But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
The mere fact that the prison was securely shut with the guards posted outside and yet the cells when there apostles were held were empty should have alerted the religious leaders that this was Divine intervention. Then when they learned that the men who had been locked up with no chance of getting out were in the temple preaching, they didn’t get it. Instead they had them brought before them to reprimand them for preaching in Jesus’ name. They exclaimed, “And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us.” Interesting they should say that because when Pilate tried to free Jesus, “all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Their own words condemned them not the apostles and even though they had numerous occasions to accept the message that was being preached about Jesus, they refused to listen. They wanted to keep God’s word from being spread. They continued to deny Jesus.
The apostles stood their ground. They refused to give into pressure. They refused to compromise. They declared that they ought to obey God rather than men. They made it clear that they were preaching about a Saviour who was alive because the God of their ancestors had raised Jesus up to sit at His right hand. Jesus was the Prince and Saviour who was to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. The apostles were witnesses to these things and the Holy Spirit whom God gave to them because they obeyed Him.
How can someone who witnesses something that would affect the lives of people and keep silent? That is in essence what the religious leaders were asking the apostles to do. They had witnessed the power of Jesus to raise people from the dead, His healing and ministry to people, bringing them to God and offering them forgiveness for their sins once they repented. They were commissioned to do the same—share the Word with people, giving them the opportunity to repent and accept Christ as their Saviour. We are witnesses that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Saviour of the World and that anyone who believes and accepts Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Like the apostles, we will encounter opposition. People will try to prevent us from witnessing to others and spreading the Gospel but we ought to stand up for Jesus. We ought to obey God rather than men. Our desire to see others saved should be the only thing on our minds.
Acts 5:22-32; Matthew 27:25