Twice arrested: Devotional Commentary for August 1-7
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
5:26 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).
Following the report they received regarding the location and activities of the Apostles, the Council sent the captain and the Temple guards to bring them back for trial. However, the guards did not approach the Apostles with a show of force. They probably asked the Apostles to return with them to the place where the Sanhedrin were seated in session.
The Temple guards, although armed, were no match for an angry mob. So they treated the Apostles with deference as they executed their duty to the Jewish court. They really were afraid of the people’s reaction if they treated the Apostles roughly. They felt their lives were threatened by the citizens of Jerusalem with whom the Apostles were so popular.
27When they had brought them, they stood them before the Council. The High Priest questioned them,
28saying, "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."
Apparently, the Apostles accompanied the Temple guards back to the Sanhedrin without any resistance. Once they arrived at the venue where the Council was seated, the Disciples assumed their position at the spot designated for the accused. Then the High Priest initiated the examination with a formal interrogation.
The High Priest began his interrogation by reminding the Apostles the court order issued constraining them from mentioning the Name of Jesus or doing anything in His Name. There was no direct articulation of disobedience or defiance committed against the Council's strict orders. The allegations were implicit.
The High Priest simply described the Disciples' activities since peter and John were ordered to stop teaching the people about Jesus or ministering in His Name. However, he alleged that their continued teaching was intended to hold members of the Council and the High Priest accountable for the Death of Jesus Christ. How quickly and conveniently did members of the Council forget their own self-incrimination, accepting the responsibility for the blood of Jesus.
29But Peter and the Apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men.
30"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.
31"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.
32"And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him."
33But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and intended to kill them.
Peter and the rest of the Apostles responded to the High Priest’s accusation with a short answer that laid everything to rest forthwith. The crux of the matter was obedience. Do they obey God or the Council? Peter had already informed the Council that their allegiance lies with God. The Apostles simply continued doing what they have been doing all along. But the authorities could not stomach such a diligent commitment to the truth.
Peter did not dwell on the High Priest's accusations for long. He immediately shifted his focus to his mission as the messenger of the Gospel. Certainly, he reiterated the guilt of the members of the Council and the High Priest for having Jesus Crucified. But their wicked ways served God's Purpose of redemption. God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him above all to sit on the Throne at His Right Hand as the Prince and the Savior. God gave Jesus all Authority in heaven above and on earth beneath to forgive sin, to grant repentance to sinners including Israel and those seated at court judging Peter and the Apostles.
Peter affirmed to the Council that his statement was true. They were the eyewitnesses of Jesus' Resurrection. They have seen Him in person after He rose from the dead. They have dined with Him. They spoke to Him and watched Him ascend to His Father. These truths were confirmed by the Holy Spirit Who gives understanding and wisdom to those who believe and to the faithful. Here, Peter implicitly told the Council, they did not have that wisdom and understanding because they do not have the Spirit of God in them.
These charges enraged the members of the Council. They were deeply offended by Peter's audacity to freely speak so assuredly. They were so incensed that they wanted to kill them. But Peter and the Disciples had no one to fear. The God Whom they loved, obeyed, and chose to serve is the only one with the Authority and the Power to kill or preserve. He gives or takes life as He pleases for He is the sovereign God. Peter and the Disciples chose to obey Him because He first chose and ordained them to serve Him.
The Council's behavior in its tug of war against the Apostles regarding Jesus and His Resurrection clearly reflects the inability of the authorities to pursue their wicked intentions against Jesus and the Gospel. They arrested the Disciples for the second time for the same offense. This time however, the complaint by the High Priest alleged more than the Disciples' disobedience to the orders issued by the Council.
The High Priest lamented that the Apostles flooded the city with their teachings about the risen Lord. He strongly felt the Disciples were intentionally seeking to incriminate civic and religious leaders as morally and legally culpable for having Jesus crucified. For all intents and purposes, members of the Sanhedrin were engulfed by a consuming fear because they were staring at the stark realities of the truth. Their indictment against the Disciples was trounced by the enduring truth of the Gospel.
The high Council of the Jews, the religious and civil leaders, the experts in the Law and the Old Testament Scriptures, made the decision to execute the One Who came to save them. They did this, not to consciously facilitate God's plan to sacrifice His Son to atone for sin, but because they hated Jesus. "He came to His own," the Scripture says, "but His own did not receive Him." They also viewed the Disciples in light of their disdain toward Jesus and sought to destroy them because they kept the truth alive.
Peter’s testimony of Jesus' Death and Resurrection struck them to the core. They were cut to the quick, says the text. They were accountable for their actions against Jesus, not to the Apostles, but to God Himself, the God they claimed to worship and serve.
As it was then, so it is today. Hence, in the midst of man’s rebellion and false gods, in the midst of religious chaos and confusion, in the midst of cultural wars and apostate churches, God still moves steadily forward redeeming a people for Himself through the message of salvation that is still proclaimed from faithful pulpits. People are still being redeemed and God’s plan continues to triumph, woven through the discordant threads of human history.
The Disciples were convinced that their defense is in God's Will and in His Providence. So they responded to the indictment by the High Priest with a clear and concise proclamation of the Gospel. Believe in the Son of God Who was crucified and is now risen for the redemption of the lost.
The Disciples chose to obey God rather than observing the capricious evil fancies of fallen man. We too are called to the same quality of loyalty and commitment. We are admonished to walk worthy of the vocation with which we are called. We are confronted by the same question that Peter and the Disciples had to answer. Do we obey God or the world around us. The choice is clear. Do we know it?