“For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Apostle Peter, just like all the other apostles, was a simple and uneducated person. He did not know the Holy Scripture and was not taught public speaking. Nevertheless, on the day of Holy Pentecost, when the Lord sent the Holy Spirit from the Father to His beloved disciples, Peter acquired the great gift of preaching. According to the Book of Acts, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Apostle Peter addressed the Hebrews with an emotional speech and turned about 3,000 people to Christ.
In the Book of Acts we read that on their way to the temple, Apostles Peter and John healed a man who was limp from his birth and then “he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8). When people recognized in that leaping man the beggar who had sat asking for alms by the doors of the temple, they “were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:10). Then Peter delivered another sermon quite familiar to us , in which he explained that the apostles healed the man not with their own power or holiness, but in the name of Jesus Christ – the Prince of Life, Who was killed and then resurrected, Who was preached by Moses and all the other prophets, Who was foretold by God to suffer for the redemption of the humankind; “through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Ref. Acts 3:12-16). Many people, who listened to the Supreme Apostle at that moment, believed in his words, and there were about 5,000 of them.
|The Apostles and the beggar|
As we can see from Peter’s sermon, it contained the whole Gospel in a short form, as well as all the main points of the Christian faith and apostolic teaching. Here the Lord Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Life and we know that only God, the Creator of all things, can be the Prince of Life. We hear also about the suffering and death of Christ, about which the ancient prophets foretold, who announced the resurrection of Christ and repentance and forgiveness of all the sins of the world in His name. Apostle Peter states also that “heaven must receive Christ until the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21), about which God had told already through His prophets. In these words, we see the teaching stating that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father, and we are waiting for His great Coming in the end of times.
After that sermon, the apostles were taken into custody until the next morning. On the next day, they were brought to the rulers, elders, scribes and Annas the high priest as well as other people of the family of high priest, so that they answer for their words.
|The arrest of the Apostles|
What did Peter do? He, who was afraid of a mere servant, who could not handle the fear of death before the Lord and denied Him three times, is acting in a completely different way now. Now he is as tough as a stone, as a rock. His heart did not shake before the supercilious sights of the scribes and elders; he was not afraid, but full of the Holy Spirit. Peter bravely preached about Jesus Christ that He is “the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).
Apostle Peter was preaching the words of his Lord and Teacher for all his life. He converted thousands and thousands of people and became the Apostle for all Hebrews, as well as established many Christian churches that exist even today and that are preaching the Name of God all over the world. For many Christians, in his apostolic letters we find the living voice of the Good Shepherd comforting our hearts on this hard and narrow path to the Kingdom of Heaven.
What St. John Chrysostom says in his works:
“O blessed dyad, in which the souls of the whole world have believed! Peter, the beginning of orthodoxy, the great revealer of the Church, the needed counselor of Christians, the treasure of the powers from above, the apostle honored by the Master. Paul, the great preacher of the truth, the boast of the world, the man in heaven, and angel upon the earth, the glory of the Church, the eagle that soars in the heights, the lyre of the Spirit, the swallow and cicada (τέττιξ), the Master’s organ, the speedy servant of Christ. Paul and Peter, the yoked oxen of the Church, who passed through the world well in things, taking up the cross instead of a yoke, instead of a driver the Savior, instead of a furrow laid down the Scriptures, instead of the plow the grace of the Holy Spirit. Paul and Peter, who daily gladden the Church, the Master’s treasuries, the inns of the world, the receptacles of the Spirit, those who explain the Holy Trinity, those who relate the economy of the divine word. Peter, my spiritual love; Paul, the vessel of election, and my staff. Peter, the temple of God; Paul, the mouth of Christ, the lyre of the Spirit”.
Reflections in the Holy Church tradition:
Thou, O Lord, didst give the Church as good foundations and strong supports Peter’s firmness and constancy, Paul’s wisdom ablaze with light and his understanding, with the truthful preaching of each of them concerning God, which drove away godless error from the earth. And so, initiated by them both, we sing hymns of praise to Thee, O my Jesus, Almighty Lord, Thou divine Savior of our souls. (2nd sticheron on the “O Lord I have cried”, Great Vespers on June 29)
To be continued…