"Persecution Escalates"

Preached by on February 19, 2012
— From the series,

The warning was given with the crippled man, but now it is time for more action. Just as the desired goal of the Sanhedrin was to kill Jesus, now it is to kill the apostles. One man among them stands up and speaks about God at work. Will they listen?

Persecution Escalates

(Acts 5:27-33)

 

Intro:

A.  There are some issues that I hold to, understandings of Biblical teachings, which I believe are the correct understanding.  When someone challenges those teachings I quickly dismiss them.  There are times when I don’t even really listen to what they have to say because I have heard it all before and I am not going to change my mind.  I came to this understanding through a search of the scripture and I am not leaving it.  But, what if I was wrong?  Am I open to challenging everything I believe, searching again through God’s Word, to make sure my beliefs were not based upon my emotions, my traditions, or a false understanding?

B.  The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews that held great power and influence in political and spiritual world of Palestine during the first half of the first century.  While we meet them in the Gospels, we find that they are always against John the Baptist and Jesus.  They don’t seem to have much of the backing of the people, but they do seem to have backing from the political powers that be.  The two big issues that set these people apart from other Jews sects like the Pharisees, is that the Sadducees did not believe in angels or a resurrection from the dead.

C.  Can you imagine how these people feel, which history would tell us that high priest family was also of the Sadducees, when the disciples of Jesus, whom they already commanded to not speak after the healing of the lame beggar, are now out speaking again about Jesus being raised from the dead?  These apostles are an irritant.  They are stirring up the people in theological areas that the Sadducees do not believe and then attempting to place them as guilty of killing the Messiah.  These people are not angry with the apostles for what they DOING, they are angry about what they are TEACHING.

I.  The Story

A.  I want to share with you the story that takes place from which our reading was a part of.  It actually starts back in verse 17.  Here they in jail and an angel breaks them out to teach again.

B.  The core emotion that we see in Holy Scripture is that these Sadducees and the high priest family were jealous.  The argument of teaching false doctrine was not the real issue, it was based upon jealousy.  It must have been difficult to know the people sided more with the Pharisees than with them, but now, this new upstart group was getting the most attention.  Their whole way of life, politics and religion was on the line.

C.  With an examination that the guards were still at the door to the jail and the apostle had somehow manage to escape, the only thing left was to bring them back again.  Now understand this, the apostle did not stage a rally, they did not cry foul, they did not protest, they simply went back without being forced.

D.  So here they are standing before the council and this is what these leaders have to say to the apostles (verse 28).  Isn’t it interesting that they did not the apostles how they escaped the jail?  I guess they did not want to hear an answer that might involve an angel.  It seemed obvious that it was supernatural.  But these men were not here to examine facts or religious teachings.  They were angry because these apostle were teaching after being to keep quiet.  What is wonderful is the accusation tells us the result of the apostles teachings:  the apostles had filled Jerusalem with their teaching.  Can the same be said of us?  Have we filled the South Hills with the teaching of the good news of Jesus?  Have we filled the South Hills with love of God and extended to our neighbors the invitation to find salvation from sin?  Are we bold enough to speak with people around us want to keep us quiet?

E.  The second aspect that these leaders had issue with was that the apostles were making it clear that the religious leaders we part of the reason for the death of Jesus on the cross.  Had these men forgotten the cry that went up before Pilate, “Let his blood be upon us and our children!”  Well, it was.  But I don’t get a sense these men feel guilty about the death of Jesus.

F.  The apostles make a statement that should ring within our own lives, “we must obey God rather than men.”  The reason Jesus came was to call people to repentance and to offer them forgiveness.  It was not about want to make these people look back, it was about being accountable for sin and these men refused to accept their sin and in their anger they wanted to kill the apostle.

II.  Listen To Reason

A.   Beginning with verse 34 we have a Pharisee that steps in.  A man who is well respected.  A man who was also the teacher of a young Jew named Saul from Tarsus.  This man was Rabbi Gamaliel.  Look what he has to say ( verses 35-39).

B.  Would history simply repeat itself?  Was Jesus really dead and these men simply using his name to get attention?  Gamaliel’s reason was that if these apostles were simply doing their own thing it would come to an end by its own accord.  It had happened in the past and there is no reason to believe it would not happen again.  They will fail like all the others.

C.  His final warning and reason as to leave these men alone was that if what they had to say was true, then the council could not win for they would find themselves fighting against God.  It sounds like good solid advice.  From a worldly point of view it was.  The only problem with this teaching is that leads a person to believe that you can simply be neutral about Jesus.  You don’t have to be for him and you don’t have to be against him.  What we know is that is not true.  For Jesus himself said, “If you are not for me you are against me.”  You cannot be neutral concerning Jesus.  Many in the world today are trying to do just that.

D.  Aida Skripnikova, a Russian girl who was born in 1941 in Leningrad. “In the fall of 1961 Aida came to know Christ, and with her new faith came the impulse to share it with others.  In April 1962, she was tried by a Communist court. She was exiled from Leningrad and lost her job as a lab assistant. She was arrested again in 1965 and was sent to a labor camp for a year. In 1968 she was arrested again and was sent to a labor camp for three more years.  Do you ever wonder why people like Aida won’t just stop speaking out when they face persecution?

Conclusion:

A.  The last time Peter and John stood before these men they were to keep quiet.  Read verse 40.  They beat them.  They whipped them.  And the reaction of these men?  Verse 41-42.  Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross.  Lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss.  From victory unto victory His army shall he lead.  Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.