In Isolation Thoughts 2

 

Sunday 12th July 2020

Music: YouTube-Stand up, stand up for Jesus by the Celebration Choir

Bible Reading: Acts 5.12-42

Life is Easy, No its Not

In the last hundred-plus days, we all have become accustomed to the daily newscast by the government on the latest pandemic figures. One of the things that was shown every day was the graph of the trends in identified cases of Covid and sadly, the number of deaths. One of the obvious indicators was the rise and fall in the trends. If the apostle Peter had been giving a newscast for the early Church, then no doubt if he used a graph, we would see a rise and fall- a continual fluctuation of their experience as the early church. I suppose it started with a big drop at the crucifixion, then rose dramatically at the resurrection, their joy was constant until the Ascension. Perhaps it will go down waiting for the Holy Spirit, when that came and they were filled with power, it would shoot so high that it would go off the scale. I am sure that it remained quite high when they healed the lame man. There was a little dip when they were arrested but on their release, even though they were now acting against the instruction of the Sanhedrin they felt much more confident. Last week, we saw the problem with the dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphira. I have a feeling that the graph dropped quite a bit. If we look at the pattern of all of these events, we find that the highs are followed by lows. Then comes the next high. One of the recurring themes in the New Testament, especially in the epistles of the apostle Paul, are words of encouragement to be shared among the Christian church. We see the setbacks and the problems that the church faced in those early days, yet it is so wonderful as we see God intervening and lifting them up again. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, were a great shock to the early Christians, no wonder they were fearful, what would happen next? God did not let them down, God did not leave them in despair, Jesus had promised them while he was here on earth that he would never leave them or forsake them. In the verses we read from chapter 5, we see that this promise was kept.

Miracles of Healing

So after what seemed a setback, we find the Apostles in the Temple area again, in an important thoroughfare, known as Solomon’s Colonnade. They were teaching the people about Jesus, it would appear that no one dared to oppose them. The incident with Ananias and Sapphira had caused a fear come on the people, the result was not a falling away of early followers but the opposite. Men and Women were being saved and joining the church, so that the numbers grew considerably.

This time of growth in the church had been triggered by the healing of the lame man. Now we find the people were bringing their sick friends and neighbours to the apostles in the hope that they would be healed. Such was their faith and so great their numbers, that they wanted Peter’s shadow to fall on them. Such was the impact of what was happening, people were coming from outlying villages and bringing many to the apostles for healing. Such was the power of the apostles’ witness and the presence of the Holy Spirit; miracles of healing happened all the time. As a result, many more found faith in Jesus and were able to return home healed in body and in spirit.

In the world today, which is in fear from the covid virus, many people are turning to the Christian church via the Internet and seeking for answers. It needs to be made clear, just as in the time of Acts 5, that Jesus is the answer, the only answer. We need to be faithful to God’s word and show the way of salvation is in Christ alone.

Mystery of Release

Now with all this is going on it is not surprising that the Jewish authorities became upset and took action. It appears that one of the sects in the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, were jealous of the success of the apostles preaching. So they had them arrested and put in the common jail. That was one way to stop them preaching. Their intention was to bring them before the Sanhedrin the following day, cross examine them and deal with them.

God had other plans, their intention was to be frustrated. The Apostles had been performing miracles, now God performed a miracle. He sent an angel who opened the doors of the jail, all the way to the cells where the Apostles being held. The angel lead them out of the prison and told them to go and stand in the Temple and proclaim the message of new life in Jesus. It is not surprising that this was exactly what they did. We recall a previous meeting with the Sanhedrin where the outcome was a deliberate rejection of the instruction to be silent. To be silent was not possible for them with their new power from heaven, they had the authority of God, they could not be silent.

If everybody else knew what was happening, it appears is that the Sanhedrin were not aware. They carried on as if nothing had happened. They sent guards to bring the Apostles from the prison to stand before them. They were in for a shock, for when the guards went to collect them, they found their prison cell was empty. That was impossible, but they had to go back and report to the Sanhedrin. They were at a loss as what to do. It did not take long for the news that the Apostles were preaching in the Temple surrounded by crowds. The guards were sent to bring them to the Assembly. They handled the situation with kid gloves, the people were supportive of the Apostles and their teaching. The numbers joining the church were continually increasing.

In many places in the world today we find that the preaching of the gospel as opposed. Men and women are being put in prison for their faith. Despite their suffering, we see that their faith is strengthened and their witness has resulted in others finding Jesus. We may not be in prison, but we still have a duty and responsibility to be witnesses for Jesus and point others to him.

Mission from God

The scene is familiar, we are back in the Sanhedrin and the apostles are being told to stop preaching about Jesus. They were reminded of the previous instruction, not to preach about Jesus. The accusation was that they totally disregarded that instruction and they continued to fill the city with this teaching. It is obvious that the Jewish leaders were feeling guilty, they suggested that the purpose of the preaching is to make them feel guilty. When you are in a hole you should stop digging. Obviously the Sanhedrin had not heard that advice, they continued to challenge Peter that he was accusing them, under Jewish law of the murder of Jesus.

Peter did not take the bait, he turned the debate back to the original argument. The argument that was the focus of their first meeting.

  • Who were they to obey? God or man?
  • The power thae raised Jesus from the dead was the God of their ancestors.
  • It was your action of hanging Him on a cross which allowed God to raise Him to life.
  • You put Him in a place of disgrace and ignomy. However, Hr was no longer in shame, He was now exalted to God’s right hand. Where He is a Prince and Saviour, He now calls Israel to repent because by his death he forgave their sins.
  • Peter does not pull his punches, he does not dodge the issue. What cannot be denied is that they were witnesses to all that happened and the Holy Spirit gave them the power to be witnesses.

This response was like putting petrol on the fire. The Sanhedrin erupted, so much so, that they wanted to kill them there and then. Among the elders was a man who was totally respected, he was a leader and teacher who drew their respect. His name was Gamaliel. He tried to calm them down by reminding them of history. There have been movements before which seemed to threaten the stability of the nation.

  • Theudas had a following of 400 men. He was killed and his followers dispersed. The revolt came to nothing.
  • Judas the Galilean also led a revolt but when he was killed his followers scattered. This revolt also came to nothing.
  • Jesus had a following and if it was originated by man it will fail just like the others. However, if it came from God they will not be able to stop it. They would find themselves fighting God. They would lose!

This argument found favour with the others. He was saying they should wait and see what happened. Nevertheless, they felt they had to do something so they had the Apostles flogged, then let them go with strict instructions not to preach about Jesus.

This action had the opposite effect to their intention as the apostles saw their suffering as a reward for their faithfulness to the name of Jesus. Did it stop them? No! They carried on every day in the Temple and in the houses with the same message. Their message it was quite simple- Jesus was the Messiah and it was good news of hope for everyone.

What can we learn from this incident?

  • The death of Jesus brings hope to all who believe and trust in him.
  • There is only one way for our sins to be forgiven and that is through Jesus.
  • Life will not always be easy, there will be ups and downs, highs and lows. We have total assurance that we are not alone Jesus is always with us. The Holy Spirit will give us power and strength.
  • Despite any opposition, any indifference, any persecution we must hold firm to the faith and be witnesses for Christ.

How is strong is our faith and how powerful is our witness? How would we fare in front of a Sanhedrin?

Music: YouTube- Fight the good fight by The First Plymouth Church

 


Page last updated: 4th July 2020 3:40 PM
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