Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gamaliel's Council

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Act 5:33-42)
So how does Luke know what Gamaliel said, if the disciples were put outside when Gamaliel gave his council? Well, he heard it from Gamaliel’s star student, a man known as Saul who would come to be known as Paul.  Of course, this is rather perplexing too. Gamaliel comes off as such a peaceful person, giving wise advice and counseling caution. But Saul will be zealous in his persecution of the church. It could be that even Gamaliel’s patience had worn thin by the time the persecution stones Stephen, or it could be that Saul is trying to prove himself and just had a different personality than Gamaliel. In any case, that the Pharisees would be a little more patient with the disciples makes sense. After all, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees did not. But the Sadducees also had more to lose. The Sadducees were in charge of the temple, and it was in their best interest to keep everything at status  quo. Talk of a messiah made them nervous, it jeopardized their place in the temple that the Romans could change at any time. They dearly want to know the things that make for peace, but in all their blindness they just can’t find it. They persecute the one thing that does make for peace, the body of Christ.
The disciples taking their beating rejoice that they have been able to suffer for his name and then they continue to preach and teach, in the temple and from house to house. The persecution makes them more bold.

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