(This reminds me of the High Priest’s efforts to stop God’s plans)
The apostles have gained a LOT of attention! Everyone is flocking to them for healing and deliverance. They are popular with the people. This was the same position Jesus occupied during His ministry. And the religious leaders couldn’t stand it! Now it’s time to do something about His followers.
Luke gets right to the root of their grievance; jealousy. The high priest and the Sadducees envied the apostles popularity and probably their success with miracles. “Why can’t we do signs like them? WE are supposed to be God’s connection to the people! Not those uneducated Galileans!!” So instead of going to God and finding out where they were missing the mark they have the apostles arrested instead. From the wording here I’m inclined to believe that most if not all the apostles were arrested in this raid.
I LOVE this next section! God doesn’t leave them in prison. Instead He sends one of His angels and opens the doors for them. Guards standing right there were totally blind to what was going on. The angel didn’t walk them out through the walls but right past the guards. But instead of keeping them hidden the angel tells them to go right back to doing what they had been doing; preaching in the temple.
The apostles didn’t hesitate one minute. As soon as it was morning they were right back in the temple telling any who would listen about Jesus. The night in prison didn’t frighten them one bit. Instead it emphasized God’s hand on their mission. He certainly wouldn’t have sent His angel to bring them out if they weren’t having any effect.
Morning comes and the high priest rolls out of bed. I think he was looking forward to making an example of the apostles and publicly humiliating them. I can almost see the glint in his eye as he gazed at his reflection while donning his regal robes.
With a skip in his step he makes his way to the temple. He wants the apostles to suffer a little longer so he takes his time getting round to their plight. He wants this as public as possible so he and his cohorts (the Sadducees) “called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought” (verse 21).
SURPRISE! They are not there! The officer is dumbfounded. He is more than a little nervous as he comes back to the council chamber. How is he going to explain this one? “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside” (verse 24).
The captain of the temple guards and the chief priests were shocked, confused and probably angry to hear this report. Well it just got worse! “And someone came and told them, ‘Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people’” (verse 25).
“WHAT!! How? How dare they! I want them brought in here NOW!”
What can the captain do but follow the orders of the high priest. They had to be diplomatic though because they were afraid of the people. They knew the popularity of the apostles and if they moved against them forcefully there would probably be a riot and they would be the losers in that battle. Not a problem though because the apostles go with them willingly. They are more than ready for another opportunity to witness for Jesus.
As soon as the doors are closed and the people are left outside the high priest launches into a tirade. “You know that we already warned you about speaking out about that ‘Name’ and here you are again proclaiming it to EVERYONE! We also told you there would be consequences if you didn’t obey our orders. You are trying to get all of Jerusalem riled up and charge US with this ‘Man’s blood.’ We won’t have it! This ends NOW!”
Peter, ever the spokesman for the group, made it abundantly plane that they were NOT going to follow the mandate being given. In fact he took that opportunity to once again witness for Jesus. “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance for Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witness to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (verse 29-32). In other words, ain’t happenin’ dudes.
Not only did Peter tell them they wouldn’t obey but he also, once again, laid Jesus’ blood on their hands. This did NOT go over well. The council members were seeing red and they wanted to kill the apostles for this. But, once again, God had other plans. He had an advocate in the midst of that angry group. He put a stop to the process. To make sure that the apostles couldn’t use this division against them some way they were led away while the council discussed the situation.
Not truer words were ever spoken. “Men of Israel take care what you are about to do with these men…In the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God” (verses 35 & 38-39). That was the Holy Spirit’s intervention. God saw to it that HIS work was not going to be stopped. They didn’t stop it with Jesus’ death and they weren’t going to be able to stop it now either.
Hearing the wisdom in Gamaliel’s words but still being frustrated by the apostles, the council had them brought back in. The high priest is expecting them to be cowering by now. Nope. Still not afraid. “Ok, we’ll make you afraid. You will regret ever speaking that ‘Name!’ Captain, I want them each beaten as a reminder of who is in charge here!”
Each man stands still and erect as he is called forward to “receive his due.” No fear is seen in any of their eyes. Prayers are said quietly for one another as each man receives the blows. None cry out for mercy or promise not to speak of Jesus any more. In fact they all go away with a smile on their lips.
Yes the beating hurt them physically but it bolstered them mentally and spiritually. To be counted worthy to be treated as Jesus was an honor. Nothing could stop them now! They were even more committed than ever to preach Jesus as the Christ; the Messiah. The road wasn’t going to be easy but they EACH knew they could trust God, whatever came next.
The council’s actions had the exact opposite effect they were striving for. As Gamaliel said, if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. To this day Satan hasn’t been able to stop God and he never will.
Father God I love how You put people in the right place at the right time. I also love hearing about Your amazing miracles. I don’t know how I would have handled standing before the council. Would I have shown fear in my eyes? Or would I too have remembered the night before and the miracle of it? You gave the apostles a “fear vaccine” the night before with that awesome escape. NO WAY they could miss Your hand in that. They needed that boost to carry them through the next day and to keep them going strong after that.
It amazes me how You do the same with me sometimes. You know what lies ahead in my path and what it is going to take to carry me through it. You have proven Yourself faithful beyond belief in some of my hardest times. When my marriage ended, You had carried me through the lonely times in it, proving I could count on You in the times ahead. I also remember the moment You returned joy and love to me right afterwards. It didn’t mean my struggles were over but it showed me that You loved me and that I didn’t have to be afraid of facing what lay ahead. Thank You for that “love bubble.”