God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called
Does anyone else remember the joy of poking and prodding mercury in school chemistry lessons? It is a fascinating element, liquid at room temperature, and taking the form of a shiny, silver ‘droplet’, which can be rolled about or squashed, but keeps coming back to its original shape when released. If sufficient pressure is applied to the droplet, by the cutting edge of a knife, for example, it can be divided into two, a process which can be replicated with each of the dissected droplets. Each smaller globule retains the shape, structure and appearance of the original.
Reading today’s Scripture, I wonder if the priests, temple guard and Sadducees began to feel that trying to get rid of Jesus was like handling mercury? They had done their best to suppress Him, causing Him to be beaten mercilessly and then crucified. They thought they had dealt with Him, squashed His teachings and driven away His followers and yet, here they were, confronted by Peter and John, two droplets from the original element! Each one exhibiting the same shape, structure and appearance of Jesus’ compassion and doctrine! Not only had Peter healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, but the number of believers had grown to about five thousand! To top it all, the disciples were preaching Jesus’ resurrection, a theology abhorrent to the Sadducees, who rejected any existence after death. No wonder the officials were ‘greatly disturbed’! Despite their best efforts, the more they applied pressure, the more followers of the new faith were increasing like never-ending multiplications of the one man, Jesus!
We see Peter carrying the presence of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, as he is filled with boldness and eloquence to answer the accusations of the religious leaders. It is wonderful to see how God uses this flawed man to proclaim the truth of Jesus. It shows the depth of God’s forgiveness even after we mess up (it wasn’t that long since Peter had been restored by Jesus after denying him three times) and what God can do with a submitted heart! A glance back into the Old Testament should reassure us that God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Moses stuttered, Jacob cheated, Noah drank, Abraham was old and David, the ‘man after God’s own heart’, was both a murderer and an adulterer, but God was able to do amazing works through all of them and is still able to do amazing works through us! A more recent example is Smith Wigglesworth, one of Britain’s foremost evangelists of the early 1900s, who was completely illiterate until his wife taught him to read the Bible! His ministry pre-dated his marriage and God used him to great effect both before and afterwards.
Peter, too was ‘unschooled’, but the Holy Spirit gave him the exact words he needed to witness boldly in front of an audience of teachers of the Law. It was so perfect. The man had been healed, the miracle was undeniable! Peter’s audacity in pointing out that he and John were being called to account for an act of kindness must have been quite shocking to the leaders, and more so when he went on to enlighten them, quoting Psalm 118:22, that the stone the Sanhedrin had rejected was the cornerstone. They were directly responsible for the death of the Messiah! Peter pronounced that both healing and salvation come only from Jesus. The same Jesus they had a short time before condemned to death.
It seems so strange that the religious leaders didn’t stop to re-evaluate their actions and their beliefs, but they were caught up in protecting their own interests and seemed oblivious to the source of the miracles they were seeing. They were astonished by the articulacy and courage of Jesus’ uneducated disciples, though they made the connection that ‘these men had been with Jesus’. They acknowledged that the lame man had been healed, but were trying to attribute blame rather than rejoice in God’s healing power! Their focus was to stop the word spreading so that they wouldn’t lose their own position of power and prestige. The leaders were full of pride and hardheartedness, which blocked their capacity to see God. Whilst they were being ‘God’ themselves, they had no room to allow God in. Peter’s submitted heart, on the other hand, shows how God can change us if we allow Him.
In today’s society we can sometimes get disheartened by others’ unbelief and those who try to silence us about our faith. I pray that we will keep Peter’s words close to our hearts: “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)