A study of Acts 5 reveals some interesting things about people who fear the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the previous chapter, the Sanhedrin imprisoned and then freed some of the disciples, ordering them not to preach the gospel. But the apostles ignored them and went right back to the ministry. So in Acts 5, they were re-arrested. Yet God had other plans and sent an angel to free them from prison and they went right back to preaching in the temple again.
The Sanhedrin, determined to put a stop to it, had the disciples brought “without violence” to make an appearance before their court. The high priest opened the session with an attempt at playing the victim as he contradicted himself. Wallowing in his shameful self-pity, Annas the high priest said, “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us,” (Acts 5:28). Annas basically implied that preaching the gospel was making them look bad and was threatening their lives, victimizing them because the disciples taught that Christ’s wrongful crucifixion made them out to be murderers. Boo-hoo.
In the midst of implying that the disciples got their history and facts incorrect, the high priest lied and contradicted himself, quite possibly hoping the disciples would be too ignorant to catch on. Annas said the apostles intended to bring Christ’s blood upon them. But Annas had already brought Christ’s blood upon himself and upon the unbelieving Jewish leaders and on the unbelieving Jewish population. If you recall at the trial of Jesus, when Pilate gave the people a choice to release Christ or Barabbas, after Pilate warned them about shedding Christ’s innocent blood, the people (under the direction of Annas and his son-in-law Caiaphas) cried out, “His blood be on us, and on our children,” (Matthew 27:25).
Thankfully, Peter didn’t fall for it and stuck to the facts, boldly telling Annas and the Sanhedrin, “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree,” (Acts 5:29-30). Then he retold them the gospel, pointing out they could repent and receive forgiveness for their sins. After hearing it, the Sanhedrin was “cut to the heart” out of their fear and guilt and wanted to kill all of the disciples, proving once again they were the murderers the disciples said they were, despite their denials and attempts to play the victim. Legal expert Gamaliel fortunately diverted their murderous intentions and the disciples were freed.
In our times, the people so adamantly opposed to Christianity and the Bible often exhibit the same traits as Annas. They may claim Christianity victimizes them when, in fact, they are the ones who wish to eradicate Christians, often with murder in mind. They contradict themselves or distort the facts with the hope of distracting Christians from their God-given message. Like Annas, they do it because of a fear-filled, guilt-ridden conscience over their sins. Our response should be the same as Peter’s–sticking to the facts of the gospel message and fearlessly, lovingly proclaiming it even when they tell us to shut up. When we do that, we will be firsthand witnesses of God blessing us for it, even if our lives are in jeopardy.
Harry A. Gaylord