Scripture

Acts 5:17-42

17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”

21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.

27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Reflection

Notice that today’s reading begins with feelings and acts of jealousy. Feelings of jealousy are flashing caution signs, warning us that we are probably not seeing things the way God sees them. The religious leaders of Israel are jealous of the apostles of Jesus and place them in jail. They want to shut them up. But, why would any religious leader become jealous when suffering people are finding true healing and hope? 

The Lord sends a gentle but clear response. An angel sets the apostles free to go and share the Good News in the Temple courts. Perhaps this gentle miracle, of setting the apostles free, is a sign for Gamaliel, one of the “jealous ones,” to pause and think again. Perhaps this miracle is what influenced him to choose the practice of discernment and contemplate the possibility that the apostles’ actions might actually be the work of God. 

Discernment is about pausing to consider how things look in God’s eyes so that we can recognize what God is doing in the “bigger picture.” Jealousy distorts everything! We can’t completely trust our own thoughts when we are jealous. But, when we pause and use discernment we can catch a glimpse of how God is seeing things and what God is doing. Then, we are better able to see what is true.

How has jealousy distorted your own understanding of a situation, a person or a group of people?

How has the practice of discernment, or pausing to see people and situations through God’s eyes, helped you understand what is true?

Prayer

Lord, teach me how to pause and practice discernment in every situation. Help me take time to see people and situations through your eyes. Release me from the power of jealousy so that I can see your truth. Amen.