Although the religious leaders hoped that interest in Jesus would fade, the people were increasingly intrigued by Him. During His ministry, He taught the truth about God's kingdom, healed the sick and cast out demons (Matthew 11:4-5). Then Jesus commissioned the apostles to continue His work after He returned to heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). All their ministry was in Jesus' Name; that is, with His full authority - and they told everybody that miracles were done by His power alone (John 15:16).
However, the shocking news of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira became widely known. They died because they lied to the Holy Spirit by trying to deceive Peter about a gift they had made (Acts 5:3-4). People, who were attracted to Jesus, realised that believing in Him included a serious obligation to obey Him (Joshua 7:19-26). As a result, many were reluctant to make the public commitment of baptism: they rightly saw it as a point-of-no-return, after which they had to live in obedience to Jesus.
Despite that, the crowds were still hungry to hear the apostles teach about Jesus Christ, and see His powerful interventions in people's lives. It was just like Jesus used to do before His crucifixion: only this time, the miracles were announced by the apostles in Jesus' Name. This was authentic gospel ministry: the Father's love, the Son's salvation and the Spirit's power were expressed as the apostles led the Early Church in Jesus' Name. And so more people chose to follow Jesus and be publically committed to Him.
Following Jesus is not a philosophical or cultural preference. It is a lifestyle change based on the integrity of His character, His salvation work and His teaching. Many are attracted to Him, but they will not commit themselves to wholehearted discipleship. Others fear that they will not be able to be good disciples, but dare to trust Him to help them as they step out in faith to follow Jesus. Discipleship is all about relating with Jesus, open to be instructed and open to admit failure so that He can forgive and encourage us to keep on following. Live like that and God will be honoured and others will see the difference. When they ask why, make sure you tell them that you are following Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams