In John 7:15, the Jews were amazed that Jesus knew so much without ever having studied. In today’s passage, the Jewish leaders are amazed at the courage of Peter and John, who speak authoritatively despite their lack of formal religious training, and note that “these men had been with Jesus” (v. 13).
We are amazed at the blindness of the Sanhedrin, that despite the clear evidence of the healing of the man and the claim that this was the work of Jesus, they think they can stop the gospel by moving a motion in the assembly that there should be no more Jesus talk. There is no rational debate or presentation of contrary evidence, merely this response—“speak no longer to anyone in this name” (v. 17). Somehow they thought this would change reality and everything would go back to the way it was. No way! Peter and John had been with Jesus. They had “seen and heard” (v. 20) and were eyewitnesses of His resurrection and exaltation. They are under the authority of God, who is an even higher authority than the Sanhedrin (v. 19). They will maintain their position in Acts 5:29.
Let the highest court of Judaism decide—should God be obeyed or a human court?
The Jewish leadership had often opposed Roman interference in their customs; claiming that their ultimate authority was no human court, but God alone. Peter and John had the same conviction. They were witnesses, and they had been with Jesus. They were the leaders of a group of people mandated by God himself to speak. “We cannot help speaking” (v. 20), they say, and so they give us the ongoing model for our response to irrational, worldly opposition that seeks to silence our speaking of the gospel.
What the prophet heard, “thus says the Lord”, the apostles saw and heard, and so spoke. Today, we can say with equal confidence, “thus the Lord has written”. We have the historical written record of the revelation of God and the accredited testimony of the prophets and the apostles, both of which focus on the Lord Jesus, and so we must speak. The more determined the world is to ignore us, the more determined we must be to speak.
Think of the fear you have for the tribunal compared with the fear you have for God. How could Peter and John have had such courage?
In the face of such clear evidence, why does the Sanhedrin refuse to recognise the truth?