The third chapter of the book of Acts records the story of a man who had previously been lame for his entire life. He was miraculously healed after a brief encounter with a couple of former fishermen turned preachers, who were headed to the Temple at the hour of evening prayer. The news spread throughout the Temple complex and across the entire city of Jerusalem. The already crowded courtyard quickly filled with curious onlookers who poured onto the Temple Mount to see for themselves.
One of the preachers took the opportunity to share with the growing crowd, the mysterious source of the power that had accomplished this miracle. It was none other than the name of Jesus, who less than two months earlier had been publicly flogged and had died a horrible death of crucifixion. The lifeless body of the itinerant teacher had been hastily buried, but three days later, the tomb was found to be empty. Speculation was rampant as to what had happened to the body. Some said His followers had stolen it away, but that was a foolish story from the outset. The tomb had been sealed and a team of highly trained, fully armed Roman soldiers, had been ordered to stand guard. Nonetheless, the guards were frightened out of their minds by the powerful shaking of the place and the Angel who rolled away the stone which had sealed the sepulchre. The story spread quickly that Jesus had risen from the dead. Fantastic as it may have seemed, this man is one who had brought others back to life during His ministry. Why should it be incredible that He would, Himself, arise from the grave?
The risen Christ had made numerous appearances to His followers over the next forty days, finally giving them instructions to take the good news of salvation to every person on earth. He promised them a special power and authority to do so, just before He ascended into the heavens before their very eyes. Within 10 days, this rag tag group of 120 followers, were empowered by an indwelling of His Spirit, which changed their lives forever. In return, they changed the world.
Chapters four and five of the same book record the beginnings of persecution that would be the hallmark of their service for the rest of their natural lives. Dragged before the authorities, they were threatened, imprisoned, and beaten for no crime other than proclaiming that Jesus was risen from the dead! The miracles done at their hands, they maintained, were done through the power of His name. These very followers who had run like scared cats on the night of His arrest, now stood boldly before the religious leaders who demanded their silence. Even after the threats, imprisonment, and beatings, they continued to come right back to the same prominent locations, preaching the same message of love, grace, and forgiveness through the power of the risen Christ.
One of the men, a fellow named Simon Peter, summed up their motivation. "We cannot help but speak what we have seen and heard", he told the Sanhedrin.
Isn't that simple?
Isn't that profound?
They had been given the power and boldness for which they had prayed. They remained faithful to their mission through more intensive persecution - and eventually to their own martyrdom. They continued to proclaim that the only way to peace, forgiveness, relationship with God, and eternal life, was found in this man Jesus. Their lives had been forever changed for having been with the Master. Those of us who follow Christ today possess that same power and authority. We stand on the shoulders of these (and other) giants of the faith. They could not help but tell what they had experienced through Jesus. His mission became their passion. They were bold, powerful witnesses.
How can we not do the same?