Saturday, April 23
Reader: “The [angel] told them, “Go to the Temple . . .”
Response: “and give the people this message of life!”
Scripture: Acts 5:17-26
The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.
When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”
When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”
The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them.
In the weeks following the resurrection, the gospel spread like wildfire. When we look at the time frame for today’s Scripture, this event occurred within days or weeks of Pentecost. Jesus has ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit has empowered all apostles and they are preaching the good news everywhere! They are performing healing miracles among the people and casting out those possessed by demons. Crowds of believing men and women from Jerusalem and the surrounding villages are gathering daily in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade in front of the Temple to hear the apostles teach. You can imagine the excitement brought about by the Holy Spirit at work transforming lives.
Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount? “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” To be sure, persecution started almost as soon as Jesus left the tomb!
Now, rather than just going after Jesus, anyone who was a follower was fair game for the self-righteous Sadducees and high council.
At the core of the persecution was jealousy. The authority, pomp, and glory of the Sadducees was not only challenged, it was condemned! The message of the apostles of Jesus was a clear threat to their position. The solution? Arrest them, put them in jail and then figure out what to do. At least they couldn’t preach while in jail. Unbeknownst to the Jewish leadership, they were dealing with God. As they met the next morning to plan a course of action against the apostles, to their great astonishment the apostles were out of jail, even though it was still locked tightly. They were back preaching! I love The Message’s wording at this point: “The high priests were puzzled, ‘What’s going on here anyway?’” So the Jewish leaders went to arrest them again, but did so very timidly so as not to cause a riot and get themselves stoned by the people.
What can we glean from this account? The good news of redemption in Christ is always offensive to the world. It confronts sin and the sin nature. People who reject Jesus do not want to be told or admit that their sin is a problem with God. They want to be in charge of their own life. They want to be in the position of God. They want to live by their own standards and not be confronted or measured by some other standard, especially God’s. So rather than admit their failure to measure up and confess their sin, in their pride, they reject the offer of God’s grace.
I think there may be another factor as well. If someone does believe in Jesus and endeavors to live a God-honoring life, it proves that someone can do it and embrace Christianity. Such a person takes away the argument that “no one could live like that” which then further convicts the person of the world. A righteous life inevitably brings judgment on an unrighteous life, hence persecution of the believing person. Persecution for being a follower of Christ is natural and to be expected. Jesus himself said so. So “salt” the culture and let your light shine. The “flavor” of the culture is bad and it’s dark out there!
Music: “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” Arr. Nelson Glenn Memorial UMC Choir
Lord, give me a disciple’s tongue, that I may know how to reply to the lost. Lord, supply the words I need to bring hope to the hopeless. Lord, give me a disciple’s heart, that I may embrace another’s broken heart. Lord, give me a disciple’s understanding, that I may grasp the significance of the moment. Lord, give me a disciple’s patience, that rests in the sovereignty of my Father in heaven. These things I pray in the precious name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
―from In the Presence of My Father, p.131, adapted Daniel Sharp