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God’s Word for You

Acts 4:5-10 By what name did you do this?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, September 23, 2019

5 The next day their rulers, elders and scribes met in Jerusalem, 6 along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them, and they began to question them: “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

Annas was high priest from 6-14 AD, which is to say, he was never high priest during Jesus’ ministry years, but he retained the title of high priest in a similar way that we still use the title “professor” for a retired professor, or refer to a former US President as “Mr. President.” He also seems to have been the power behind Caiaphas, since Luke groups them together “during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Luke 3:2). The John mentioned here (some manuscripts call him “Jonathan”) is probably that son of Annas who later became high priest. We don’t know who this Alexander was, but perhaps he was also part of the high priestly family.

Their question is the same one used of Jesus: “By what power or by what name?” is the same as asking “By what authority?” When Jesus was confronted, it was over his teaching (Mark 11:27-33). Now they questioned whether Peter and John had the authority to heal the man they had just healed. Their question seems ridiculous to us, like a gym teacher brow-beating a student for running a four-minute mile.

List of New Testament High Priests:

Simon (23-5 BC)
Matthias (5-4 BC)
Joazar (4 BC)
Eleazar (4-3 BC)
Joshua (Jesus) ben Sie (3 BC to about 1 BC?)
Joazar (restored, about 1 BC to 6 AD)
Annas (also called Ananus) (6-14 AD)
Ishmael (15-16 AD)
Eleazar (son of Annas, 16-17 AD)
Simon (17-18 AD)
Caiaphas (Joseph ben Caiaphas, 18-36 AD)
Jonathan (son of Annas, 36-37 AD)
Theophilus (son of Annas, 37-41 AD)
Simon Cantatheras (41-43 AD)
Matthias (son of Annas, 43 AD)
Elioneus (43-44 AD)
Jonathan (son of Annas, restored, 44 AD)
Josephus (44-46 AD)
Ananias (46-58 AD) (see Acts 23:4-9)
Jonathan (58 AD)
Ishmael II (58-62 AD)
Joseph Cabi (62-63 AD)
Annas (son of Annas, 63 AD)
Jesus (son of Damneus, 63 AD)
Joshua (son of Gamla, 63-64 AD)
Mattathias (son of Theophilus, 65-66 AD)
Phannias (67-70 AD) (Temple destroyed by Romans)

8 Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being questioned today for an act of kindness shown to a crippled man, about how he was healed, 10 then let it be known among you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.

Jesus had comforted his apostles: “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). Once again, Peter is given the opportunity to preach the gospel of Christ crucified and risen from the dead. He invites the chief priests and the Sadducees to proclaim the news along with him when he says, “Let it be known among you and all the people of Israel.” The emphasis here is on the name of Jesus, because every name of God, including the name of Jesus, tells us something about God and reveals something to everyone who listens.

The Lord’s name, Jesus, is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua. This name means “the LORD saves,” and it stands as a sermon about Jesus all by itself. Peter and John were showing their faith in Jesus by proclaiming his name above all else. What if Peter had claimed this healing miracle for himself, or if he had said that he was Christ’s one true successor, and that people should listen only to him? He could have gathered a flock of listeners around himself. But he didn’t take credit for what had happened. He sent everyone running back to Jesus, the Nazarene that this group of Jewish leaders had crucified. Using the name of Jesus, Peter shows that everything Jesus said and everything Jesus did was for the sake of all mankind; that trusting in the name of Jesus frees us from the burden of our sins.

Peter teaches us a valuable lesson here. We must hold up the name of Jesus and put our trust in everything Jesus said and did. Trusting in Jesus means relying on his promises, so that we know that no matter what happens to us here, we have a place with Jesus in heaven. Luther said, “For what can the devil or the Turk do” (Islamic Ottoman Turks were moving into Germany, attacking Budapest in 1526 and Vienna in 1529), “even if they take away our life? If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (LW 6:274). Paul said, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14).

Our true healing is in Jesus, who is the author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), the builder of our confidence (Hebrews 3:3), the architect of our salvation (Hebrews 11:10), the mediator of our souls (Hebrews 12:24), the savior of all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10). How many more titles shall we give him? The gift of language which God has given to man would allow us to bring every glorious title to light within the work of Jesus and lay them all like so many trophies at his feet. He is our Lord;  he is our Life. Put your trust in him.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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