But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching. When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial.Acts 5:19-21
Just step back for a moment to see what is happening here in widescreen terms. Jesus told the disciples at the beginning of the book of Acts that they would be His witnesses everywhere. The members of the Sanhedrin have told them they are not to say anything at all in and about the name of Jesus to anyone at anytime as long as they live (my paraphrasing). But they simply go about life being led by the prompting of the Lord to heal, to preach and to rebuke and God confirms that He is behind it all with each happening. They are told again not to do these things and Peter says on their behalf that they can’t stop saying anything. Effectively they have been commissioned as witnesses, and witnesses must speak up. The leaders put them in a makeshift holding cell overnight, I assume to make them aware of their predicament. The next day they let them out with a sterner warning to keep quiet or else. Again the disciples just simply follow God and signs and wonders occur. Each time God confirms His presence and unction over their activities, the church grows exponentially. It doesn’t matter whether what is done is positive or negative, if God is behind it then the church grows. He is not only in the business of saving and restoring relationship with people but He is also in the business of cleaning people up and making them right with Him.
The spiritual leaders of the city don’t like any of this one bit and are jealous. As I said to you in the last Gem, I am sure they are jealous because it doesn’t matter what they do, these men won’t keep quiet and listen to the leaders’ warnings. Not only that, these miracles or extraordinary things keep happening which must have made them wonder why and how all these things keep happening. Anyone who believes in a supernatural God has to realise He is behind all that is happening, but these leaders seemed to choose to ignore the obvious. So these leaders have the whole band of disciples arrested and thrown into prison. This time its the real prison, not just the holding cell they used for Peter and John before their so-called hearing.
When you went to prison in those times it was a serious matter. There was no coming out again until your case was heard and sentence was pronounced or judgment was given and your punishment carried out. Normally there were guards posted outside the prison doors to ensure you didn’t escape. If you were a particularly troublesome prisoner, a guard was chained to you inside the cell as well. In this case, we are not told the details of their incarceration, we are simply told, “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” Remember, Luke is no longer talking about just two disciples, Peter and John. Now it’s all the disciples in this predicament. Can you imagine the scene in the prison? Now the authorities have to cope with at least 12 prisoners all of a sudden as a result of the jealous whim of their leaders. This is not the Roman Guard we are talking of here, this is the Temple Guard. Can you imagine the hassle of pulling all this together? Calling men back to work because they suddenly have a large number of prisoners to deal with and to ensure they don’t escape. No doubt they were told they had to guard these men with their life. The penalty for an escaped prisoner in those days was loss of your own life. This was serious business.
But notice how masterfully the story is told. “But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail and brought them out.” It is all so simple and matter-of-fact. No big deal when God’s in it. No dramas, just deliverance. The disciples find themselves out on the street again. Put yourself in the disciples shoes. One minute you are in jail and suddenly an angel appears and you are standing back out on the street again outside the prison. It is all so simple. That’s right, it is when God is involved.
Don’t miss the flow of the rest of the story! It is important and yet told so simply with an economy of words. I haven’t given you a list of questions to help your understanding on this section. There is no need for me to do so. Just go with the flow and the simplicity. The angel tells them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” “What message of life?” they could have asked? The one you have been telling the people already. The reason why Jesus Messiah came, to restore God’s people back to Him. That message. “But Angel, that is the message that got us into trouble in the first place. If we do that again we will end up back in jail again.” None of this pretend dialogue took place. The disciples just went out into the city and obeyed. It is all so remarkable in its simplicity. How do you grow into that place of just accepting God at His word and obeying? When you have seen Him working time and time again on your behalf, you just accept His intervention on your behalf and keep doing what He has told you to do.
Now notice the flow of the story from this point. Luke is sublime in his storytelling, with three quick strokes of the pen he delivers the coup de grace:
- So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.
- When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel.
- Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial.
Take time to ponder the flow before the next Gem. I will give you some time to put together how and why Luke has told the story as he has. It is masterful, inspired I am sure by Him who writes His story.
If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.Maya Angelou
Everybody has to know for themselves what they’re capable of.Daniel Day-Lewis
When God created you, He stepped back and said that was good, another masterpiece.Lavonia Grabau
You can be more successful if you would be more sacrificial! Your success is commensurate with your sacrifice!T D Jakes
There is a struggle everyday on who we were and who we are. There is a struggle between the light & dark in you!Anon
Whatever you yield yourself to the most is what you will become. Are you a yielder or a struggler?Anon