5:23 “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
Self-preservation - The art of protecting your own safety and life at all costs. For most of us this is priority number one. There are some exceptions, most notably mothers protecting their children but usually when push comes to shove we look out for the man in the mirror. It was this most basic instinct to survive that caused Peter to ultimately deny Jesus as he stood by the charcoal fire watching his Lord die. We have common expressions surrounding our will to live: He's fighting for his life. She's a fighter. He's clinging tenaciously to life. She's a survivor.
Something very special has to occur for something beyond ourselves to trump our basic instinct to survive.
When we were children my mom must have believed in the importance of reading because there were always lots of books around. She bought us a set of encyclopedias. For those too young to remember those, they were essentially Wikipedia in book form. We also had the entire set of Dr. Seuss books, the entire set of Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and perhaps the most kid friendly yet educational set was the Valuetales set she got for us. Each book highlighted a different value and illustrated the value by telling the life story of someone who had that value. I learned about Louis Pasteur and pasteurization from that series. I learned about Marie Currie and her discoveries in the field of radiation.
As I started through the series of books I chose the ones that had values that interested me. One of the books had Maurice (the Rocket) Richard on the front in his Montreal Canadiens uniform. This of course was a big draw for me. What wasn't appealing was the title - The Value of Tenacity. I had no idea what that meant. The only familiarity I could draw from this strange word was 'ten a city' and that made no sense.
As a result other books in the series got read first but eventually the hockey aspect overcame my dislike of the strange word and I pulled it off the shelf and read it.
Dictionary dot com defines tenacity as the quality of tenaciousness, holding fast, persistence
As I reread the story of the disciples cycle of preaching and being arrested and threatened and then going right back out to preach again it reminded me of reading that book when I was a kid and discovering what the meaning of that weird word was. Maurice Richard was taught by his dad to never quit, no matter how long something took, no matter how cold he got or how tired he felt. He was taught you stop when the job is done. Back when Maurice Richard played hockey it was not a high paying job and his family was poor. He worked as a machinist all summer and it was not uncommon to find him working for a moving company during the day before lacing up his skates to play hockey. Just one season before making it to the NHL he broke a wrist and an ankle in the same season. This did not stop him. Maurice was tenacious. He was so determined to improve and make it to the NHL that when he was in the lower ranks of hockey he used multiple names so he could play in different leagues on different teams to get more games in.
Tenacity is always driven by something. For Maurice it was driven by the work ethic his dad taught him as a child. Whatever you do you do your best and you don't stop until the job is done.
For the disciples their tenacity had deeper roots. Gone were the days of self-preservation. Gone was the desire for survival above all else. In following Jesus to the cross and the grave and beyond they had finally discovered a different life. A different value system. A different view of the world. From Jesus they had learned sacrifice above self. Jesus was not here to get recognition or even to survive. His life was not about Himself at all. When Peter has tried to push Jesus to protect His life rather than die, Jesus looked him in the eye and said "Get behind me Satan!"
The desire for self advancement, self-preservation etc... beyond all else is not from God. It's actually demonic. Love is others focused. Love necessitates a relationship in which the one loved has more value than the one who loves him or her. "Greater love has no man than this but to lay down his life for his friends." - Jesus
Think about this: The disciple kept preaching because they loved Him and as a result of that love for Him they loved their fellow man more than they loved themselves.
Where did this love come from? It didn't come from seeing the miracles. The enemies of Jesus saw those. It didn't come from witnessing Jesus dying on the cross. His enemies saw that too. It didn't come from the emotional attachment that grew over the 3 plus years they spent with Him. Had that been enough the stress of His arrest and mock trial etc... would not have been enough to send them running and denying.
No something much deeper happened. It happened after the miracles and after the cross. It happened when they realized their epic failure and their desire to save their own skin had not affected His love for them in the least. It was love, true self-sacrificing love demonstrated through completely undeserved and even unrequested forgiveness that turned the tide.
From then on they loved Him in return no matter the cost. They loved Him boldly. They loved Him tenaciously. Nothing but death could silence them and for now the religious leaders are too afraid to kill them.
Love is the only game changer. Maurice loved his father and his family. The disciples loved Jesus far more than that.