For anyone who has seen the movie A Few Good Men the classic climatic scene comes in the courtroom when Jack Nicholson, as Colonel Jessep, takes great exception to being challenged by the young lawyer and believing himself to be in charge begins to self destruct with the now famous line, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” The line has been repeated over and over because of what it conveys. Yet in the movie Jessep displays confusion when he is arrested after his speech. He stills saw himself as the one in charge, when in fact that ship sailed the moment he launched into his angry tirade and heated confession. It was the military judge, not Colonel Jessep, who was in charge, he simply failed to recognize that fact. The truth was something Colonel Jessep himself could not handle.
We now switch to another courtroom scene with the illusion of control. Our court scene plays out in Acts 4. Peter and John are arrested and then brought before the religious court. They are challenged to give an account.
7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Acts 4:7 (NKJV)
The religious leaders recognized what had been done by Peter and John but they didn’t like the implications so tried to suppress any further acts. They saw the source as Peter and John rather than the God they claimed to serve. Here they had convened a court to judge Peter and John, believing they were in control and exercising the authority given them by God. In fact they lost that authority when they sat and condemned Jesus and now refused to recognize the hand of God in their midst. They acknowledged the miracle, yet because they recognized that it threatened their idea of control, they tried to suppress anything further. Like Colonel Jessep, they could not handle the truth.
15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.” Acts 4:15-17 (NKJV)
Clinging to the illusion of still being in charge, they commanded nothing more be done in Jesus’ name. Peter and John rightly rejected their command because they had no illusions. They knew who Jesus was and that He was in control.
18 And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” 21 So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. 22 For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed. Acts 4:18-22 (NKJV)
The religious leaders recognized their lack of power in practice but refused to let go of their belief they were the decision makers in spite of evidence to the contrary. Their focus was on political expediency not truth and justice. However, God is always concerned with truth and justice. As a result He is faithful and consistent, and what took place through Peter and John was simply a demonstration of His continued faithfulness. So, if we ever wonder who is really in charge we only need to look to Jesus and submit to His authority. We can then let go of any illusions of control by ourselves or others and rest confidently in His faithfulness.