Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled…
We sometimes hear it stated that courage is a quality that is decreasing; that men are wise, enterprising, and refined, but not courageous. That opinion is not true even of physical bravery. It also ignores the altered conditions of life. If we look into life and see what is necessary to realise any great purpose in it, we shall conclude that opportunities are not wanting for the display of high heroism. The old bravery is not extinct, it is transformed and directed to better ends. It is the fortitude that comes from faith, love, and duty that is needed in these times. Christianity is the religion of heroism, as opposed to the creeds of expediency and prudence. It begets in us that temper of mind from which high achievements naturally flow. It reveals a universal conflict between truth and error in which true chivalry must be shown. The boldness of the mariner or the adventurer we may not all be called to rival, but the boldness of Peter and John we must all possess, if we are to fight our battle faithfully and attain the crown of life. Peter and John are examples of the new courage — the heroism of hearts inspired by love, and living for the benefit of others. Christianity had to fight. How did it bear itself in the conflict? Did it take counsel of safety, compromise, policy? No! what one is struck by in the action of the apostles is an audacity that is caution, a calmness that is power, and a love that impressed friends and foes. Peter declares that it is by the power of the risen Christ the healed man stood before them. That is the true explanation of all progress. The confidence, the contempt of suffering, the holy elevation of soul with which Peter uttered that statement filled all with surprise; they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus. That was the result of Peter's boldness. R turned judges into criminals, and apostles into judges. It brought about their acquittal, and the still greater progress of their cause. If Peter had wavered, all had been lost. Similar devotion do we need to-day, not only for the conflict of Christian truth with error, but for the destruction of evil in laws, institutions, and habits, and for the every-day battle of life.
I. CHRISTIAN HEROISM RESULTS FROM FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. The sense of the heroic is in all men; the disposition to admire the great and exceptional in the lives and acts of men. Life would be very monotonous if all men occupied one level of power. The sameness of nature is broken up by mountains, torrents, cataracts, and by crises. So the torpor of social life is broken up, and a new sense of power reached, by the presence of heroes, and of the heroic. The hero is one whose faculties are raised to a higher plane of power than ordinary men reach. Before Christ came there had been such characters. In various countries and at different times they had appeared: military heroes like Alexander; political heroes like Pericles; intellectual heroes like Plato and Socrates; artistic heroes like Phidias; reforming heroes like Elijah, Buddha, Confucius; patriotic heroes like Moses and David. But, wonderful as were the doings of these men, they do not fully satisfy the sense of the heroic. Their mastery over nature was not complete; their knowledge was limited; their sympathies were not universal; their greatness was measurable. The world needed the expression of a higher enthusiasm. Jesus Christ realised and transcended all these conditions. The special qualities of all other heroes meet in Him. Consider His personality, His knowledge, His labours, His conflicts, His sufferings and triumphs. And now that He is exalted to the throne of the universe, and praised and adored as the glorified Son of God, what is His purpose towards His disciples? To impart unto them His own enthusiasm, courage, power, and glory. How does Jesus Christ infuse His spirit into His disciples?
1. He reveals to them the high possibilities of their nature. The unheroic mind sees the actual as the measure of the possible. The heroic mind says, "All things are possible." Jesus Christ is the measure of human possibility. He sees and awakens the capabilities of men. He saw the possibilities of Peter, of Paul, of , of Luther, of John Howard, of Carey, and educated their faculties to realise them.
2. Jesus Christ gives absolute certainty about the truth He teaches. If Peter had doubted, boldness would have fled.
3. Jesus gives courage by demanding the surrender of self. All cowardice results from self-consciousness. Let self be devoted to a worthy end, fear dies.
4. Jesus Christ teaches us that heroism is the universal law of heaven. The heroisms of earth are the commonplaces of heaven.
5. Jesus Christ concentrates our powers on one great aim. Distraction destroys heroism. The balloon must be steered.
6. Jesus Christ sustains His followers by His presence. Peter denied Jesus when he was charged. The Master does not disown the servant, but stands by him.
II. CHRISTIAN HEROISM SHOULD BE MANIFESTED IN VARIOUS SPHERES.
1. In witnessing to Christ in common life.
2. In faithfulness in temptation.
3. In new methods of Christian service.
4. In loyalty to personal conviction.
5. In responses to special calls to duty.
6. By the boldness of our prayers.
III. CHRISTIAN HEROISM PRODUCES GREAT RESULTS.
IV. CHRISTIAN HEROISM IS POSSIBLE TO ALL. Peter the denier transformed into Peter the heroic witness. Be not discouraged, cleave to Jesus, and in Him be strong.
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.