It had to be the same way for the religious leaders in Jerusalem after the birth of the church. They had succeeded in arresting Jesus and leveraging Pilate to turn Him over to be crucified. They watched Jesus die. One of their own (Nicodemus – John 19:39) had buried the body. They watched as the followers of Jesus cowered in fear in the upper room after the death of their rabbi. They must have thought, “We did it. We got rid of this trouble maker who had drawn the hearts of the people away. His followers are nothing more than a scared gathering of uneducated people now. It is time to get back to the business of being in charge.”
Then the Holy Spirit gave life to the church. The frightened turned into the fearless. The silent transformed into sirens. The unskilled became unstoppable. By Acts 5, it had become customary for “all the believers to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade,” (v. 12) which was a “porch” with columns on both sides that ran along the eastern portion of the court of the
Gentiles in the temple. In other words, it was a very public place. Jesus had preached from this location (John 10:23). Peter had healed a lame man at this location which caused a great crowd to gather. (Acts 3:11-26) Then, “the apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people.” (v. 12)
It must have been incredibly frustrating for the leaders who had tried to stop this very thing from happening. They were convinced that Peter and the rest of the apostles would disappear into obscurity if they could take out the head of the movement. Instead, it was like crushing incense. The harder they tried to smash it, the more the fragrance spread. Notice all the ways the church was gaining momentum:
- “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. (v. 13)
- “Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.” (v. 14)
- “As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.” (v. 15)
- “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.” (v. 16)
The national leaders were convinced the disciples lacked the persuasive ability to do anything without Jesus but the “pathetic” had become so powerful that the people couldn’t help but flock to them. Of course, they tried again to thwart the new movement. “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail,” (v. 18) and from there it gets comical.
“During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.’” (v. 19-20) These were pretty clear instructions so “at daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.” (v. 21) They are preaching in a well-known place. People showed up to hear what they had to say. It was the news of the day—men had been arrested and put in jail but here they were doing the same thing that resulted in their arrest. While all that was going on, “the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles.” *(v. 22) It seems the only people who didn’t know what was going on were the ones who thought they were in charge!
I don’t want to show any disrespect for the people who serve in leadership. We need them. Their service is an honorable pursuit. When they lead with humility and integrity, it is an awesome thing that benefits all of us. When public officials become proud and attempt to sideline Jesus, however, I just want us to remember that their attempts to remove God’s influence will inevitably result in a resurgence of faith.