The religious leaders of course didn’t take the admonitions from the apostles positively, but they didn’t react as strongly as they could've. Naturally there were more than a few of the leaders who would love to shut the apostles’ mouths permanently, but they were afraid of the public reaction. There was no denying a miracle had taken place, but instead of reconsidering their position, they hardened their hearts and only took into account how the people would think of them.
So they brought the apostles back in and countered the divinely inspired threat with some of their own. They warned the men to stop teaching about this Jesus of Nazareth. The two men knew that the Savior in whose Name they were teaching had risen from the dead, so how could these men threaten them? Just like David, they could say
“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?”
Can I just take a moment here to remind you of something very important? Miracles do not produce faith. The people of Israel under the leadership of Moses saw miracles on a daily basis: They saw the Ten Plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, a cloud to shade them from the heat of the day and a pillar of fire to give them light at night. They walked outside every morning and collected their food off the ground, and then complained because it wasn’t what they wanted. After all these physical and public demonstrations of the Lord's power and presence, they came to the very edge of the Promised Land and said that the he--Almighty God--couldn’t conquer it for them. So why should we be surprised when their spiritual heirs ignored a lame man’s healing and only looked at it from a cynically political viewpoint?
I love the prayer the Church prayed when Peter and John returned. Notice that there are two sides in this conflict: The world’s kingdom and God’s kingdom. The kingdoms of the world conspire together and take their stand against the Lord and his Anointed One (Messiah). The culmination of that stance was when they crucified the Lord’s own Son. Please note what they prayed for. They asked the Lord to “consider their threats” and. . . what? Remove the threat? Destroy the enemies of the Kingdom? At least give them some relief from the fear and persecution? No. That’s not what they asked for.
They asked for boldness. In the face of ever-mounting hostility and threats, they asked for boldness in sharing the Good News. And they asked the Lord to show himself in ever-more public ways and thus draw more people into the Kingdom.
That’s quite a rebuke for you and me, isn’t it? When the world puts just a little pressure on us, we pray for relief. Most of the time we don’t ask God to smite down the enemies of the Kingdom, but we at least want the persecution to stop. What if, instead of asking for relief, we asked for boldness?
Well, the Lord heard their prayer. He came down and physically manifested his presence. But even more importantly, he manifested himself in the lives and message of his children. Physical evidence is nice, but what’s more lasting is the unflinching courage of God’s people as they tell a lost world about the Savior.
Lord Jesus, please change my attitude. Instead of whining about persecution, give me boldness. Yes, that’s what I want.