Acts 5:12-28 (AD 30)
Already, in the early days of the early church, the patterns that led to the murder of Jesus threatened to lead to the killing of his followers.
There were the miraculous healings – loads of them – and great popularity, followed inevitably by the “high priest and all his associates” being “filled with jealousy” (v.17). And as night follows day, the jealousy led to, “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail”.
Not for the first time, nor the last, God wasn’t having it, so he “opened the doors of the jail and brought them out”. Just like that. Like Jesus literally walking through a crowd that had taken him to a cliff edge to throw him off. No great ceremony, no speech, just God opening a locked door so his servants could get out.
What happened then is perhaps more startling than the escape itself – look what God told them to do: “Go, stand in the temple courts…and tell the people all about this new life” (v.20). Bear in mind it was the high priest and his associates who had them locked up, and God’s angel told his disciples to go – right up to the high priest and his associates – and carry on preaching the gospel. The testimony to the public, and the authorities, that God’s world could not be held back, was startling.
How long, you might ask, did the disciples take to relax and recharge after their prison experience, before going back into battle? After all, they must have been emotionally drained and physically exhausted after their experience.
God got them out of jail “during the night”, and “At daybreak” they were back at it, telling people about Jesus. They didn’t even get a night’s sleep before they were back at it, serving God, urgently spreading the good news about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins.
Meanwhile the religious rulers were in a situation of comedic farce: they sent to the jail to fetch the prisoners and found the doors locked but no disciples inside (God locking the doors behind them emphasised the miraculous escape, proving the impossibility of them breaking out, à la the intact burial clothes after the resurrection). Then, while in a state of bewilderment, someone said er, guys, they’re right outside…and they’re preaching again.
And this is where the scene – as it did so often before bwith Jesus – got tragic again. They saw the miraculous healings, they saw the evidence of the miraculous escape, they could see the total transformation of the previously scaredy-cat disciples. But the only things motivating them were pride and jealousy.
Thank God that his Word is unstoppable, be inspired by the total focus and godly energy of people just like you, and pray for those you love who are determined not to believe in Jesus.