Bible Study March 18 for Worship April 7Posted: March 14, 2013
Bible Study March 18 for Worship April 7
Acts 5: 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 some one 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.
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.”
In Luke’s account of the early church this story occurs after the Pentecost Experience and before the martyrdom of St. Stephen. The Apostles were still attending daily prayers in the Temple, and they thought of themselves as good Jews, who were preaching the way of Jesus as an expression of Judaism. No gentiles had yet been converted. The Deacons as officers in the Jerusalem church had not been selected. The Temple Authorities, however saw these upstart, uneducated, common ordinary Jews forming their own religious community as a threat. This was Jesus coming back to haunt them in a way they had never anticipated.
The ministry of the Apostles began to take off, when they discovered that the Holy Spirit at Pentecost had bestowed upon them the gift of healing. Preaching is all well and good, but healing really attracts a following. In chapter three of the Book of Acts Peter accompanied by John healed a lame beggar at the gates of the temple. In response to the commotion created by the now formerly lame beggar celebrating his healing, Peter, John and the beggar were all arrested and brought before the ruling council the Sanhedrin. Peter claimed boldly that the healing at been performed in the name of Jesus, and that really ticked the High Priests off. But since the formerly lame man was standing right there the Priests were unable to railroad a condemnation through the Sanhedrin. Peter and John were simply instructed not to preach or perform any more healings in the name of Jesus.
Now we need to remember these Apostles were the same people, who at the first sign of trouble, when Jesus was arrested, they all went into hiding. They boasted and talked a good game at the Last Supper, “Lord, we are ready to follow you to prison and to death,” but when the chips were down the Apostles were gone. Something new had happened. They had been encouraged and empowered by their experience of the Risen Christ. The Holy Spirit had bestowed spiritual gifts upon them, and one of those gifts was courage.
In defiance of the orders of the High Priests, the Apostles returned to the Temple preaching the way of Jesus to anyone who would listen. So the Sadducees resorted to intimidation. The Temple police rounded up all of the Apostles and put them in the common jail over night. “Let them spend some time in the cooler, and then we will question them.” The strategies of intimidation are distressingly common – threats, intimidation, low level punishments to begin. People who abuse power count on exploiting the fears of others. Shoot a few in the head, send a bunch to the Gulag and the others will fall in line.
In the middle of the night, however, an angel came and let the Apostles out of jail. We do not know if this was a heavenly angel or a sympathizer among the jailers. And the time behind bars did not deter the Apostles, for the next morning there they were in the Temple courts preaching in the name of Jesus again. The escape of the Apostles must have become a favorite story in the early church, for the Temple Police come out looking like the keystone cops. 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the sentries standing at the doors, but when we opened it we found no one inside.” The Temple Police re-arrested the Apostles but did not rough them up out of fear of the crowd that had gathered.
Again the High Priests tried to resort to intimidation: “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.”
When people are no longer afraid, however, intimidation does not work: “We must obey God rather than men. . . we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The question I hear this passage asking me, and I think other people, “what would you do, if you were not afraid? In a recent “Still Speaking Devotional” Anthony Robinson spoke to this very question.
A friend says, “When you’re at the end of your rope, let go. There’s a reason you’re there.” She is not saying give up. I think she is saying stop trying to do it all by yourself.
“Sooner or later . . . some event, person, death, idea or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources.”
It happens. We get to end of our rope. The end of our own private resources. What then? Let go and put all your trust in God who is able, says Paul, “to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.”
The Apostles had been led far beyond their own private resources of courage and faith that had failed them so miserably on the night Jesus was betrayed. We they learned on Easter morning and through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was that God can give us new resources of courage and resilience far beyond our poor powers. When we let God see us through, we will not yield to intimidation, and we can be bold witnesses to the way of Jesus over against the powers of fear and death.
So what would you do, if you were not afraid?
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. What began to attract the common people to the ministry of the Apostles?
2. How did the High Priest respond to the increasing popularity of the Apostles?
3. What sign of deliverance did God give to the Apostles?
4. When the Apostles got out of prison, where did they go?
5. Who came looking for the Apostles?
6. What did they find?
7. Who told the High Priest, where the Apostles could be found?
8. How did the Temple Police handle the Apostles on their way to the appearance before the ruling Council?
9. What did the High Priest say to the Apostles?
10. Who responded on behalf of the Apostles?
11. What did he say?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. When confronted by the Temple Police, why do you think the Apostles did not run away?
2. How would you feel if the authorities locked you up over night?
3. How do you think the Apostles got out of the jail?
4. If you had escaped from jail, would you have gone back to the Temple Courts in the morning?
5. If you had been a member of the crowd listening to the Apostles in the morning, what would you have done, when the Temple Police came to arrest them a second time?
6. If you had been one of the Apostles in the morning, when you saw the Temple Police coming, what would you have done?
7. What is the most intimidating situation you have even found yourself in?
8. How do you feel, when you allow yourself to be intimidated?
9. When are you most susceptible to your fears?
10. What would you do if you were not afraid?
11. What do you think is the relationship between your faith and your fears?
Week of April 1 – April 7: First Sunday of Eastertide – Acts 5:27-32 – Resurrection Witness – Psalm 118:14-29, Psalm 150, Revelation 1:4-8, John 20:19-31.