Peter and John have thus far been arrested once for preaching. Two church members have died suddenly in the face of their own hypocrisy. Now, all twelve of the apostles are put in jail, threatened, and severely beaten. Acts 5:17 records that the religious authorities had the apostles arrested out of jealousy. The word jealousy in Greek is zelos, from which we get the word zealous. Clearly, the apostles had some zeal of their own.
Zeal means focusing on the mission.
Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!” – Acts 5:29
God is not only granting the church incredible success, He is utterly humiliating the authorities. But you note that the apostles say nothing about the jailbreak, or the fact that the Sanhedrin is simply rehashing their earlier threats. They simply speak the Gospel, just as boldly as ever. They don’t react with pride or fear: only determination. Remember also, this is right after the fiasco with Ananias and Sapphira. The church was increasingly faced with major distractions, but remained on message.
The Sanhedrin had their own sort of zeal. They were so wrapped up in their own perspective that they saw God's miracles as a hindrance. They impotently tried to intimidate the apostles, tried to impose their authority over them. It took one of their most respected elders to get them to even consider the possibility that the apostles could be doing God’s work.
· Are we more zealous in protecting our own interests than we are in advancing God's?
· Do we miss miracles around us because we're looking for the payoff for ourselves?
Zeal means dying to oneself.
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. – Acts 5:41
Peter and John have already been arrested and threatened. This time, the Sadducees target the apostles as a whole. They seek to humiliate them by throwing them in jail, then flogging them. But even when the apostles are physically beaten, they take it with a smile. They praise God for the pain, and they don't even slow down. To them, the Good News is still good, and God continues to empower them to deliver it. They honestly don’t care what happens to them. They preach that Jesus is the Lord over everything, and they prove it by their self-sacrifice.
Gamaliel remembered the rebels of the past, whose followers scattered when things got tough. He was content to let the church prove itself. If it were not God empowering them, they would be like all the others: self-preservation would kick in, and they would go home. They didn’t back down. Soon, the Greek word for witness would give us the word martyr.
· Do your priorities prove your faith?