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The rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?" Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is
`the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;
it has become the cornerstone.'
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."
This is the mandatory reading from the Acts of the Apostles for the fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will be read aloud before Psalm 23 is sung, which is the familiar verses begun “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” That will be followed by a reading from John’s First Epistle, where he wrote, “He laid down his life for us-- and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” The readings will conclude with a lesson from John’s Gospel, which recalls Jesus saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Due to these readings, this Sunday is commonly termed “Good Shepherd Sunday.”
After last Sunday’s reading from Acts 3, where Peter addressed pilgrims [he called them “Israelites”] at Solomon’s colonnade, due to a lame beggar having been healed, Acts 4 addresses the arrest and holding of Peter and John overnight, so they could appear before the Great Sanhedrin [a meeting of 71, more than the 23 of the Lesser Sanhedrin]. The listing of the specific heads of that assembly indicates the Great Sanhedrin was a normal gathering in Jerusalem, which met daily in Jerusalem.
According the Wikipedia article entitled “Sanhedrin,” the following is stated:
“In the Second Temple period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Temple in Jerusalem,
in a building called the Hall of Hewn Stones. The Great Sanhedrin convened every
day except festivals and the sabbath day (Shabbat).”
Notice the red rectangle, denoting where the Chamber of Hewn Stone was. Think of that as being the "cornerstone" of the Temple, as the "secret place" set aside for "Rulers."
It needs to be readily assumed that the presence of Peter and John in Jerusalem was not because they had taken up residence there. Because they had been in Jerusalem on Pentecost, the feast of Weeks [Shavuot] is only one day, on a Sunday [the first day of the week]. Being Galileans with families, they would have gone back to their homes, from where they would have begun ministries as resurrections of Jesus, each designated as Yahweh’s Anointed ones [Christs, therefore the root of the movement called “Christianity”].
This assumption says they had returned to Jerusalem for another festival. That can be assumed because Acts 4:4 says, “But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.” That number came after the healing of the lame man as Peter and John were going to the temple for morning prayer, when those presents were pilgrims [Israelites, not Jews], who would have also come for a festival. The festival that would have happened next, after Pentecost [Shavuot], would have been Sukkot or the festival of Booths [Tabernacles]. That festival ends with the Eighth Day, following a week-long festival.
Because the Sanhedrin did not convene during a festival, they would have re-gathered on the day after the Eighth Day. During an eight day festival, it is possible that Peter and John healed the lame man on an early day of the festival, most likely not a Sabbath, with the remainder of the festival leading to news of the healing spreading, such that Peter and John were sought out over a day or two afterwards, during which the number of “about five thousand” would have equally been touched by the Holy spirit, as was the lame man. Because Peter and John were known Galileans and expected to leave town after the Eighth Day, they would have been arrested and held overnight, until the normal gathering of the Sanhedrin convened. It should not be seen like that powerful group of Jews feared Peter or John, as the news of their ministries was not like that of Jesus, which was well-known prior.
Evidence for this conclusion can be found in the capitalization of the Greek word “Egeneto,” which is the 3rd person singular aorist middle indicative form of the root “gínomai,” meaning “to take place” [as an event]. This important word says simply, “as normally scheduled” or “as usual,” meaning it was not a special calling of important leaders of Jerusalem together for the intent purpose of addressing complaints that two men were talking publicly about the dead having been raised. The importance on a divine level of awareness, however, says that Yahweh knew this group would gather after the festival was over and He wanted to take advantage of this scheduled meeting, in order for Him to say a few things to those running Judaism. Those words would be spoken by His Son, the man those leaders had killed, whose soul was then resurrected in Peter (and John). That means God had His servants be detained for the purpose of using this event that was known to come, when “It came to pass.”
Not read today is the background that explains why Peter began speaking what we read. In verses 1 and 2 is stated, “the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to [Peter and John], much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead.” [NRSV] From that, one can imagine some clerk read aloud the charges brought against Peter and John, which would have been the first time most of those V.I.P.s had heard why they [Peter and John] were there [just like a judge in any courtroom today]. That led them to hear the charges and then ask, “ By what power or by what name did you do this?”
The Greek written by Luke uses the terms “dynamei” and “onomati,” which have been translated above as “power” and "name.” The intent of their question must be understood as then asking (according to viable alternate translations), “By what ability to perform or by what authority [such as a license approved by Pilate to speak publicly] did you this [listed charges]?”
Here, it is worthwhile to recall how Jesus was asked the same type of question, after he overturned the vendors’ tables in his first trip to Jerusalem as a rabbi in ministry. Then they asked, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” (John 2:18) There, the word translated as “sign” can mean a signed document or a “marque,” such that the same standard line of questioning is a mandatory first thing to ask anybody showing up in court. ["You have been charged with (fill in the blank.) How do you plead?]
In Luke’s account of this event unfolding, he wrote, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit” [NRSV], which is accurately translated in the aorist passive participle of “pimpláō,” “having been filled with Spirit Holy." That demands some more clarification.
While “filled with the Holy Spirit” bears the same meaning, this paraphrase becomes weaker than that actually written. A weak translation can make it appear that Peter was just a guy that was wondering why he was in court, when out of the blue [ala like Pentecost morning] another blast of the Holy Spirit made him then [a capitalized word stated prior, albeit separated by a comma mark from the following statement] “filled with the Holy Spirit.” What needs to be realized is “having been filled” dates back in the past to Pentecost (actually before), such that once “filled” always “filled.”
He was “filled with the Spirit,” such that the capitalized word “Pneumatos” states what Peter “had been filled with.” That capitalization gives that single word divine elevation as the “Spirit” of Yahweh. Jesus “breathed upon his disciples and said “receive the Spirit.” That was when their souls married Yahweh and became joined with His Spirit. It is unnecessary to say “God is Holy,” because Yahweh is the source of all on earth who can possibly be “Holy.” Therefore, “having been filled with the Spirit” of Yahweh, the prior Easter Sunday evening, Peter had been “Holy” as Jesus reborn into ministry for some time, at that point. He became "Holy" because of that prior filling, not something immediate or sporadic.
When this precondition is established, one should then see the first word out of Peter’s “Holy” mouth, after asked a simple question by the Sanhedrin [in their brains], was “Archontes” or “Rulers.” Here, the capitalization takes the meaning of what Peter said to a much higher level than the Sanhedrin hearing Peter verbally acknowledge that each one of them was “a commander with authority (influence) over people in a particular jurisdiction.” (HELPS Word-studies) That word ["Rulers"] is Yahweh pointing out to those who supposedly held the pretense before all Jews, as being the ones closest to Yahweh and thereby His designated authorities for Him on earth. This becomes Jesus speaking through Peter’s mouth, calling them the “kings” so wished for by the Israelites, demanded of Samuel, and their “Promised Land” had reduced Israel to a bunch of straw bosses inside a temple that acted as their puppet city state.
[This can equally be seen as metaphor for someone standing before a Roman Pope, with seventy Cardinals surrounding him, where a true Christian (Jesus reborn into flesh) can equally allow God can have a little chat with the Great Pretenders of religion.]
Jesus had been called to answer to a similar gathering of authorities (the Jews), after he had been seen healing a lame man by the pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath. (John 5) Then Jesus told them, “I do not receive honor from men; I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.” (John 5:41-42) Most probably, some of those men who heard Jesus speak were there that day when Peter then said, “if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” (Acts 4:9-10) Those who heard Jesus speak like that prior must have felt a gulp in their throats as they heard Peter say those words.
The Pharisees of Jerusalem had questioned the man born blind and his parents “because of a good deed done to someone who was sick.” That man answered the people who saw he was healed, saying “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”’ (John 9:11) The Jews questioned his parents, but John wrote, “His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed he [Jesus] to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.” (John 9:22) Thus, when Peter said, “this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead,” it was Peter saying, “The truth and proof of what I say is here now, “standing before you in good health,” because I am in “the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” In case some of you forgot, you “crucified” him to “dead,” but look and see it is me again, “whom God raised.”
In verse 3 of this chapter there is nothing indicating that anyone other than Peter and John were detained. If he was not present before this gathering, as one of those “made the prisoners stand in their midst,” then the only one Peter could be referring to would be himself. The lack of the healed man's presence would mean Peter was “this man - standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” If the healed man was also there, as a Jew presumably living in Jerusalem and voluntarily appearing, no one was stopping Peter and saying, “Let the healed man speak as to who healed him.” In either case, all standing “in their midst” were those “having been filled by the Spirit,” so all were “Holy,” just like Peter, all healed by God, all reborn as Jesus Christ.
Peter then quoted a verse from Psalm 118 [the Easter Sunday Psalm], which every member of the Sanhedrin would have instantly known to be verse 22, which says:
“the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.”
While Peter added that "this Jesus" was the one of whom David sang, the members of the Sanhedrin would have been completing that song’s lyrics in their heads, which say:
“This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
On this day the Lord has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:23-24)
[That perfectly relives the moment the lame man first stood and leaped, while praising Yahweh and walking around … healed. It was a miracle beheld by many witnesses. The lame man proclaimed Yahweh had acted, while rejoicing loudly. However, it remains a sealed document, as to what detailed the Sanhedrin knew, which accompanied the charges of speaking of the dead risen.]
That song of praise, which all the Sanhedrin had memorized, sang out prior to the verse recalled by Peter, praising how Yahweh [the actual name translated as “Lord”] would provide His people “a gate of righteousness,” through which “the righteous may enter.” (Psalm 118:19-20) That “gate” would be “this Jesus,” but the members of the Sanhedrin had “rejected that stone,” because it was rounded and not “cornered.”
There, the word translated as “cornerstone” is actually “gōnias,” which means, “an angle, a corner,” while metaphorically meaning “a secret place.” What God spoke, through Jesus in Peter’s flesh said this: “The stone rejected by you, the builders of this fancy temple where you pretend to be rulers and kings; it has become your head stone.” In that, “kephalēn gōnias” is written by Luke, which translates as “head corner[stone]”.
[That becomes metaphor for a tombstone that reads: Here lies the Rulers of death. God told them to wake up, but they still wanted to sleep.]
When this reading ends with Jesus saying (as Peter), “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved,” that too needs closer inspection. This verse begins with a capitalized “Kai,” which makes it divinely important to realize, especially what the first segment of words state. The first segment of words written literally translate into English as: “Kai not exists with another no one that salvation.” This importantly states that the only way to find a soul saved is the same way Peter, John and the healed man (et al) found it: through being themselves the resurrections of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
The meaning of the segment of words that is translated by the NRSV saying, “for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” is this: being reborn as Jesus brings one that name. The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh Will Save.” Mother Mary was told to give that name to God’s Son by Gabriel, the second she became immaculately impregnated. The only way to become “in that name” is to marry Yahweh – a soul merged with His Spirit [one then made “Holy”] – so that when one finds one's flesh “having been filled” with God’s presence, then one has become God’s Son reborn, another Anointed one named Jesus.
As the mandatory Acts reading for the fourth Sunday of Easter, during the season when one should be preparing to act like Peter and stand in the midst of accusers and let Jesus speak through one’s flesh, it is important to realize that this reading does not speak directly of being a good shepherd. On a Sunday called “Good Shepherd” one must see that role is not passive or delegated to others. The Rulers were not god, nor shepherds. They were nothing more than hired hands, with many false shepherds.
Jesus is the only Good Shepherd, such that Peter stood and talked as the Good Shepherd resurrected. Jesus did not speak through Peter to defend Peter being ‘blamed’ for healing a lame man and then giving credit to a ghost raised from death. Peter spoke as Jesus addressing the lost sheep that were those making up the Sanhedrin. They saw themselves as the passive delegators of Mosaic Law, as self-proclaimed gifts by God to the Jews and diaspora, who then had the authority to judge souls for Yahweh. Peter stood to tell them they were lost and in need of salvation. Peter spoke as Jesus speaking for Yahweh, telling them the only one who saves souls, the only name that can save you all, you killed and buried. Still, you can repent and likewise be saved.
It is in this way that the Easter season has to be seen as when one stops being a predator that feeds on the lambs of God and starts being one who stands up against such egotists. The role as shepherd has to be seen as one of the lowest rungs on the Jewish ladder of success, having the least degree of power, wealth, and influence. A shepherd is not concerned with self, or a shepherd would find some other line of work. Jesus said, “A good shepherd will lay down his life for the flock,” unlike a hired hand. Laying down one’s life is all about the Easter season. It is when one’s life has been sacrificed to Yahweh and from that ceremonial death of self, one has been saved, in the name of Jesus Christ.