There are certain passages of Scripture that are simply funny and about which you cannot help but LOL (laugh out loud). And this story today of the apostles being released from jail without the authorities knowing about it is a classic.
Again we see the power of the Spirit working through the apostles, particularly Peter, as they are involved in a teaching ministry over large groups of people, along with an ability to even grant healings for many afflictions. All of this is happening in the most public of locations in the temple. Great excitement must have accompanied all that was going on, and one can easily imagine how the blood of the religious leadership was beginning to boil.
Finally, filled with jealousy, they had tolerated enough and had the apostles thrown in jail. But during the evening, an angel allows them to escape without notice – past a locked door with guards. The apostles are commanded to go right back to teaching, which they begin in the temple at dawn.
As the Sanhedrin (the council of 71 consisting of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the high priest) calls for them to be brought up from jail for an appearance, word also arrives that the apostles are actually teaching in the temple! And the doors are still locked with the guards in place.
So the apostles are brought before the council to give an account as to how they had not obeyed prior directives to no longer teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter again answers as the spokesman for the group, rehearsing the same theme that they MUST bear witness of these things and of this resurrection of Jesus from the death inflicted by this very group!
Wanting to put them to death, it is one of their number – Gamaliel – who warns against this action. His reasoning is that if this teaching is false, it would fall apart. But if it was true, they would then be standing against God’s work. Time has of course proven the truth of the Gospel, and this venerable teacher of the Apostle Paul unknowingly spoke of their own condemnation as upon the wrong side of truth. (Understand from this passage that Gamaliel did NOT actually believe it was the truth – the Greek construction of the words and tenses makes this clear.)
The anger of the Sanhedrin is rising, and the council has them flogged and sent away with more stringent and restrictive orders. Of course, they are not going to obey this, as, in the words of Peter, they needed to obey God rather than man. The apostles continued to teach, the crowds continued to display the prominent work of these simple men, and the church continued to grow.
The apostles were showing the truth of the words and perspective that would later be verbalized by Paul in his writing – that the apostles were doing this in a power that made them virtually untouchable. Even if you kill such as these, they are happy because, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” May that be the kind of people we desire to be!
The Apostles Heal Many – Acts 5:12-42
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
The Apostles Persecuted
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 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 Savior 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 honored 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.