But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
It is unknown whether or not Gamaliel was ever a believer or not. He was however recognized and greatly respected as a teacher of the law and it is very possible he was one of the rulers that devised the questions for Jesus. What is known is that the rulers were angry and probably of only someone of Gamaliel’s stature could have calmed them. Paul remarked about this as one of his badges of honor that he had been a student of Gamaliel.
Gamaliel’s advice is completely pragmatic. If they continue to persecute this thing known as the Way, the persecution will invite criticism. If they leave it alone, one of two things will happen. 1) it will come to nothing or 2) if it is of God it will grow and they will not be able to stop it anyway. In short the best course of action was to do nothing and watch it either fade away or prosper at God’s hand. The rulers have long been thinking of stamping this out by force but Gamaliel simply shows them that this is not wise. They tried to stop Christ and now his message is multiplied a hundred fold because of the disciples. All further attacks will do is much of the same.
The rulers once again warned the disciples not to teach in the name of Jesus, flogged the disciples and let them go. The disciples simply consider it an honor to be persecuted for Christ’s sake and continue to go forward. They will continue to be persecuted but their next great challenge will come from within.
Next: Choosing the Seven