Acts 5:17-39 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” NIV®
A. The disciples’ powerful testimony
Let’s examine why the Council became furious at the disciples’ words:
- The apostles had not o__________ their command. In fact, they said God’s command was different from the Council’s command.
- The members of the Council objected to the apostles’ “bringing this man’s blood” upon them. Although they had condemned Jesus to death, they didn’t want people blaming them for it.
- The apostles claimed that God had r__________ Jesus from the dead and that they were eyewitnesses of His resurrection.
- The apostles said that Israel (and thus these leaders) needed to r____________ – to admit their wrong way of life. Then, their sins could be forgiven through Jesus.
- The apostles said the _______ ________ was supporting their testimony.
- The apostles’ description of Jesus at the right hand of God was an echo of what Jesus had claimed when he was arrested and put on trial in front of this same Council.
Matt. 26:63-66 63 . . . The high priest said to him [Jesus], “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered. NIV®
Jesus was referring to a prophecy about the Messiah: Daniel 7:13-14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days [God the Father] and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” NIV®
B. The Council’s blindness
1. The Council was given much evidence that Jesus was truly the Messiah: The miraculous healing of a crippled man; changed and committed disciples; eyewitness testimony of the resurrection; the disciples’ deliverance from the prison.
2. Why didn’t they accept so much evidence? Basically, they didn’t want to.
- Jesus’ teaching and lifestyle contradicted their worldview. He hadn’t agreed with them on how to please God, and He hadn’t acted like the glorious prince they expected for the Messiah.
- He had wounded their pride by correcting their sinful ways and drawing larger crowds.
- Any of the Council who went against the majority, would lose their high position.
C. Gamaliel’s providential advice
We often see organizations fall apart after its strong founder/leader dies. Jesus had been the only focal point of His group of followers. Gamaliel may have been a little shaken by the miraculous healing and the apostle’s deliverance from prison, but he probably expected Jesus’ followers to give up after a while and go back to their former lives. However, Jesus wasn’t dead. He had risen, and His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) had changed His followers and was empowering them. In a short time, the number of Believers grew from a few hundred to thousands, and then to tens of thousands.
Acts 5:40-42 40 His speech persuaded them [the council]. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. NIV®
A. Joy in the face of suffering
This was the first time any Christian was physically abused. How could they possibly find joy?
Paul wrote letter called Philippians while he was in a Roman prison. Philippians 1:18-21 “. . . Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” NIV®
This kind of joy is supernatural, made possible by the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
B. Demonstrating their faith
How did the disciples demonstrate their faith?
- vs 21 They went back to the ____________ courts after they were rescued from prison.
- vs 29 They said, “We must obey ___________ rather than __________.
- vs 30-32 They gave the message that the council disliked to the council members again.
- vs 41 They ______________ in the dishonor and pain they had received in Christ’s name.
- vs 42 They taught __________ day and in every place that Jesus was the Messiah.
The apostles didn’t quit in difficult circumstances because they knew Jesus was alive and because they depended on His Spirit within them. Despite the threats on their lives and being beaten, they continued to share God’s message with everyone. What a tremendous example!
Scripture quotations marked (NIV®) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. NIV® Copyright © 1973,1978,1984,2011 by Bilica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.