Catch and Release
5:11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
From a ‘Mega Church’ of 10,000 plus, God removes two offenders. Most likely they were believers, but they conspired to lie to the apostles. It appears they thought it unwise to give everything to the church and have no possessions of their own.
To have only two offenders in a church of that size is impressive. God decided to remove Ananias and Sapphira.
Great fear came upon all the church
Is that an ‘understatement’? Obviously news of the deaths of these two was not kept confidential. The news spread through the church and into the community.
The word ‘fear’ in this case is phobos in the original language. It has been used in the new testament to include dread and terror. But it has also been used with reference to a wife reverencing her husband. From the way it has been used we can see that there is some latitude in the definition. In verse 11 ‘fear’ might have included the whole range, from terror to reverence.
We can tell in the next verse that ‘terror’ did not put people off. They continued to come to Christ and joined the church.
12 ¶ And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.
They were assembling in Solomon’s porch for the purpose of outreach and ministry, as per Jesus’ instructions, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” Luke 5:10b
As ministry was taking place in ‘Solomon’s Porch’, it sounds like there was more ‘reverence’ than ‘terror’ that had come over the crowds.
But then we are faced with this statement: 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.
This verse is connected to the removal of Ananias and Sapphira. It has been explained in a variety of ways by biblical commentators. So what is my take on it?
Since ‘the people’ esteemed the apostle’s highly, since many were continuing to bring their sick and crippled family members to them for healing and since in the context of the passage we will note the continued growth of the church, I take this view; I believe Ananias and Sapphira were quite well off. Perhaps we could even say wealthy. If this were the case, we can understand the difficulty in ‘giving it all’ to the church. Wealth often comes from exercising great diligence and hard work. And these two very likely are not alone in their wealth. Very possibly there were other wealthy people who had trusted Christ and had given everything to the church.
If this were the case, I would take the phrase none of the rest to refer to the wealthy people that were part of the curious crowd of listeners.
So, to me, ‘the rest’ mentioned in the verse … and ‘the people’ mentioned in the verse represent two classes of people - the rich and the commoners.
none of the rest dared join them. ‘Joining’ could mean one of two things. It could mean ‘join’ in the sense of becoming a part of the church. Or it refers to joining in to the practice of giving everything to the church. I would lean toward the latter. I suppose there would be talk circulating about the fact that a rich couple were struck down.
And in the very next verse we see that ‘fishing for men’ is continuing … and with increasingly great success.
14 And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.
16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
“multitudes of both men and women,” How big is a multitude? There are two examples in scripture where an actual number is given.
Mt 14:21 Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Mt 15:38 Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.
I am sure there are examples of other miracles in the bible, but these two give us an idea of what was considered a ‘multitude’.
Counting the women and children these numbers would at least be doubled. And Luke uses the word in the plural; multitudes.
It is possible that another 20,000 have been added to the church. That is good fishing! And these will all have joined the church ‘tradition’ of giving everything to the church. All of these people also had homes in the area, which makes the overcrowding a bit less when we consider the billeting of believers who all had made the move from Galilee to Jerusalem with no place to call home.
“... they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them.”
What a ministry! Can you picture it? There were so many that the twelve apostles could barely keep up with it. The statement about Peter’s shadow is a curious one. Some modern day TV evangelists have capitalized on this one.
I wonder what the effect of the shadow was? We are not told anything further. I suppose we are to assume that ‘It worked’.
But why only Peter’s shadow? What about the shadow of the other apostles who are also involved in the preaching/healing ministry? I don’t really have an answer for that . Perhaps the shadow of the other apostles was also falling on those whose faith was reaching out to them and to God.
There is another ‘strange’ phenomenon mentioned in Acts 19:11-12 11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
And then there is this account that we most likely are familiar with; Mark 9:20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.
21 For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”
And since we are talking about ‘unusual healing’, let’s include this passage; John 9:6 When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.
One thing is for sure, we cannot box God into a single formula for healing. God is the healer. God (Jesus) looks for faith. Sometimes the faith of the needy person is required. Sometimes it is the ‘prayer of faith’ by the elders that raises the person up. The writer of Hebrews says, And without faith it is impossible to please him. The man who approaches God must have faith in two things, first that God exists and secondly that God rewards those who search for him. Heb 11:6 (PHILIPS TRANSLATION)
So here is the simple bottom line … Learn to walk by faith.
Reading on we discover yet another multitude; 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The crowd continues to grow. Can you guess what happens next? How big IS Solomon’s Porch anyway? Thousands upon thousands of people are crowding their way into the area around the apostles. Surely the Jewish authorities are getting ‘wind’ of this?
17 ¶ Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,
18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.
The apostles and believers have been successfully fishing for men, but now they themselves, just like fish, have been caught. There is no mention of a trial here, but later in verse 28 we will see these words, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?”
So they are thrown into prison, and they have heard the charge. When Peter and John spent the night in prison after the 5,000 thousand came to Christ as a result of the lame man’s being healed, these two were given a clear command. They were told to never preach in the name of Jesus.
Now they find themselves arrested and in prison and are clearly reminded of the original charge. They have been caught. But now God has His way in the situation.
19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,
20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.”
God can and does intervene. But not at all in the way we would expect. The Bible is full of examples of God’s interventions. We are asked to be obedient and walk by faith. God may do something out of the ordinary or He may not. We are not to aim for a particular type of success. We are to focus only on our walk of faith. The rest is up to God.
They were ‘caught’ by the High priests and the Sanhedrin council … They are released by an angel.
In a crystal clear command the angel of Lord tells the apostles to go and carry on what they were doing. They are told to go and share the message that leads to eternal life and also to teach them about living the new life.
21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught.
They are obedient and the next morning they head for the temple area once again. Meanwhile, the priests of Sanhedrin council, having no idea that the angel has released their catch, send a message to the prison for the disciples to appear before them.
But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.
22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”
Imagine their surprise. No forced exit. All the doors are properly secured.
24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome w
E 11 Catch and Release5:11-42
Can you imagine their thoughts? They do not seem to be asking, How is this possible? How did they do it? But rather, they know something very unusual has just happened, but their only concern seems to be, What will be the outcome? In other words, Don’t let the press get a hold of this!
While they are still contemplating how this might be seen by the public, a report comes from the temple.
25 So one came and told them, saying, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”
26 ¶ Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council.
Caught, released and now caught again. I notice that the council fails to ask, ‘How did you do it?’ Instead, the high priest asked them,
28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” The popularity of the Sanhedrin council with the people is going down fast. Thousands upon thousands are crowding in to hear the Apostles and with great anticipation they are bringing their loved ones who needed physical healing.
When our sharing of the gospel begins to cost the authorities their ratings in the polls, watch out. At that time the church will be called upon to stand before public officials. Jesus said that time is coming.
Jesus told us, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mr 13:11
Peter speaks up, led by the Holy Spirit, we presume.
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.
30 “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.
31 “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
32 “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
The captain of the temple has just said ``”And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
And Peter has laid out before them exactly how it is. “What God has told us to do comes first.” That must be our commitment. This thought needs to be foremost in our thinking whenever and wherever we are.
Notice how Peter in his statement answers questions that no one is even asking.
He went from ‘We ought to obey God … to answering an unasked question, which would have been, “What God are you talking about?” to saying that it is the God of our fathers, whose Son, by the way, you murdered. But God raised him up.
The words uttered by Peter here are powerful and essential. He does not mince words. He does not plea for mercy. He tells it like it is. What is the result?
33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.
They know beyond a doubt that something totally supernatural is happening right in their midst. But their response is not only to kill the ministry, but to kill the messengers. But this behaviour is not new or unexpected. The disciples' thoughts should not be, “Wow! What is it going to take? Can’t they see the truth right in front of their faces?!”
There has been a precedent. Jesus raised His friend Lazarus from the dead. The response of the authorities? We had better kill both of them.
This was the occasion: John 12:9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead.
10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also,
People disbelieve because they want to disbelieve. A man has been raised to life. None of the council members were able to do that. They claimed to be waiting for a Messiah who would do marvelous things. But their claims were hollow. They were in a position of honor and control over the people, and they wanted things to remain just as they were.
Jesus healed a man born blind. The result was similar. There was no thought of rejoicing for the miracle. They knew a miracle took place but they had no plans to admit it.
When one of their group by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus in cover of the night to ask some questions, at least he started the right way. He said “No man can do the miracles that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus spoke to him about the new birth. He spoke to him the words that have become so famous, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, would not perish but have everlasting life.”
Of all the council members in the Sanhedrin court, only he and one other became believers. They remained ‘secret’ disciples, but they came out into the open when they approached Pilate, requesting to take the body of Jesus and give him a proper burial.
I think we must ask the question, Why are the hearts of some people so incredibly hard?
Years before these events in Acts, the children of Israel needed delivering from slavery in Egypt. God used Moses to approach the pharaoh and persuade him to release the people. As you read the account you will remember that Moses inflicted the Egyptians with a number of plagues designed to convince the pharaoh. However convincing the plagues were, the pharaoh first agreed to let the people go, but before the release took place, he hardened his heart and changed his mind.
He did this a number of times. But the last 5 plagues or so, we note a difference. In these cases, God hardened the pharaoh's heart.
God has said, “My Spirit will not always strive with man”. God extends grace. But God puts a limit on it. We are told in 2 Thessalonians that God will harden the hearts of many people in the not too distant future.
Paul writes, 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,
10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,
12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Paul is telling us that when the end times approach He will send ‘strong delusion’ upon those who have heard the gospel … perhaps had heard it many times .. but they have refused to believe. And then once the tribulation begins, you would think that suddenly it all makes sense. They have been hearing about this for years, and now it is happening. Suddenly they all repent and accept Christ … but Paul says, No. It will not happen like that at all. They will all be blinded … condemned for having turned their back on the Truth.
In study of Acts we discover another intervention. The council wants these men put to death. But God has other plans for them.
34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while.
35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men.
Gamaliel is about to offer words of wisdom.
36 “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing.
37 “After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed.
38 “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing;
39 “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God.”
The council members really needed to hear this. They have been fighting against God for a long while, but Gamaliel was able to put some sense into their heads. But before I give all the credit to Gamaliel I want to say that I believe that this is an intervention of God.
40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
So here is another ‘release’. But the conditions are growing more severe. They gave the apostles a beating.
We have no idea what kind of situations face the church in our country as we move forward. But don’t be surprised if you begin to see the authorities attempting to choke the life out of the church in any way that they can. But we can also know that God will be in charge every minute. I am sure we will see God intervene in miraculous ways.
As we close out this chapter, notice the attitude of the apostles.
41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Counted worthy? … to suffer shame for Jesus’ name? That is the attitude of one who really gets the meaning of the mercy and grace of God. He has done so incredibly much for us. By suffering for His name, He is not giving us a chance to pay back part of the price of our salvation. But he is giving us a chance to show our appreciation.
These men have been arrested, jailed, beaten and commanded not to speak about Jesus. So what did they do right after their release? 42 .. Daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.