We’ve seen Jesus’ first followers get inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, organize themselves, and start boldly sharing their message with the crowds in Jerusalem, then healing a crippled man. So far it’s all gone pretty well, and you might think they will live happily ever after, but then it starts to fall apart.
Here’s what happens in Chapter 4 of Acts:
And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:1-13 ESV)
The culture and religious life of Israel centered on the temple. It was the venue for a system of sacrifices, and an entire economy supporting it. It was a constant site of pilgrimage. For first century Jews, daily life was highly religious, the temple was the focus, and so it was the center of power.
By consequence, those who looked after it were powerful people. The priests were those who attended to the sacrifices and ritual life of the temple. The captain of the temple led the temple guard, its own private police force. The Sadducees were a wealthy, educated, politically powerful ruling council. Romans would interact with these groups to get things done.
They clearly see some threat in what Peter and the crowd represent, since they have him arrested. These three powerful groups all line up against the early Christians.
Question: How does each unique audience hear and respond to the apostles and their message? Why?
Meeting with a Group? Your discussion questions are in this week’s Group Study Guide[permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink]