Real Talk with That Guy
What Do I Do? (Acts 5:22-32)
There are times in life when it is unclear what we should do. Should we take the job or not take the job? She we buy the house or not buy the house? Should we try to adopt a child or not try to adopt a child? Should I marry this person or not marry this person? Should I put solar panels on my home and learn more about conservation or not put solar panels on my home... and not learn about conservation? In such times it is more than moderately helpful to review our corporate and personal why. Our why is always more important than our what. A clear understanding of why we exist and why God has called us to Himself is often enough guidance for the formulation a plan of action that will find heaven's approval. If you are unsure about what to do in the face of increasing personal difficulty, growing opposition, a motley crew of options, or mixed emotions about your situation this message is going to help.
Lost Their Way (Acts 5:22-24)
22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.
Previously in our study of Acts we saw the apostles being arrested... again (Acts 5:17-18). Their open defiance of the mandate not to talk about Jesus (Acts 4:17) had run its course. The religious authorities, hearing that these unapproved religious upstarts were still in the temple teaching Jesus and resurrection was too much; the Sadducees came unglued. Among the people making the arrest was the high priest himself.
But after they were unlawfully incarcerated they receive a Get Out of Jail Free from an angel of the Lord (Acts 5:19). And the heavenly messenger, in case they were wondering what to do, reminded them:
Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. (Acts 5:20)
And so the apostles have continued in the rabble rousing what of proclaiming salvation in Jesus name even when it carries with it the promise of prison. The authorities are now ready to retrieve the criminals and review their crimes. But there is problem.
The officers went as instructed to retrieve the rogue rabbis and could not find them. Imagine the looks on their faces and the questions they asked among themselves. "This is the jail right?" "Did someone post bail last night?" "How did you not see 12 grown men leave through a single door?" "Who unlocked the door?" "This is obviously an attempt to make us look bad. Seriously, who locked the door after all of the prisoners had been released?" In their report were the following facts:
The effect upon the leadership was immediate and profound. Only hours ago they had been confident of what to do and how to do it: (1) get the perpetrators, (2) put the perpetrators in prison, (3) conduct a "trial" and condemn them, and then (4) find a way to get rid of them. The word used to describe their state of mind (διαπορέω (diaporeō) - be at a loss) indicates that they were completely confused or thoroughly perplexed. When we see this word in Scripture it is always used to convey the idea that a person has no idea what to do:
The inability to understand or forge ahead is rooted in a loss of identity.
Religious leaders who are devoted to glorifying themselves cannot find peace or function properly when confronted by genuine glory. Their angst and anxieties are only amplified by the anticipation of His appearing (Matthew 2:1-3). And they cannot be happy when hearing His name on the lips of His people (Matthew 21:9-15). In getting away from their why they lose their way.
Resistance is Futile (Acts 5:24-26)
25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.
Even as the Sadduccees are reeling with the unsettling news about the empty prison there comes in more news that must have made some of them realize that they were not accomplishing anything by fighting against this faith (Acts 5:33-39). The "So" of this verse does not translate a word normally used to introduce a logical conclusion but rather a connected idea. Luke wants his readership to see that the message of this latter messenger is to be viewed with the news of the empty prison. Seen together they say that the war on His witnesses is irrelevant.
In the light of the apostles great and growing support the captain went with the officers but was careful to bring them without violence. There is no mention of fear in the apostles. However their adversaries are now beginning to feel unsafe as they harass these men of God.
What Is Going On? (Acts 5:27-28)
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
The apostles are conducted to the council chamber and set before the convened group - the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:27). The high priest begins with a rhetorical question. It is the type of interrogative that is presented not because the person asking is unaware of the answer but because they are wanting to bring the answer to the fore of thinking. Sometimes it is used for dramatic effect; the question draws attention to a fact for the sake of a point that is going to be made. This is the intent of the high priest. He is making much drama out of the defiant actions of the apostles. He is taking issue with two whats.
First, although the edict against evangelism was clearly articulated, the city of Jerusalem is now filled with their teaching about Jesus. The command against teaching in Jesus' name was not a suggestion. It was a strict command. And yet the what of witnessing keeps happening.
Second, beyond teaching a doctrine that the Sadduccees do not support there is the matter of the ongoing indictment: the religious leaders are murderers. They are guilty of the blood of an innocent Man - the Messiah Himself. But this what is the outworking of their own evil actions. And their actions are proof positive of what Jesus had said so many times during his ministry - they are murderers (Matthew 23:35; John 7:19; John 8:37, 40, 44).
24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.” 25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:24-25)
When We Are Witnesses (Acts 5:29-32)
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
An Old Testament prophet had called the people of Israel to be God’s witnesses in the world (Isa. 43:10; 44:8); the task which Israel had not fulfilled was taken on by Jesus, the perfect Servant of the Lord, and shared by him with his disciples. The close relation between God’s call to Israel, “you are my witnesses,” and the risen Lord’s commission to his apostles, “you will be my witnesses,” can be appreciated the more if we consider the implications of Paul’s quotation of Isa. 49:6 in Acts 13:47.32 There the heralds of the gospel are spoken of as a light for the Gentiles, bearing God’s salvation “to the end of the earth”; here “the end of the earth” and nothing short of that is to be the limit of the apostolic witness.
Bruce, F. F. (1988). The Book of the Acts (p. 36). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Questions for Discussion