Before the Council Again for More of the Same:
The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Him, and you want to make us responsible for His death!” But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed Him by hanging Him on a cross. Then God put Him in the place of honour at his right hand as Prince and Saviour. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey Him.” When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them.Acts 5:26-33
Did you notice how this passage moves from “without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them” to “the high council was furious and decided to kill them.” Interesting isn’t it, that the tolerance which existed at the beginning of this bracket has given way to a rage which wanted the apostles killed. I am not sure it was tolerance exactly, more fear for their own skin that held their hand back. But clearly that willingness to hold off has been replaced by utter rage and the readiness to kill them. What was it that had got the Council so enraged? It is clear! Luke tells us it was what Peter said to them. “When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them.”
- Well, the next question that follows has to be – heard what?
- What was it in what Peter said that got them so riled up?
Surely it can’t be over the accusation of them being responsible for Christ’s death. As you told us Ian, Peter made those accusations first time round as well. So this really is more of the same. So what is it that has pushed them over the edge? Let’s review the comparison between the two encounters once more with this in mind. I have now emboldened the key pieces of the text.
Compare this with the last time these two parties met.
They brought in the two disciples and demanded, “By what power, or in whose name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7) Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)
“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.Acts 4:16-18
But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than Him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”Acts 4:19-20
The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot.Acts 4:21
The High Priest confronts the apostles:
“Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Him, and you want to make us responsible for His death!”
“We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed Him by hanging Him on a cross. Then God put Him in the place of honour at his right hand as Prince and Saviour.He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey Him.”Acts 5:28-32
When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. (Acts 5:33)
As I told you in the last Gems, it is not as though Peter said nothing about their responsibility in Christ’s death the first time round. He stated it clearly and even drew their attention to it.”Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel . . .”It was made very explicit. The issue is that the leaders chose to ignore the accusation. Not only that, but Peter made it clear on that occasion, they would continue teaching in that name. So what has changed?
Notice the link between obeying man rather than God – followed by, “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead AFTER you killed Him by hanging Him on a [cross].”
This is in response to the High Priest’s comment, “you want to make us responsible for His death.” Peter could have said, “Well yes, I told you last time we met, and stated it clearly, that He was the man you crucified. (4:10). But let me make it clear to you again – the one you killed, God raised from the dead. You acted, but God acted to counter you. If you feel like you are working against God, it’s true. You are. What God did was in opposition to what you did. He reversed the natural processes of things (death), in order to restore His plan. Remember back to our discussion of them killing the Author of life – Act 3:15 You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead. And we are witnesses of this fact! This is not a new statement. It is a recurring theme. These are very heavy statements. Each time Peter draws attention to this fact he contrasts what they did with what God did. It is almost put into a poetic pairing.
Interestingly the thrust of “you want to make us responsible for His death” carries the inference that
- 1) they were morally responsible for Messiah’s death
- 2) they were responsible in the eyes of the people, ( i.e. the people would blame them)
Peter has also done something interesting with the words he has used in comparing the first statement and the second statement.
the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. (4:10) The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed Him by hanging Him on a cross.
It would seem that both of these statements mean the same thing. The man you crucified and killed by hanging him on a cross. Surely crucified and cross are the same thing. But that is not the case. The word Luke uses for crucified is σταυρόω [stauroō] meaning to impale on the cross or to crucify. But the word used for cross in the second statement (5:30) is ξύλον [xulon] meaning tree or stake, wood. It is the word used in Deut 21:23 and Gal 3:13. Most of the versions choose the word tree. Rather than the cross being in focus, it is tree which is in focus, recalling the reference in Deut 21:23. Using the word [xulon] increases the blame of the Sanhedrin who knew only too well the significance of the passage in Deuteronomy. They heaped the utmost disgrace on Jesus in terms of the Old Testament curses. Luke then links this idea with the idea of God honouring Him and placing Him at God’s right hand, the ultimate honour given to the Prince or the Saviour. The word used for “prince” in this statement is the word [archegos] which at its root means author, originator or source. Here it is translated as Prince by some translations because of the precedent set by the KJV translation. But you will note if you do a survey of how the translations handle this verse that “leader” features strongly. Indeed ‘leader” is closer to the meaning of [archegos]. In fact there is a parallel with the idea in Acts 3:15 of the Author of Life, but here it would best be translated Author of Salvation, Originator or Source of Salvation. Peter’s intent was to parallel this statement with the Author of Life statement in Acts3:15. The idea is the utter shame of those who would seek to kill the Author of Life or kill in a most shameful way so as to curse the very Originator of their Salvation. Who would do something that debased?
God did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. That they would come to realisation of their depravity and repent, i.e. confess to God that they have fallen so far short of His intention for them. Then Peter makes a very telling statement. “We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey Him.” As I pointed out in the last Gems, he returns to the idea of them being witnesses but adds two further ideas. The first, the idea that the Holy Spirit Himself is also a witness to these things. But note how he describes this idea. This Holy Spirit who witnesses to all that this Author of Life / Author of Salvation is the one who will save us, is the One Whom God gave to those who obey Him. That is a strong statement against these leaders of the Sanhedrin. Why? Because they neither recognised Him to be the Author of Life and killed Him; nor the Originator of Salvation and shamed Him with the ultimate shame. Are they numbered among those who obey the Author Life (Originator of Salvation)? The resounding answer is NO. Not only have they no clue Who they are dealing with and dare to respond as they have. Cast your minds back to the “farce”we dealt with two Gems ago, these leaders having no idea that the twelve apostles they locked up were indeed immediately freed by an angel. Then they were sent straight back to the Temple to do what witnesses do – teach the significance of this Name of Jesus and why He came. The so-called leaders were so far removed from the awareness of Who it was they were dealing with. They had no intention of submitting to Him nor obeying Him. Thus they have no inner witness.
Now we can see in stark reality the reason for their anger. They are incensed that these up-start apostles are refusing to acknowledge their authority, claiming to follow God who has ultimate Authority. In their minds, surely they are the ones who represent God and have ultimate authority. Not only that, Peter is claiming they have paid God the ultimate insult and hung the Messiah on a tree, following the Deuteronomic curse. They can no longer stand the insolence of these men and now want them killed. It now no longer matters what the crowd or the people think. They want them dead.
Think little of the devil who opposes you and much of the King whose heel has crushed his head. Orient yourself for victory!Rick Godwin
What drives the enemy crazy is when you don’t get what you asked for but you serve God anyway!T D Jakes
There is nothing more enslaving than the moment you become a captive to yesterday’s wineskins.Ian Vail
When the enemy says, “Shame on you,” God says, “Shame off of you. I’ve forgiven, redeemed & restored you.”Joel Osteen