The Dilemma of the Sanhedrin
The following story which is based on Acts 5:12-42 is about the Sanhedrin showing the dilemma they had with the apostles teaching God’s words and did all in their power to stop them.
It was the cross, that instrument of shame and torture, which brought hope and salvation to the world.
The disciples were but humble men, without wealth, and with no weapon but the word of God; yet in Christ’s strength they went forth to tell the wonderful story of the manger and the cross, and to triumph over all opposition. Without earthly honor or recognition, they were heroes of faith. From their lips came words of divine eloquence that shook the world.
Speaking the Words of Life
In Jerusalem, where the deepest prejudice existed, and where the most confused ideas prevailed regarding Him who had been crucified as a malefactor, the disciples continued to speak with boldness the words of life, setting before the Jews the work and mission of Christ, His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Priests and rulers heard with amazement the clear, bold testimony of the apostles.
The power of the risen Saviour had indeed fallen on the disciples, and their work was accompanied by signs and miracles that daily increased the number of believers.
Along the streets where the disciples were to pass, the people laid their sick “on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.” Here also were brought those vexed with unclean spirits. The crowds gathered around them, and those who were healed shouted the praises of God and glorified the name of the Redeemer.
The priests and rulers saw that Christ was extolled above them. As the Sadducees, who did not believe in a resurrection, heard the apostles declaring that Christ had risen from the dead, they were enraged, realizing that if the apostles were allowed to preach a risen Saviour and to work miracles in His name, the doctrine that there would be no resurrection would be rejected by all, and the sect of the Sadducees would soon become extinct. The Pharisees were angry as they perceived that the disciples’ teaching tended to undermine the Jewish ceremonies and make the sacrificial offerings of no effect.
The Sanhedrin to Stop the Work of the Disciples
Hitherto all the efforts made to suppress this new teaching had been in vain; but now both Sadducees and Phariseespart of The Sanhedrin determined that the work of the disciples should be stopped, for it was proving them guilty of the death of Jesus. Filled with indignation, the priests laid violent hands on Peter and John and put them in the common prison.
The leaders in the Jewish nation had signally failed in fulfilling God’s purpose for His chosen people. Those whom the Lord had made the depositaries of truth had proved unfaithful to their trust, and God chose others to do His work. In their blindness, these leaders now gave full sway to what they called righteous indignation against the ones who were setting aside their cherished doctrines.
Suppress The Teaching
They would not admit even the possibility that they themselves did not rightly understand the word, or that they had misinterpreted or misapplied the Scriptures. They acted like men who had lost their reason. What right have these teachers, they said, some of them mere fishermen, to present ideas contrary to the doctrines that we have taught the people? Being determined to suppress the teaching of these ideas, they imprisoned those who were presenting them.
The disciples were not intimidated or cast down by this treatment. The Holy Spirit brought to their minds the words spoken by Christ: “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent Me.”
“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.” “These things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.” John 15:20, John 15:21; John16:2, John16:3, John16:4.
The God of heaven, the mighty Ruler of the universe, took the matter of the imprisonment of the disciples into His own hands, for men were warring against His work. By night the angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and said to the disciples,
“Go, stand, and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.”
This command was directly contrary to the order given by the Jewish rulers; but did the apostles say, We cannot do this until we have consulted the magistrates and received permission from them? No; God had said, “Go,” and they obeyed. “They entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.”
When Peter and John appeared among the believers and recounted how the angel had led them directly through the band of soldiers guarding the prison, bidding them resume the work that had been interrupted, the brethren were filled with amazement and joy.
In the meantime, the high priest and those with him had “called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel.” The priests and rulers had decided to fix upon the disciples the charge of insurrection, to accuse them of murdering Ananias and Sapphira, and of conspiring to deprive the priests of their authority. They hoped so to excite the mob that it would take the matter in hand and deal with the disciples as it had dealt with Jesus.
Anxious for Change
They were aware that many who did not accept the teachings of Christ were weary of the arbitrary rule of the Jewish authorities and anxious for some change. The priests feared that if these dissatisfied ones were to accept the truths proclaimed by the apostles, and were to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the anger of the entire people would be raised against the religious leaders, who would then be made to answer for the murder of Christ. They decided to take strong measures to prevent this.
When they sent for the prisoners to be brought before them, great was their amazement at the word brought back that the prison doors were found to be securely bolted and the guard stationed before them, but that the prisoners were nowhere to be found.
Soon the astonishing report came, “Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.”
Although the apostles were miraculously delivered from prison, they were not safe from examination and punishment. Christ had said when He was with them, “Take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils.” Mark 13:9. By sending an angel to deliver them, God had given them a token of His love and an assurance of His presence. It was now their part to suffer for the sake of the One whose gospel they were preaching.