Burning Coals: When We Are Persecuted For Doing Good Part 1

From the sermon series Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years

Based on Acts 5:17-26


There is a problem mounting for the leaders of Israel who are seated on the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. For some perspective, let’s turn for just a moment and consider John chapter 11 before we delve further into Acts chapter 5. Let’s look specifically at the reason the Sanhedrin chose to betray Jesus. What is the context of Jesus’ betrayal? The raising of Lazarus from the dead pushes the Sanhedrin into the idea of assassination. Let’s listen in on their conversation.

John 11:45-50

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did (raised Lazarus), believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

It is the miracles, the signs, and the wonders that concern them the most. How can they keep the people from believing that someone who can raise the dead and heal all manner of disease is Christ? They ask, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Caiaphas, unbeknownst to himself, prophesied that Jesus should die so that the entire nation of Israel could live. What they are afraid of, however, is not the wrath of God but the wrath of Rome. They fear man more than God. They are afraid that word will get back to Caesar that they are tolerating someone who says he is King of the Jews. They don’t want to be thought of as tacitly approving of him by Roman officials like Pilate. They don’t want to lose their “place,” their leadership, or their “nation,” meaning those they rule. When the Sanhedrin succeeded in having Jesus crucified, as he breathed his last on Golgotha, they breathed a sigh of relief in the halls of Jewish power. They hoped everything would return to how it was before John the Baptist and Jesus’ ministries began. They wanted a return to the status quo. It has been a long four to five years for the Jewish leadership. With Jesus dead, Jerusalem was supposed to calm down. But instead of cooling off, a powder keg on its way to becoming an atomic bomb has been created.

Jesus is gone, and in his place, there are now Twelve. And what are they preaching? They are preaching that Jesus has been raised from the dead, is ascended to the right hand of God as Savior and King of Israel, and He has poured out the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. And their preaching, like Jesus’ preaching, is attended to by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no longer just one lame man who has been healed from Acts 3. Now, myriads are walking around and telling the same story the apostles are telling. Namely that Jesus is the Christ, the savior of Israel. “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by… the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog post. Look for Part 2 of “Burning Coals: When We Are Persecuted For Doing Good.”

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