The Transforming Power of the Resurrection
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
-Acts 4:1-13 (ESV)
Is this the same Peter that we remember from Good Friday? Is this the Peter who, less than 2 months prior, flat out denied being a follower of Jesus, not just once, but three times? If so, what would we expect from that Peter the first time the religious leaders opposed him?
This is the first account of Peter facing persecution since the day of Christ’s death, and as we remember, that last time Peter’s faith was put the test was a complete failure. And since then, his teacher and mentor was mocked, tortured, humiliated, executed, and buried. Based on that alone, what then should we expect of Peter?
But that’s not all that happened, is it? One thing is missing in that list:
This is the only thing that could change the heart of Peter – the power of the resurrection.
So 50 days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, and this resurrection power was the result – not just spiritual gifts, but a complete transformation in the disciples’ lives: bold proclamation, power in prayer, fearlessness of worldly authorities, even defying those who had Jesus killed.
This is what strikes me most about these first few chapters in Acts: the dramatic qualitative change in Peter’s faith.
Sure Peter had faith before – he knew Jesus, and was even able to identify Him as the Messiah. He even committed his life to following Jesus, though he did not have the faith to follow him to death. It was incomplete; it was a faith of the mind – he understood who Jesus is, even through personal experiences in His presence.
But isn’t true faith so much more than mere understanding? Even John Wesley says that true faith “is not barely that which the apostles themselves had while Christ was yet upon the earth; though they so believed on Him as to ‘leave all and follow Him’.”
Faith isn’t just understanding of the mind, but also “a disposition of the heart”.
You see, while Peter surely had a measure of faith before, the faith received with the Holy Spirit was different. It was deeper; it was beyond reason; it was even more than a warm feeling; it was the witness of the Holy Spirit to Peter’s own spirit that He was a child of God, and that Spirit of Christ was in Him. And this brought a radical personal transformation.
The frightened disciple who denied Jesus three times in the morning darkness is now boldly and publicly preaching the resurrection of Christ.
Yet he had so many reasons to be afraid, as the religious leaders saw:
- he was uneducated; he had no formal training in the law or in rhetoric
- he was just an ordinary man
- he had no influence with the people
- he had no reason for the people to respect him or listen to him
- he wasn’t ordained by an institution
- he hadn’t written a book, or taught in a seminary
- he didn’t have 5 years of ministry experience and a list of qualified references
- he didn’t even have a M.Div, let alone a Bachelor’s degree
Peter had every reason in the world to be afraid, even more than before Christ was executed. Yet by the power of the Holy Spirit, he boldly proclaimed Christ’s resurrection to the same men who had Him killed.
What’s most interesting to me about this passage is that the religious leaders were annoyed because Peter was preaching the resurrection of Christ – how much does that continue to resonate in Christianity 2000 years later? There are still religious leaders, even among our own Methodist family, scholars and skeptics, who continue to deny the bodily resurrection of Christ and are annoyed when God’s people hold onto this supernatural doctrine in the midst of “enlightenment” and “modern reason”.
But let me tell you, the gospel of Jesus Christ is utterly empty without the resurrection. Without the resurrection, Jesus is simply either a fraud or a madman. Without the resurrection, there is no redemption, for death would have won. There would be no atonement. Without the resurrection, there would be no forgiveness for sin. Without the resurrection, there wouldn’t even be a moral influence for us to follow.
If Christ was not raised from the dead, then Christ died for nothing. The power that broke the chains of sin was not the cross, it was the empty tomb. Without the resurrection, we have no freedom from sin, we have no hope of being raised to life in Him, we have no Holy Spirit, for it was the risen Christ who sent the Holy Spirit.
The power of the Christian life is in the resurrection! Peter experienced this power first hand, witnessed in his dramatic transformation from fear to boldness.
The fears and insecurities we face every day can be overcome by this resurrection power. Like Peter, once we’ve experienced the grace of God in Christ, we too are transformed by the Holy Spirit. Where there was sin, we may have freedom; where there was brokenness, we may have restoration; where there was fear, we may have boldness; where there was death, we may be raised to life in Christ. Remember the resurrection today; remember the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in Peter’s ministry, and know that same power that brought Peter from fear to boldness is alive in you.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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