The Jealousy of the Leaders Part 3 of 8
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
25 Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the Temple, and teaching the people.
God saw to it that there was a great deal of publicity surrounding the defeat of the religious leaders at the very time they seemed to be on the verge of being victorious over His servants. The multitudes knew that the council had threatened the apostles and ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and then when the command was unheeded and the preaching and miracles continued, they had ordered that these men be arrested and put into prison. But God had given this command long ago: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (1 Chron. 16.22), and these prophets were His anointed servants. Therefore He sent an angel to bring them out of prison—from behind locked doors and unseen by the prison guards—and now they were standing in the Temple in the very place where they had been arrested the day before, and they were preaching the same message, and teaching in the name of Jesus.
People were listening to the apostles. They were good witnesses. They were real missionaries. Jesus had said that the Gospel was to go out, first in Jerusalem. We see that this has been done—“Ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” (v. 28). Then another messenger came into the council chamber, and there seems to be a touch of satire, whether intended or not, in his message: “Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the Temple, and teaching the people.”
What a contrast between the apostles and the members of the council. The council was educated, ordained, and approved, and yet they had no ministry of power. The apostles were ordinary laymen, yet God’s power was at work in their lives. The council was trying desperately to protect themselves and their dead traditions, while the apostles were risking their lives to share the living word of God. The dynamic Church was enjoying the new; the dead council was defending the old.
26 Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.
It is apparent that the religious leaders knew that on occasion the Jewish people were capable of taking the Law into their own hands. Not too long ago they had been ready to stone Jesus for declaring His deity (John 10.30-33v). The apostles had been preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons; and the mighty miracles that had been done through them by the power of God had won the respect and esteem of the people. The members of the Sanhedrin, the officers, and the captain of the Temple knew that mob violence could break out if they did not exercise care in bringing the apostles back to the judgment hall.
The captain of the Temple police with a contingent of officers went to the Temple area and brought the apostles back to appear before the council. However, the arrest was made in as peaceful manner as possible, because they feared that the people would stone them.
“For they feared the people.” It was man they feared, not God. They were not thinking of what God might do to them, but of what the multitudes might do. But the apostles had their eyes firmly fixed on God—and that is the only way to find deliverance from man. They offered no resistance to the officers and the captain of the Temple. After all, they had done no wrong—and even when they were in prison for preaching the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ they had not broken out of jail but had been delivered by God’s miracle. Therefore they did not fear the Sanhedrin. They were ready to appear before that body of religious leaders, realizing that they would have another opportunity to declare the message of God’s saving grace.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us.
“Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?” It was impossible to ignore or conceal the fact that the apostles had paid no attention to the command not to preach in the name of Jesus, and you can rest assured the Sanhedrin did not want to advertise their lack of control over these poor, ignorant Galileans!
“Ye . . . intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” It had not been too many days since Pilate had washed his hands before the multitude and in the presence of these religious leaders, as if he could rid himself of the guilt of delivering Jesus into their hands to be crucified. He asked them, “Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, what shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, let him be crucified. And the governor said, why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified. When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.”
“Then answered all the people, and said, HIS BLOOD BE ON US, AND ON OUR CHILDREN. Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” (Matt. 27.17-26). The council now felt that these words—His blood be upon us”—were likely to be brought to fulfillment. Certainly these men saw in Peter a new creation in Christ, for they must have remembered that this apostle had once denied his Lord and declared that he had never known Him, but now he stood before them as brave as a lion. He had been forgiven, restored to fellowship, and had come into possession of a Power that made him unafraid. He faced the crowd who had condemned Jesus, and boldly charged them with having denied the Holy One, having crucified the Prince of peace, choosing a murderer and robber to take His place! But they wanted none of his counsel, they wanted no message from the lips of this fisherman. They who were dignified, self-righteous leaders and rulers in Israel wanted, more than anything else, to quiet these Galileans who preached the blood of Jesus.
Just as we said in the commentary on Chapter four, the council before which the apostles stood could hardly be the regularly constituted Sanhedrin. It was more likely a hastily assembled priestly court of inquiry with representatives of the Pharisees drawn into act as advisors.
The high priest charged the apostles with violating the council's command to desist from preaching in the name of Jesus. He further charged them with inciting the people against the council in order to take vengeance for the death of Jesus.
But even this hateful indictment was an admission that the Church was increasing and getting the Job done! The wrath of man was bringing praise to the Lord (Ps. 76.10vi). The high priest realized that if the apostles were right, then the Jewish leaders had been wrong in condemning Jesus Christ. Indeed, if the apostles were right, then the council was guilty of His blood (Matt. 27.25vii). As this trial continued the apostles became the judges and the council became the accused.
Observe that the high priest must have hated Jesus so much that he would not even use the name of Jesus Christ, but instead said “this name” and “this man’s blood,” for fear that by speaking His name he would defile his lips or bring down the wrath of God (John 15.21viii).