From the sermon series Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
Based on Acts 5:17-26
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
The decision is made at the highest levels of the Sanhedrin to get the Twelve off the streets. It is a decapitation strike. Just like they had done with Jesus, “strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.” (Zech 13:7; Matt 26:31). At least, that was how it was supposed to have worked. As the old saying goes, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But God will not be thwarted. The Father allowed the builders to reject the Son in order to bring about salvation for all of Israel, as Caiaphas prophesied in John 11:50. But in truth, they are no longer the builders. That title has been transferred to Jesus Christ. The witness of the apostles forms the final part of the foundation. Moses has given way to Jesus. The old is passing away. Israel now has an eternal King. “All authority” has been given to him (Mattew 28:18). The Sanhedrin have been officially deposed, though it will take forty years to work its way out ultimately. King Jesus has Twelve ambassadors who saw him resurrected from the dead, and they were anointed with power to bear witness to that resurrection. Jesus will not give his representatives on the earth over to these liberal hypocrites to be used as political cannon fodder. The Sadducees are jealous of the apostles’ popularity with the people, not the presence of God seen in the signs and wonders. The signs and wonders have shaken up the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:12-16), provoked Caiaphas and the Saduccees’ jealousy, and landed the apostles in the public prison (Acts 5:1-2). It will be a new sign and wonder that will keep the Apostles alive by giving the Pharisee side of the Sanhedrin pause in the end, as we’ll see.
“17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out,”. We are not given a lot of detail as to how the angel brought them out, only that he did. In a few chapters, we will get treated to a whole narrative around Peter and an angel helping him to escape from jail. It is probably safe for us to assume similar details here as there. Their chains fell off, the doors were opened, and the guards were blinded to their escape. From here, the apostles run away and hide from their Jewish captors, preaching the Gospel in quiet, low-risk, out-of-the-way places until they die in their beds as old men. Is that how it reads? I don’t think so.
19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life. 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.”
What they have been arrested for, namely saying that Jesus is King of Israel, is what they are instructed to continue to go and speak. The angel sends them back to what was, until yesterday, where they ordinarily spent their day, to say what they ordinarily said all day. The temple has been their daily mission station since Pentecost, and salvation in Christ has been their daily message.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
Acts 5:12Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.
Why send them back? What’s the purpose? That is the question we need to ask.
Thanks for taking the time to read our blog post. Look for Part 4 of “Burning Coals: When We Are Persecuted For Doing Good.”
May God be with you!