from the Spirit of God: “Be brave, stay wild … I’ll see you on the next adventure.”