Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled…
I. IN THE PRESENCE OF THE WORLD. To have heard or read of Him is not enough: we must be with Him; walk with Him in a consenting will, love Him as having first loved us, be joined to Him in one Spirit. They who have been with Jesus fear not the pomp, nor the scoffs, nor the threats of men. A man's religion before the world is one of those things by which his genuineness as a Christian are most readily tested. By testimony for Christ I do not mean an obtrusive introduction of His name and doctrines at all times; but a prudent uncompromising assertion of His rights and defence of His precepts and servants when occasion requires.
II. BEFORE THE FOE WITHIN, a more formidable feat. Many a man could bear testimony for Christ before a world in arms, who yet is ignominiously silent in the council chamber of his own heart. There — where he hopes, or fears, or loves — his Redeemer's name is not heard, his Saviour's precepts are not alleged, his Master's example is not heeded. Would you find a remedy for this and uplift the spirit so that it may assert Christian motives, press Christian rules of action, put forward Christ as his pattern? Christ must dwell in your heart by faith.
III. IN THE TIME OF SORROW. Ere we have gone on long in life, hopes betrayed, fears realised, joys dashed with bitterness, are every man's companions. And sorrow is a stern suggester of doubts and misbelief. Would you bear a consistent testimony in the presence of sorrow? Here, above all, you require the Saviour's presence. Hearing and reading of Him may do while the weather is fair, and the sails are set, and the sea is smooth; but when the sky is overcast, and the winds are awake, and the sail is torn, and the billows rage, we want Him in the boat to steer.
IV. IN THE PERIOD OF PROSPERITY. If sorrows are open foes, successes are to us enemies in disguise. Many a man has borne noble witness to his Saviour in adversity, but how few have glorified Him in the broad sunshine of prosperity I It was the custom of persecutors to try not merely tortures to shake the constancy of the martyrs — these only a few craven dispositions heeded — but also to tempt them by the offer of advancement, of lands and houses, of rank and honours. And the father of persecutors follows the same plan. "All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." How shall the. man of wealth, the magistrate, the statesman, render a fearless testimony to the Master of his talents and time? Only in one way — only on one condition. That way is the way of reality — that condition, communion with his Lord for himself. "They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." How different is the decent toleration of religion, the respectable patronising of God, His service and His people, the worldly-prudent care to grasp the world in one hand and just touch the refuge with the other; from the genuine Christian character, whose fountains gush evermore within, which is found always fearless on the side of God and good, submitting to obloquy if need be, enduring hardness as a good soldier of Christ. And there is nothing short of being with Jesus that will create such a character. You cannot put it on — it must result from the gradual accretion of many experiences, trials, failures, prayers, years spent under the eye and within the sound of the voice of the Saviour. You cannot build it up on the shifting sands of fashion, or on the soft and tempting soil of self-indulgence: its foundations must be on the holy hills, or it will never stand.
V. IN THE HOUR OF DEATH. There will come a day when each one will be called to wrestle with the last foe: to bear, in the presence of his past life, and in the presence of those who are to outlive him, his witness to Christ. Would we meet death fearless, and in humble assurance that we have a part in One who has robbed him of his terrors? There is but one way, and that way is, to have been with Jesus during our lives. There is nothing but the reality of the Christian life, which can ensure the peace of the Christian's death.
VI. IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. Then who are they that shall escape the wrath of the Judge, whom the crash of falling worlds shall strike unmoved and fearless? There will be found a multitude whom no man can number, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Angels and men shall take knowledge of them, that they have been with Jesus.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.