Thursday of week 2 of Easter – First Reading


Commentary on Acts 5:27-33

After having been miraculously released from jail and returned to the Temple to continue their preaching in the name of Jesus, the apostles were re-arrested and brought again before the 71-member Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews.

They were accused of two things:

  • they had continued to preach in “that name” (their accusers could  not bring themselves even to mention the name of Jesus) all over Jerusalem, even though they had been strictly forbidden to do so; and
  • they were blaming the Jewish leadership for Jesus’ death (a contentious issue in our own day, although we do need to remember that those against whom the accusations were being made were themselves all devoutly religious Jews and whose Lord and Saviour was a Jew).

The apostles were not in the least fazed by these accusations.  The men who were so fearful at the time of Jesus’ death and immediately after now spoke out boldly.  “It is better for us to obey God than men!” they told their judges.

“The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.”  Their accusers were undoubtedly accomplices in the death of Jesus; their motives a mixture of religious narrow-mindedness and political self-interest.  But the apostles believed that Jesus was now in glory as Ruler and Saviour “to bring repentance to Israel [that is, all their fellow-Jews] and forgiveness of sin”.  The title they give to Jesus corresponds to ‘Prince and Redeemer’, applied to Moses, as a prefiguring of Christ, by Stephen in his address to the Sanhedrin, where he said that Moses too was rejected by his people (Acts 7:35).  There is an implicit comparison here of Jesus with Moses, something that the apostles’ judges would certainly not have liked.

But they were witnesses to all that they were saying.  They could not say or do otherwise, no matter what others might tell them.  And the Holy Spirit was with them.  Their testimony was directed and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, who is given to all those who respond to God with “the obedience that comes from faith”.

It reminds one of Thomas More in England who refused to recognise King Henry VIII as head of the Church in England.  “The king’s good servant but God’s first,” he said.  For refusing to compromise his faith and integrity he lost his life.  For Thomas, too, there was no other choice. And there have been many others like him down the ages.  Many Christians today languish in jails and camps for no other reason.

Not surprisingly, the stance of the apostles infuriated their judges who wanted them put to death for what seemed blasphemous language.

Tomorrow we will see the completion of this story…

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