We’re reading the book of Acts, where the very first Christians gathered and organised themselves as what we now call the church.
This week, we’re going to explore a story where the ruling authorities question Peter and the apostles. We’ve already seen this group, called the Sadducees, pushing back on the early Christians because of how their message threatened the religious status quo they represented. But now they’ve hauled these first Christians in for questioning again. Here’s the story:
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. (Acts 5:27-33 ESV)
So the ruling council are the Sadducees, a fairly recently formed group that had a great deal of political power, made up of wealthy and educated elites.
The Sanhedrin or ruling council have figured out what Peter and friends are up to. They keep accusing the religious elite of killing Jesus. The elite have carefully cultivated an image of perfection and holiness, they are the ones who identify, accuse and punish sinners. Now this upstart Christian movement is labelling the ruling council’s Sadducees and Pharisees as sinners! They told the Christians to stop, they haven’t, and so they’re in trouble again. “You intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” they said. See how angry the Sanhedrin are – won’t even say his name – “this man’s blood” which only contrasts with the claims of Jesus’ followers, that he was much more than just a man.
Peter says, “we must obey God rather than men” which was just another way of saying “God, not you”. And then he does it…again!!!! He gives the story in a nutshell again – God raised Jesus, and exalted him as Leader and Saviour.
Leader is actually being translated from a Greek word we’ve seen in a previous week, “archegos” which means pioneer, author, leader, prince. We call this series pioneer story because it’s about the first Christians who were pioneers of a sort, but mainly because they were following THE pioneer, Jesus.
Peter says to the council, You killed Jesus, God raised him. Yes, the same God, the God of our fathers, not some new made-up god. Basically, if you have a problem with us and Jesus, you have a problem with the God you claim to represent. And he says Jesus offers repentance and forgiveness to Israel, which they would recognize as the role of God, and God alone. Peter is saying Jesus is God, and they didn’t notice, worse they killed Jesus.
With that bit of context, I’m not as surprised they were enraged and wanted to kill him.
Question: Through these events, what are the council, and people like you and I, learning about the Christian movement? What words can describe them?
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