Jesus knew his followers would defend themselves “before synagogues, rulers and authorities” (Luke 12:11). Not to worry because the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say (Luke 12:12).
In Acts 4 we see that happen.
Peter and John healed a man at the temple gate and people were “utterly astonished” (Acts 3:11). This gave Peter a chance to address the crowd, and he began to teach them about Jesus. Annoyed by the “resurrection of the dead” talk, religious authorities arrested the two (Acts 4:2). After a night in jail, they questioned Peter and John. Luke says Peter gave a Spirit-filled response.
Did Peter recognize what was happening at that moment? That the Holy Spirit was doing what Jesus had promised?
Peter had already preached a sermon and had thousands of people respond. He and John had looked a man in the eyes and told him to get up and walk. And he did! How many stories about blundering disciples line the gospels? They don’t know how to respond to Jesus. They can’t keep from focusing on themselves. Now, their focus has shifted and the change is noticeable.
The Holy Spirit has emboldened them to begin a new phase of ministry.
Anything new can be scary. Add to the newness an assurance of persecution, and that intensifies. But the disciples continue in ministry. They know what to say now, even if they didn’t know what they would say a second ago. Their words before the councils and authorities were a witness to all who first heard them. All these generations later, they witness to us as well.
To be sure, we’re reflecting on a promise of God, not a skill of ours. This isn’t about being witty or fast talking. It’s not about working a crowd or having the ability to get out of a tight spot. Rather, it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit.
As we communion with God, the Holy Spirit continues to mold our hearts. We learn to listen to the Spirit. As we do, in times when the world needs a witness, you know exactly what to say.