It is amazing to see the transformation in the life of Peter. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, Peter said that he would follow Jesus, even if it meant he would follow Jesus to death (see Matthew 26:35). But, of course, when the soldiers showed up to arrest Jesus, Peter gave a wobbly swing of the sword towards the soldiers, cutting off a poor soldier’s ear (see John 18:10) and then he ran off. He followed the soldiers, with Jesus in tow, to Annas’s house, but he denied Jesus three times while trying to stand inconspicuously in the courtyard. Upon that third denial, Peter left the courthouse and wept bitterly (see Luke 22:62).
In John 21, we see Jesus restore Peter. Now here we are in the book of Acts, and Peter is a force to be reckoned with! Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter stands up and gives a convicting public sermon at Pentecost. As a result of his boldness, thousands give their lives to Christ that day! Next we see Peter, along with John, heal a man who was born lame. The man was asking for money.
But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. (Acts 3:6–7, ESV)
As a result of this healing, Peter immediately recognizes that he has an impromptu audience right there at Solomon’s Portico, so he once again boldly proclaims the gospel. This is a very different Peter than the one we saw in Annas’s courtyard! Thousands of people put their faith in Christ as Peter is speaking. This, of course, upsets the religious leaders of the day, so they arrested Peter and John.
After being questioned and threatened by the council, Peter and John are ultimately told to no longer speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19–20, ESV)
What boldness! I love it!
What a contrast between the events that take place in Acts 5 and the events that take place in Acts 7. in Acts 5 we read about Ananias and Sapphira, who pretend to be “all in” for Jesus. They are not all in. They are only pretending. To what gain? I do not know. To what end? Well, they are slain on the spot.
… a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it… After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (Acts 5:1–5, 7–10, ESV)
What a waste. Why lie to God? Why try to make yourself look better than you really are? They were already planning to be generous, why make themselves out to be more generous than they already were? So sad.
Compare that to the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Here we see the church’s first martyr, generously laying down his life so that the gospel could go forward. Stephen’s story is not a tragedy (like Ananias and Sapphira). No. Stephen’s story is a triumph.