Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled…
There are two sets of problems which excite the attention of the unbelief of every age — intellectual and practical. The first provokes antagonism, the second, mostly wonder. It is with the second that we have here to do. Note —
I. THE COURAGE OF THE WEAK IN THE PRESENCE OF IRRESISTIBLE MIGHT. What that might and that weakness were had been felt eight short weeks ago. Nor had the one grown weaker or the other stronger by lapse of time. Yet in the face of the power which could commit them to prison, to scourging and to the cross, these two helpless men deliberately brought themselves into collision with the authorities. The like has been witnessed in every age, when the tender child, the gentle maiden, the aged have dared the fires of martyrdom for the cause of Christ. The like is still witnessed in the conflict with the powers of darkness, the resistance to worldly solicitation, the endurance of contempt, poverty, and affliction even with gladness. Whence this courage? asks the infidel. Ah! we know. "We have been with Jesus."
II. THE VICTORY OF THE IGNORANT WHEN CONFRONTED WITH THE WISDOM OF THIS WORLD. What chance had these uneducated fishermen in the presence of whole college of learned Rabbis? Yet the Rabbis were made to look very foolish, and the fishermen won a triumph such as a philosopher might have envied. So has it ever been. It was so with Jesus as a child, it was so with Him as a man. "Whence has this man letters?" It has been so with His followers ever since. How often has Christianity been slain in the opinion of its opponents! Scholarship has left no weapon unused. But the victory of Christianity is all along the line. And this not because of the labours of its learned "apologists." The disciples of were not vanquished by the treatises of , but by the witness of obscure slaves and artisans. The tide of infidelity in the last century was not stemmed by Butler's "Analogy," but by the testimony of Kingswood colliers and Lincolnshire labourers. The good fight of faith to-day is not won by academic men in secluded cloisters, but by "unlearned and ignorant " successors of the men who could not but speak the things they had seen and heard. And sceptics marvel. They need not, for it is an open secret, "We have been with Jesus."
III. THE PERSISTENCY WITH WHICH CHRISTIANS ADHERE TO A DISCREDITED CAUSE. Here were men calmly avowing themselves disciples of a crucified malefactor, and prepared to be crucified themselves rather than abandon not simply His cause, but His very cross. It was this which astonished the cultured Greek and the practical Roman; it is this which has astounded both persecutors and onlookers ever since. The offence of the cross has not ceased, yet millions still glory in it. Wonderful, says the worldling, that these fanatics should renounce our pleasures and profits, and deliberately prefer a life of self-sacrifice and service of others. Wonderful, says the modern thinker, that men in the nineteenth century should hold to a creed formulated in the first. Not at all wonderful, says the Christian, "I have been with Jesus."
IV. THE REASON OF IT ALL, which is the greatest wonder. How can there be fellowship with Jesus? And if that were possible, how can that fellowship make men bold in persecution, invincible in argument, enthusiastic in attachment, and so hold the field all through the centuries? Ah, perhaps we ourselves cannot tell. All we can say is, "We have been with Jesus, and He has baptized us with the power from on high, which has made us bold. We have been with Jesus, and have learned of Him, and with His wisdom have been made wise. We have been with Jesus, and His love has created a union which death, life, angels, principalities, powers, etc., cannot break." We can say nothing further to a wondering world except "Come and see"; then you will know what we know, but cannot speak.
(J. W. Burn.)
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.