The New LifeNovember 3, 2016
GamalielNovember 17, 2016
It was morning and we were at Solomon’s Porch sharing the story of the angel freeing us from prison. Friends were crowding around us eager to hear the details. Energy and excitement filled the air. The people were awe-struck by the image of this lightning-bolt angel, and they peppered us with questions.
Nicodemus later told us that when the high priest and his associates arrived at the Hall of Polished Stones that morning for their meeting, they sent to the jail for us. But on arriving at the jail, of course the officers found only empty cells. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”
Ha! Imagine that.
On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. Then someone came in and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.”
At that the captain came with his officers and found us at Solomon’s Porch. They asked us to accompany them. Asked, mind you, not forced. They did not use force because they feared the people would attack them. It was clear they too were in wonderment, and a semi-state of shock as to what had happened back at the jail.
They brought us in and made us stand before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. You see, the Sanhedrin judged accused lawbreakers, but could not initiate arrests. It required a minimum of two witnesses to convict a suspect. There were no lawyers, just the Sanhedrin, the accusers, and the witnesses.
We didn’t need two, or any defense witnesses for that matter. There were twelve of us ready to testify and defend ourselves. We were undaunted in our confidence. After experiencing an angel personally escorting you out of prison, wouldn’t you be?
The seventy men of the Sanhedrin sat in a semicircle facing Annas and Caiaphas – and our little group of twelve. Annas glared at us and said accusingly, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in the name of this Jesus. Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
You can see their fear, right? When they saw Jesus dying on the cross they mocked him and hurled insults at him. They were proud to have silenced this heretic rebel. They celebrated their success and were quite fond of themselves.
But Nicodemus told us that even then he could see they were nervous, and there was anxiety even in their celebration. Nicodemus says he could tell they had a nagging sense of unease deep within them. They couldn’t rid themselves of the haunting feeling they had killed an innocent man.
Today, in all their religious garb, and surrounded by their ‘weapons of the world,’ they were afraid of being blamed for killing Jesus. Yes, these powerful, proud men were scared, but we were not. We had the Holy Spirit’s power; they had only their power and position. In other words, they had nothing.
I started to talk first, but then each of us joined in at various times. Dr. Luke summed up the essence of what we said quite nicely: “You told us to shut up, but we must obey God rather than human beings,” I said. “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead, whom you – and I pointed directly at Caiaphas – killed by hanging him on a cross.” That made him squirm.
I knew I was provoking this powerful man, but I had cowered in fear of him once, and failed Jesus. I would not fail him again.