Bible Study 4.30.12, 5.3.12, 5.6.12 For Worship 5.13.12Posted: April 28, 2012
Bible Study 4.30.12, 5.3.12, 5.6.12 For Worship 5.13.12
Acts 5:12 Now many signs and wonders were done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico.
13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high honor.
14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women,
15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.
16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
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 common prison.
19 But at 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 taught. Now the high priest came and those who were with him and called together the council and all the senate 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, and they returned and reported,
23 “We found the prison securely locked and the sentries standing at the doors, but when we opened it we found no one inside.”
24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to.
25 And someone came and told them, “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 without violence, 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.
The followers of Jesus were still centered on the temple. Last week Peter healed a lame man who had been begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple for years, because the disciples were still going to the Temple to pray the hours. There was no denying this healing. Everyone had known the lame man at the gate of the Temple, and now he was walking. News about new healing therapies travels fast even in the 21st century. In the First Century world where there were fewer treatment options, news of miraculous healing spread like wild fire. People were bringing their sick friends and relatives to the disciples in hopes of a healing.
In our lesson this week the followers of Jesus were gathering on Solomon’s porch to preach the good news of Jesus. Solomon’s porch was a covered portico on the south side of the Temple compound in the court of the Gentiles, where many rabbis and religious teachers hung out. We can imagine the High Priests fretting over these followers of the Nazarene. After all they thought they had stamped out this Jesus thing, and here were his followers right there in the Temple Courts preaching in his name. Worse people were bringing sick people to the followers of Jesus for healing. It was clear to the Sadducees things were getting out of hand. It was time to move in on these Jesus people. So they sent the Temple Police to arrest all of the followers of Jesus who were on Solomon’s Porch that day and threw them in the common prison, even roughed them up a bit. The High Priests may have figured allowing the disciples to cool their heels in prison might put the fear of the Temple into them. In the middle of the night, however, according to the text, an angel came and let the disciples out of the prison and told them to go stand in the courts of the temple and preach the gospel.
Maybe it was an angel. I am tempted to think it might have been a Jewish sympathizer, who out of guilt or resentment against the High Priests for the death of Jesus, chose to risk himself to set the disciples free. Either way, the disciples were there in the morning in the Temple Courts preaching. Meanwhile the High Priests were convening the council to hear the case of these troublesome Jesus people. But when they sent for the prisoners, the prisoners weren’t there. What an embarrassment! And the prisoners hadn’t just escaped they were back at it preaching in the courts of the Temple! I can imagine there was a lot of finger pointing, shrugging and general embarrassment in front of the whole Sanhedrin.
When the assembly was informed that the disciples were back in the Temple preaching, the captain of the guard and his functionaries went to arrest them. We should not they did so “without violence,” because they were afraid of being stoned by the people. We should note this indicates the disciples were building up some of the same kind of support Jesus enjoyed at the beginning of the Holy Week.
When the disciples were brought before the Sanhedrin they were asked why they were continuing to preach, when they had been told not to preach, and Peter, inspired with new courage answered: “We must obey God rather than men.”
Living by faith can be scary especially when our actions threaten those who are in control and authority. Living in a democracy is a rare privilege, but all we have to do is look at places like China, Russia, Syria, Iran to see the kinds of oppression those members of the early church were facing. As the early church began to experience some success in their ministry the authorities tried to intimidate them with arrest, jail, beatings.
Even though for the most part we do not face life threatening intimidation our livelihoods can often be threatened, when we commit truth. This can be true for whistle blowers and even clergy. The corporations will stop at almost nothing to protect their power, and now that the Supreme Court has guaranteed the Corporations the unlimited use of their money to dominate the media, we have to work incredibly hard just to make sure the truth gets a hearing. Hopefully the church can be an arena, where truth can be spoken. There will always be complaints that we can’t discuss politics in church. And certainly we need to be carefully identified with any partisan political side, but we still have to speak the truth, even if that means contradicting the conservative falsehood machine. We can use social media. We need to work very hard to spread the Progressive Christian gospel.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. Where were the apostles hanging out to perform their ministry?
2. Of what activities did their ministry consist?
3. How was general public opinion running about the disciples?
4. What about the disciple’s ministry seemed to attract the most attention?
5. How did the Temple authorities react to the disciples and their ministry?
6. When the disciples were arrested, where were they kept?
7. What happened in the night?
8. Where did the disciples go the next day?
9. When the Temple authorities tried to convene a hearing to consider the case of the disciples, what did they find?
10. When asked why they were disobeying the High Priest, what was Peter’s answer?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Why do you think the disciples were centering their ministry on the Temple?
2. Ultimately where would the church find the most fertile ground for its message?
3. Do you see any message in this passage for the church today?
4. Do you see any parallels between the Temple authorities trying to silence the disciples and our current situation today?
5. What role do you think the faith community can have in health care and healing?
6. How do you think the disciples got out of prison?
7. What do you think the situation looked like, when it was discovered that the disciples weren’t in the prison, where they were supposed to be?
8. What do you think empowered Peter’s courage to be able to talk back to the High Priest?
9. Have you ever felt intimidated by the authorities?
10. Have you ever felt that your life or your livelihood was threatened?
11. What issues or issues might inspire you to speak out against authority?
12. Can you think of “political issues,” the church should be speaking about?