Can you imagine being arrested for simply telling others about Jesus? Although this does happen in some areas of the world, this is not something that most Christians think much about. Yet this was something that the Christians had to face in the months and years following Jesus’ resurrection.
Those first few months had to be exciting – the Day of Pentecost and 3000 became Christians, the miraculous healings, the boldness of the apostles, the fellowship and generosity of the Christians. Yes, there were causes for anxiety when Peter and John were arrested and Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to God. But on the whole, it had to have been exciting! It finally reached the point that signs and wonder were being done frequently.
“Many signs and wonders were being done among the people through the hands of the apostles…Believers were added to the Lord in increasing numbers — multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:12-16 CSB).
And this is what caused the entire group of apostles to be arrested. The high priest and other priests were jealous. The people were listening to the apostles and not them! So the apostles were arrested and held in prison overnight. But an angel came and opened the doors and told them to go back to the temple and continue telling the people about the life they could have in Jesus. And they did (Acts 5:17-21).
So when the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish court) was in session the next day, they sent for the apostles to be brought in. But they were gone! The prison was locked and the guards were in place but the prisoners had vanished. Someone reported that they were back in the temple teaching the people. You would think that their opponents would figure out that there was something greater at work here. At least when they rearrested the apostles, they did it without the use of force (Acts 5:21-26).
The questioning began by the high priest. Although he had told them “not to teach in this name” they had “filled Jerusalem” with their teaching (Acts 5:28). They, in particular, did not like that they were being singled out as guilty for Jesus’ death. The apostles’ reply was simple: “We must obey God rather than people” (Acts 5:29). They went on to talk about Jesus – the Jewish leaders had murdered him but God had raised him and, through him, Israel could change and be forgiven. And there were twelve witnesses to this standing in front of them.
This enraged the Jewish leaders – many wanted to kill them. A voice of reason stood up, a well respected Pharisee named Gamaliel, and advised that they be careful – they might find themselves opposing God (Acts 5:34-39).
So rather than kill them, they had the apostles beaten and ordered them to quit teaching in the name of Jesus.
How do you react to such abuse? “Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name. Every day in the temple, and in various homes, they continued teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah” (Acts 5:41-42).
No retaliation or backlash. Just rejoicing – they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus. And they kept on teaching the good news of Jesus.
May we not let any opposition prevent us from telling others the good news of Jesus.
Readings for next week:
16 April – Acts 1
17 April – Acts 2
18 April – Acts 3
19 April – Acts 4
20 April – Acts 5