The Apostles Arrested and Freed
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Observations and Reflections
Once again the apostles are preaching at Solomon’s portico, right inside the gate of the Temple complex. They were previously questioned by the Sanhedrin (council) in chapters 3 & 4. They were told specifically NOT to preach the name of Jesus again (Acts 4:18). However, they persisted. This is why the Sanhedrin found it necessary to arrest the apostles. But God had other plans.
Not only were the apostles miraculously released from prison by any angel, in the middle of the night, but they returned to the temple complex AGAIN to preach the gospel. They did not run away to save their lives. They did not go and hide. They returned to commit the same deed that landed them in prison. These are not the actions of shy and timid disciples. This behavior only makes sense if the disciples truly encountered the risen Christ. Why would they risk their lives for a leader that was dead? Why would they resist the commands of the religious leaders if Christ’s promises had failed? Clearly, they are men possessed with passion and knowledge of Christ that needs to proclaimed. He has risen, he is the messiah, and God is calling all people to Him!
At this point the council have a serious problem. The warning given to the disciples is not curbing their behavior. They continue to do the very thing they were warned not to do. So the clear solution to this problem is probably the same solution to fix the Jesus problem….. murder. They must kill the apostles to get rid of them. However, they could not just go and kill the apostles because the masses loved them. They would have been stoned. This is evident by the fact that when the council showed up to bring them before the council meeting, they did not bring them by force, let the people get angered. So then, what is to be done with these disciples?
In our own lives we should be sure that if we are going to do the work of the Lord that He will be with us every step of the way. No council or foe will be able to prevent God’s will.
Once again we see how opposition is a common reaction to the message of the Gospel. The mere mention of the name of Jesus has set off a fit of jealousy and rage among the religious rulers of the time and their reaction is both irrational and unjustified. Choosing to imprison one on account of preaching the name of Jesus speaks out to just how hard their hearts were and how hate had completely consumed them.
Yet, God’s plan for them to continue His work was not thwarted. He set them free from prison and even when they were brought back, His Spirit had continued to fill them with boldness and courage. Fear was not in their hearts and they were able to answer with boldness that they only obey God and no one else. The power of God’s work in the lives of Peter and the apostles was so powerful that they could face this opposition head on.
Peter was not thrown off by the negative response that was coming from these religious rulers. He knew in his heart that this is where God wanted him to be and that he was going to use any opportunity he got to preach the Gospel, even to those whose hearts had become so hardened.