Opening Prayer

Thank you, Father, that in this world of uncertainty and chaos, it is in you that I find truth and grace and mercy.

Read ACTS 5:27–42

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

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Read this text as a mirror in which to view your own discipleship.

Think Further

At the heart of this passage, we find the well-known intervention of Gamaliel. He advises his colleagues on the Sanhedrin to be cautious in their treatment of Peter and John, arguing that a hasty decision to execute them might be counter to the will of God. He reminds his audience of the recent history of movements of insurrection in Roman-occupied Palestine, citing two notable leaders named Theudas and Judas the Galilean. Both men had attracted popular support, but although their movements caused panic among the guardians of the status quo, they came to nothing. We are reminded that both Jesus and his apostles preached the coming of the kingdom of God in a highly volatile situation in which the message concerning the crucified Messiah could easily be misunderstood (note vv. 28–30).1

Although Luke provides a detailed description of the internal debate of the Sanhedrin (presumably having had inside information), these local religious leaders were themselves subject to the higher authority of the Roman imperial power. Justo Gonzalez finds a direct parallel with the experience of Christians in Latin America. There, local politicians have been constrained by ‘the rules of the global system,’ as they see it, which benefit wealthy people and prevent local changes intended to bring justice for the poor. Christians in the modern Western world need to be reminded that legal systems can be used to silence people who, like Peter and John, ‘say things that the powerful do not like.’2 The ultimate challenge to us is the reaction of the apostles who, having been unjustly flogged, rejoiced at being worthy ‘of suffering disgrace for the Name’ (v. 41). Can we even imagine a Christianity which involves ‘disgrace’ and official hostility?


Seek the Spirit who gives joy amid suffering.

Closing prayer

Heavenly Father, I lift up to you those who serve you in the hard places of the world and are suffering unjustly for your name’s sake.

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by kingstar

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