We Christians have learned to “see” without seeing.
“ Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29, ESV).
Some might say that our “eye of faith” is a leap in the dark.
George Seaton said, “Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.”
Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Faith means not wanting to know what is true.”
With most world religions, those definitions of faith are true!
But, biblical faith in the living God is far more than a leap in the dark.
“ Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1, ESV).
But, what separates biblical faith from a Muslim’s faith in Allah or a Jew’s faith that the Messiah is yet to come?
Those who witnessed Jesus’ Resurrection have become our “ Eyes to See .”
“ We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet 1:16, ESV).
“ That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (1 Jn 1:1-3, ESV).
In this morning’s text, the apostles declare the truth of our “ Eyes to See .”
The apostles had been cast into prison by the Sanhedrin.
In the middle of the night, an angel comes, releases them, & tells them to go back to the temple & preach.
The Sanhedrin is furious that they have escaped & that they are preaching in Jesus’ name.
The Sanhedrin, in essence, wants to know why the apostles would so blatantly disregard their instructions.
Peter & the other apostles declare that they are the eyes through which others see.
What are the eyes by which we see?
Our “ Eyes to See ” are “ Struggling Eyes ,” for the testimony was given in a great struggle & the testimony caused others to struggle.
“ When they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (vv 27-28, ESV).
In this narrative, we see the apostles in grave danger.
Previously in Acts 5, the apostles were healing many.
Thus, the high priest & Sadducees are filled with jealousy.
Because of their jealousy, they arrest the apostles & put them in prison.
In antiquity, prisons did not serve a punitive function.
They were simply a place to house criminals until trial & execution.
The arrest of the apostles, therefore, is really a death warrant.
An angel came, released the apostles, & told them to go preach in the temple.
That’s a tough job description!
Because the apostles continue to preach in the midst of great trial, they have “ Struggling Eyes .”
When the apostles are re-arrested the next morning, the high priest reminds them he told them not to preach in Jesus’ name.
Because they obeyed the angel’s voice, the apostles are in a great struggle.
The Sanhedrin wanted to kill the apostles.
Only Gamaliel’s intervention prevented that.
While the apostles escaped death on this occasion, only the Apostle John would escape martyrdom altogether.
“ About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword” (Acts 12:1-2, ESV).
Ten of the other Twelve & Paul all suffered martyrdom.
John also suffered persecution.
“ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 1:9, ESV).
It is extremely important that the apostles suffered for the faith.
Why would the apostles die for something they knew was false?
If they simply had to tell the “truth” that Jesus was never raised, why not tell it & save their lives?
That the apostles willingly died to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection tells that he does, in fact, live.
The eyewitness testimony of the apostle is also a struggle for the Sanhedrin.
The high priest says: “You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
He understands that if the apostles are right he & the Sanhedrin stand condemned.
Hearing the Word of God often brings a struggle, for we realize that we aren’t what we need to be.
The crowd at Pentecost was pricked in the heart by Peter’s divinely-directed preaching.
“ A number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver” (Acts 19:19, ESV).
Does not the truth of God often condemn us?
Mark Twain: “It’s not what I don’t understand about the Bible that bothers me, it’s what I do understand.”
Our “ Eyes to See ” are “ Shifting Eyes ” for the testimony of the apostles brings a shift in perspective – repentance.
“ Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins’” (vv 29-31, ESV).
The eyewitness testimony of the apostles is shifting, for Jesus gives repentance.
How does Jesus grant repentance?
The Greek word here could mean “grant” or “allow.”
Most of the time this term refers to a deity – whether God or an idol – the idea is that something is granted or allowed.
The idea, therefore, could be that Jesus allows people to repent/gives them an opportunity to repent.
This could also mean that Jesus gives repentance as a gift. But, how could that be?
If that’s the meaning, I believe Jesus gives repentance through the preaching about him.
When one realizes what Jesus has done for him, what can he do but repent?
“ He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:15, ESV).
I believe Jesus gives repentance in both ways: His patience allows us opportunities to repent & the preaching about him leads us to repentance.
The apostles not only speak of repentance, but they stand as the perfect example of repentance.
Peter, as spokesman for the Twelve, says: “We must obey God rather than men” (v 29, ESV).
Their eyes have shifted!
The night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter lied to save his own skin (Mk 15:66-71).
When Peter & the other apostles see the Resurrected Christ, they are in a locked room because they are afraid of the Jews (Jn 20:19).
The apostles are a wonderful example of repentance.
They were once cowards, but they willingly gave up their lives for the truth.
They didn’t believe Jesus when he said time & time again that he would be raised from the dead, but they died declaring that truth.
If these men were cowards & became great men of faith, think of what God can do in your life!
Our “ Eyes to See ” are “ Supported Eyes ,” for the Holy Spirit supports the apostolic preaching.
“ We are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (v 32, ESV).
We have very solid reasons to accept the eyewitness testimony of the apostles.
But, we all know how flimsy eyewitness testimony can be.
If eyewitness testimony is often flimsy, how can we trust the apostles’ testimony?
The Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of what the apostles declared!
How does the Holy Spirit testify to the truthfulness of apostolic preaching?
The apostles were arrested because they were healing people (Acts 5:12-16).
The Spirit enabled them to speak in languages they had not studied (e.g., Pentecost).
The Spirit inspired the words of the apostles.
“ We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thess 2:13, ESV).
“ No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21, ESV).
Because the testimony of the apostles is the Word of God, we can trust every word!
How are your eyes of faith this morning?
Do you have struggling eyes – eyes that struggle to do right before God?
Do you have shifting eyes – eyes that have repented/shifted their focus?
Do you have supporting eyes – eyes that rely upon the truth of God?