This is a chapter about bold speaking. It is about witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From our reading in Mark, we knew something like this was going to happen. The disciples surely were not surprised. Jesus had told them:
“And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).
And here was the first moment in which Christians were given over to a trial – and the Holy Spirit spoke. The council leaders were astonished at the “boldness” of Peter and John. They were uneducated, common men. The council leaders weren’t expecting such things from them.
But these men had been with Jesus. And so, they weren’t really uneducated men. They weren’t common men. The council leaders may have been beginning to learn that, too.
And when Peter and John finally got out of there, they went back to the church (a people, not a building) and prayed with the others for even more boldness. Immediately following a display of boldness, they prayed for boldness. And God answered that prayer. And just as Jesus had said, God answered that prayer through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In our world, there is no shortage of boldness. Social media is full of people speaking boldly about things – about politics and statues and elections and public health and the economy. I’ve found in myself an urge to speak boldly about such things, as well. It is rather easy, after reading and thinking and living in this nation at this time, to think boldly about things.
A friend of mine recounted how he walked into a store in Carbondale without a mask over his mouth. Before he had gone very far into the building, an employee called out – “Put your mask on!” My friend didn’t have his mask. He turned on his heel and went back out of the store. The cries behind him didn’t stop – “It’s the law!”
Boldness about what is right and what is wrong. We all can find ourselves in that place. We know something is right or wrong, and we call it out. We can even be zealous about it. And our nation right now is nothing if it is not zealous – internally zealous. And on this Fourth of July, we are finding ourselves tearing each other apart in our zealousness.
Now, the disciples were bold. They weren’t bold in trying to tear people apart. They were bold in living out their place in the kingdom of God.
Peter pulled out that old Psalm Jesus had quoted and laid it straight on the council leaders: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone” (Acts 4:11; Mark 12:10; Psalm 118:22). And Peter without apology said there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.
This is bold.
In a nation of bold people, are we as Christians this bold? Am I? Are you? Perhaps more to the point, are we trusting in Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit will speak through us at the appropriate time? Are we praying for this kind of holy boldness?