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 Saviour 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 honoured 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.”
40 His speech persuaded them. 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.’
(Acts 5 v. 22 – 44)
One commentator suggested that in Acts of the Apostles, or indeed following the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and the pouring out of the Spirit, ‘there are no locked doors’. No locked doors in the kingdom of God. Access all areas.
Certainly, the guards and the Sanhedrin are shocked that the apostles have got out of their overnight lock-up, and are shocked that the apostles have returned to the Temple to continue speaking in the name of Jesus.
The apostles, led by Peter, again challenge the Sanhedrin to recognise their guilt in killing the Messiah, the Saviour, and to consider whether they, themselves, are seeking to obey God or people.
The anger of the authorities boils over and they want to kill the apostles, but Gamaliel speaks up and suggest patiently waiting to see if this movement dies out (as other recent movements had) or continues to grow.
Verse 39 is the great truth in this passage – for the movement is ‘from God’, and is unstoppable. Gamaliel, himself, points out that they could find themselves fighting against God.
Although not killed, it’s still shocking to me that the apostles are flogged before being ordered, again, to stop speaking of Jesus. It reminds me to pray, today, for those who are intensely persecuted and beaten for their faith.
We see the courage, again, of the apostles, who continue to teach and speak in the name of Jesus, the Messiah.
Spirit-filled courage – a Spirit-filled movement.
Go forth and tell! O church of God, awake!
God’s saving news to all the nations take;
proclaim Christ Jesus, Saviour, Lord, and king,
that all the world his worthy praise may sing.
Go forth and tell! God’s love embraces all;
He will in grace respond to all who call:
how shall they call if they have never heard
the gracious invitation of His word?
Pour out Your Spirit, O Lord,
that we may have the same courage,
the same conviction,
the same determination as the first apostles
to make Your name known.
(hymn words written by James Seddon (1915 – 1983))