Jailbirds for Jesus

In the grand scheme of things, a night in the slammer isn't a big deal.

Acts 4:1-4 (ESV)

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

This is Peter and John’s first trip to the slammer (the first of many) and it’s not over something substantive; it’s over some doctrinal division between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Sadducees don’t believe in the resurrection, while the Pharisees do. Peter is, of course, preaching about the resurrection of Jesus.

Well, we can’t have any of that, now can we? Never mind that their entire power structure is threatened by a movement that exposes their shallow control-freak based authority for what it is. Furthermore, they kill the leader of the movement, and instead of being crushed, it starts growing by leaps and bounds.

So, true to their nature, they do the control-freak thing and toss Peter and John in jail. “You make my point,” wouldn’t be a bad comeback line here.

Speaking of leaps and bounds, this time the movement grew by five thousand men. The Pentecost sermon only added three thousand souls. The Greek is unambiguous here. The three thousand counted everyone but the five thousand counts just men. This means that Peter’s sermon after healing the man lame from birth yielded more new believers than his first sermon. Things are really picking up.

So, getting thrown in jail doesn’t even faze them. They already knew that these guys play rough and they’re not worried about it. They know where the real power is.

This passage doesn’t even say anything about their night in jail – no attending angels, no spectacular breakout.

It’s just not all that newsworthy.

While this is long before Paul wrote Philippians 4:7, these guys already get it.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

We’re not facing jail but there’s still plenty of excitement to go around. Seek God’s peace. Ask the Lord to settle your spirit and give you a confident heart. This may seem like a selfish prayer – in a way it is – but we’d be more effective if we had the kind of bravery and boldness the apostles had.

Ask for that too.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.