5 May 2011

Acts 5:27-33

"We are witnesses to these things" (v. 32)


In today's passage, which takes place before the Sanhedrin, we see a double foundation for the authority's anger. Not only were the high priests and the sadducees blamed for the murder of Christ and found a volatile Jerusalem beginning to grow hostile, they were also bitterly opposed to the teaching of the resurrection. Yet in contempt of court and in defiance of its authority, the Apostles had effectively "filled Jerusalem" (v. 28) with their teaching. It is interesting that the high priest avoids mentioning the name of Jesus by saying "this man" (v. 28).

The Apostles' response took the form of a mini sermon. It's remarkable that their main concern was not to defend themselves but to lift up Christ and, in a principle of civil and ecclesiastical disobedience, say "we must obey God rather than any human authority" (v. 29).

There are three main points to this mini sermon:

  • "The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead, whom you killed by hanging him on a cross" (v. 30). It is the familiar contrast you killed him, God raised him.
  • "God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour" (v. 31). This is powerful - a crucified man has been exalted by God to be the one who gives "repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins" (v. 31)!
  • The Apostles were witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus. But they were not only eye witnesses; they felt compelled to tell other people what had happened.

Hearing these words the reaction of the council was understandably one of fury. The Apostles had touched a raw nerve and the council were of a mind to have the Apostles put to death, just as they had disposed of Jesus.


To Ponder

Do you find the name of Jesus causes offence today? Where and in what way?

What kind of witness are you in the face of criticism?

Bible notes author

The Revd Steve Wild

Born in Rochdale, Steve Wild is a proud Lancastrian, but is at home in his adopted Cornwall where he is chair of district. Steve has been a Methodist minister since 1983 and has served in Cornwall, Preston and Cliff College (as tutor, connexional director of evangelism and acting principal).