As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. — Acts 4:1-4 (NASB)
The high priests had a problem on their hands.
Pentecost (Hebrew: Shavuoth) was a major Jewish festival held on the 6th (and usually the 7th) of Sivan, fifty days after the second day of Passover.
Roughly fifty days after Jesus of Nazareth was crucified and resurrected, his disciples healed a man at the gates of the Temple. This, of course, happened after that famous sermon where around 3,000 Jewish men were saved.
The lame beggar’s condition kept him shut out of the sacred building. But, the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through Peter raised him up and gave him perfect access through divine healing. This was much the same thing that Jesus himself did with lepers… healing and restoring access to those who had previously been locked out of the things of God.
This was different though.
The rabbi himself was gone and his disciples were carrying His divisive message into the Temple itself (probably the outer Courts). How those High Priests must have felt!
Matthew 28:12-13 … The priests’ response to the resurrection…
11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’
They had tried to cover up the truth of the resurrection and now these followers of Jesus were spreading their message in the Temple proper. It was bad on many levels.
- It was “bad for business”… Anyone in the Temple was a devout worshipper. That means they would bring sacrifices to the Temple to atone for their sins. Converting observant Jews to the Way would hamper the Temple sacrificial system… the main source of meat for the priest set aside for them by God under Levitical law.
- It was bad for their power base… the Sadducees had control of the Temple at that time and they were actively trying to curry favor with Rome. But, what good would secular power hold if religious power could not be held over the people themselves? And in the Temple of all places?
- It was bad for their traditions… after all, if the Pharisees and Sadducees could not agree on what was lawful (Torah or Interpretations or both?) then how could they ever reconcile themselves to the teachings of the Followers of the Way?
The Sadducees were in a very bad spot for all of these reasons and did not have a very good answer for the situation. They had crucified the Rabbi and witnessed the insurgency of His followers. Peter and John’s boldness caught the ruling elite off guard and it was a high price to pay… 3,000 devout followers lost at Pentecost and now another 2,000 lost in the Temple itself.
But it led me to wonder … are these the same things that try to get in the way and cause revival to fail in our day and time?
- Are we too close to our money to trust God to fix things for us? I mean… we are doing pretty well on our own, right? Do we really need to be blessed?
- To some, keeping people “in line” on matters totally unrelated to scripture is more important than their own personal pursuit of holiness and right standing with God. Don’t even get me started on how actual politics shape church discussions and circles of fellowship.
- Traditions… ah, yes, that most sacred of sacred cows. What do we do when the Holy Spirit leads us to do something that runs totally contrary to one of our deeply loved traditions and, yet, the call to obey is undeniable and totally scriptural?
These are just some thoughts the Holy Spirit brought to my mind last Sunday and, I hate to confess, this is not all of them. I waited too late to write them down and they are gone now. There was a fourth point that is totally missing from this post that is lost to the eternal ether.
My bottom line?
The Holy Spirit led Peter to do something that Jesus never did … teach in the Temple proper (as an adult without a whip, that is). Peter was way outside of his comfort zone but he obeyed and 2,000 followed. The Spirit had Peter walking in absolute obedience and, because of that, He worked some amazing miracles through that fisherman.
There are those that believe those days are over.
“God doesn’t work that way anymore,” they say.
I know because I used to say that very thing.
Then I learned more… the problem is, in my unbelief, I am not just part of the problem.
I am the problem.
Or as A.W. Tozer famously said, “Every man is as close to God as he wants to be.”
And that is why revival tarries…