Thursday, April 15, 2010

The courage of the apostles (Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter, John 3:27-33)

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God
Has given to those who obey him.”
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

* * * * * * * *

The arrest of the apostles was inevitable. The Sanhedrin had strictly ordered them to abstain from teaching in the name of Jesus and they had publicly disregarded that injunction. That to the Sanhedrin was a doubly serious matter. These apostles were not only heretics, they were also potential disturbers of the peace.

Palestine was always an inflammable country; if this were not checked it might well result in some kind of popular rising; and that was the last thing the priests and Sadducees wanted, because then Rome would intervene.

In the narrative of confrontation between the Sanhedrin and the apostles, we see vividly displayed the great characteristics of these men of God.

(i) They were persons of courage. The command to go straight back and preach in the Temple sounds to a prudent mind almost incredible. To obey that command was an act of almost reckless audacity. And yet they went.

(ii) They were men of principle. And their ruling principle was that in all circumstances obedience to God must come first. They never asked, "Is this course of action safe?" They asked, "Is this what God wants me to do?"

(iii) They had a clear idea of their task. They knew that they were witnesses for Christ. A witness is essentially one who speaks from first-hand knowledge. He knows from personal experience that what he says is true; it is impossible to stop someone like that because it is impossible to stop the truth.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)