Acts 5: 17-32
But the high priest rose up, along with all his associates (that is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest and his associates came, they called the Council together, even all the Senate of the sons of Israel, and sent orders to the prison house for them to be brought. But the officers who came did not find them in the prison; and they returned and reported back, saying, “We found the prison house locked quite securely and the guards standing at the doors; but when we had opened up, we found no one inside.” Now when the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them as to what would come of this. But someone came and reported to them, “The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).
When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
I find it interesting that the Sanhedrin seems to have nothing better to do than go after people who believe different from themselves motivated by the fact that jealous of the early churches success and growth. They really up the ante here too because they don’t just go after Peter and John this time but they go after the whole group of apostles and imprison them. It does not work and an angel releases them and tells them to go and preach in the temple.
The rulers find themselves in a quandary because one the one hand they can’t seem to get these people in jail nor can they stop their popularity, but they are jealous of the church’s success. The temple guard is also put into a pickle because they are the one’s carrying out the orders but fear getting stones thrown at them. Whether this fear was justified or not the text does not say, but the one thing for sure is that the followers of the Way are becoming more accepted and liked than the rulers and their various sects.
When questioned the disciples simply stand on what they know to be true. If Peter and the other apostles were looking for plea bargain, they do not say the right words. First they point out that they are under a higher authority than the rulers, namely God. Secondly they state the record of Jesus and the rulers involvement in his death. It is this fact that the rulers do not want repeated. Their hope with Jesus was that he would be forgotten by killing him and then his disciples would just fade away, this has not happened and it has put them in a bind.
Much is made of the ‘we ought to obey God rather than men’. This is not a justification of rebellion as the apostles are clearly not being rebellious. What they are stating is that God has told them to spread the message of Jesus and they men are telling them not to. This phrase does not justify breaking the other commands of God.
Next: Gamaliel’s Counsel