The article supplies a model for delivering a first-person, narrative talk based upon a biblical text. Assuming the persona of a witness to the healing of the lame beggar by Peter and John, Brian Powell considers all of the people present and asks, “How would they react?”

Brian Powell worked with the Manobo people in the Southern Philippines over a period of twenty-two years. He and his wife, Laureen, translated portions of the Old Testament into Manobo and were involved in other areas of ministry. Since 2015, they have been the OMF Orientation Course coordinators in Singapore.

How would they react?

Mission Round Table vol. 14 no. 2 (May-Aug 2019): 43

A story inspired by Acts 4:29. Told from the point of view of an anonymous observer (possibly an angel?)

“How would they react?” That was the question that was often in my mind as I watched those early days of the church. How would the people react? How would the religious leaders react? How would the disciples react?

Take for example what happened when Peter and John spoke to a lame beggar in the name of Jesus Christ and the beggar was healed. How would the people react?

Well, the people were not so blinded by prejudice and pre-conceived ideas, so when they saw the lame man walking and praising God, they joined in and praised God too. It was an incredible miracle that had been done. There was no denying it: they’d all walked past the same man many times on their way to the temple and had seen how incapable he was and now here he was running around and telling everyone that God had healed him in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. That was definitely something worth praising God for, even if they didn’t understand it.

The next question, though was “how will the religious leaders react?” That one was more complicated. They were very unhappy for anyone other than one of their own group to be teaching people in the temple (as Peter and John were now doing), and especially they were keen to stamp out talk of Jesus of Nazareth whom they thought they had disposed of once and for all a few weeks earlier, but on the other hand they could not explain how a man who had been paralysed for forty years could be walking and jumping. Ironically, they wanted to tell the people to stop praising God for the healing, but then they also realised that their job was supposed to be leading people into praising God. So they were at a loss for what to do. They couldn’t let it get any worse though, so they decided to put Peter and John in prison overnight and interrogate them in the morning.

They were most surprised though, thinking that they would easily be able to win a debate over a couple of country bumpkins who’d never been to school, only to find that they couldn’t answer their arguments! So, when brains failed them, they turned to brawn. They started to threaten Peter and John. “We’ll have you put out of the synagogue. We’ll stop you from being able to come into the temple. We’ll have your possessions confiscated. We’ll have you flogged. We’ll hand you over to Pilate.”

So how would Peter and John react to that, I wondered? Would they cave in and opt for a quiet life?

No! Far from being contrite and agreeing to be quiet, these disciples said they would rather obey God than people.

Then, when they were released, Peter and John went back to their friends and told them about what had happened.

How would the rest of the disciples react, I wondered? Well, they started to pray, praising God for who he was. Then they said to God, “Lord, you’ve heard what they’ve been saying. You’ve heard their threats,” and I thought, “Right, now they’re going to ask God to put a hedge of protection around them. Or perhaps they’re going to ask God to strike down their enemies. Or maybe they’re going to ask God to show them where to go and hide for a while.” But no. What did they ask for? They asked for boldness to speak God’s word. They weren’t going to be stopped by a few taunts, a few threats, the possibility of death even. They wanted the world to know the truth.

So, now I’m wondering, how about you? How will you react? How will you respond when faced with the threat of loss because of your testimony? Will you pray for protection? Will you pray for an escape? Or will you pray for boldness to speak out in Jesus’ name?

How will we respond?

Nicolas Poussin, Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man. 1655. Oil on canvas, 125.7 x 165.1 cm. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. From: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/

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