Commentary on Acts 4:23-31
After they had been released by the Jewish leaders following their arrest and interrogation and had been given strict warnings not to continue what they were doing, Peter and John went back to their community and related all about their experience. This was possibly the same ‘upper room’ where the apostles had met before and where the community may have continued to assemble.
The whole community then prayed. They recalled the words of the psalmist who asks why the Gentiles and the princes of the world conspire against the Lord and his anointed. Here we see in the unbelieving Romans the ‘Gentiles’ and Herod and Pilate represented by the ‘kings’ and ‘princes’. They have gathered against the Lord and his anointed. ‘Anointed’ in Greek is ‘Christ’ (christos, cristos). The Herod in question is Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to AD 39. He was the one who executed John the Baptist and before whom Jesus appeared during his trial. Acts will later describe his rather painful death. Pontius Pilate, of course, was the same Roman procurator who had Jesus crucified.
Yet they recognise that all of this had been foreseen by God. “They [that is, the Jesus’ enemies] have brought about the very things which in your powerful providence you planned long ago.” It was not that God forced them to act as they did but that their freely chosen decisions were foreseen by God and would become part of his plan of salvation.
They beg the Lord as persecution is extended to them, too, that God will be with them through “cures and signs and wonders to be worked in the name of Jesus, your holy Servant”.
It is good for us too to be aware that, when, as individuals or communities, we are true to the living of our Christian faith, we can expect to face criticism, opposition, abuse and ridicule. Then it is for us, too, to pray for the Lord’s assurance, protection and guidance. We do not necessarily expect those against us to change their minds but that we may have the strength to continue being faithful to our convictions and the search for truth and goodness.
Then, suddenly, the place they are in shakes and they are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and Jesus. Their prayer for strength and courage has been heard. “Ask and it shall be given to you…” “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will grant…” It is a mini-Pentecost and enables them to go out and proclaim the Good News with renewed confidence, unafraid of the threats and dangers that await them.