First Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41

The Apostles Before the Sanhedrin

Popular Translation

27 The guards led the apostles into the hall and made them stand before the council of religious leaders. 28 The high priest began the questioning, “We gave you very strict orders not to teach in the name of Jesus. But, no! You have filled Jerusalem with your teachings about him. And, you insist on blaming us for his death!”

29 “It’s more important to obey God than men,” Peter and the apostles answered. “You abused Jesus and even hanged him on a tree to die. But, the God of our ancestors raised him from the dead. 31 God brought Jesus up to sit right next to him. And he made Jesus our Leader and Savior. That way, Jesus could turn Israel back to God and forgive their sins. 32 We are eye witnesses to our own words. The Holy Spirit is also our witness. He is the one God gave to everyone who obeys him!”

40 Later, the apostles were brought back into the hall. The leaders had them beaten and ordered the apostles never to speak about Jesus ever again. Then, they released them. 41 But, the apostles left the leaders happy that they were worthy to be mistreated because of the name of Jesus.

Literal Translation

27 Having led them (in), (the guards) stood (the apostles) in (the midst of) the council. 28 The high priest questioned them, saying, “[No,] with (this) command, we command you not to teach in this NAME, and, Behold! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring the blood of (this) man upon us. 29 Having answered, Peter and the apostles said, “It is necessary (for us) to obey God more than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you (completely and violently) handled, hanging him on a tree. 31 To his right (hand), God elevated this ONE as Leader and Savior, to give metanoia to Israel and the forgiving of sins. 32 We are witnesses to these words, (along with) the Holy Spirit, the (One) that God gave to those obeying him.”

39c (The council) was convinced by (Gamaliel) 40 and, having called in the apostles, having (them) beaten, they ordered (the apostles) not to speak in the name of Jesus, and they released (them). 41 But, indeed, the (apostles) walked from the presence of the council rejoicing, because they were worthy to be shamed on behalf of the NAME...

5:30: “hanging him on a tree” This echoed Deuteronomy 21:22-23:

“And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” (RSV)

This was a reference to the custom of shaming the executed man and his relatives before the community, not to the Roman practice of crucifixion. Still, the irony of the phrase must have stung the opponents of the apostles.

5:31 “Leader” is literally “First.” This was a title that referred to status, not order in a sequence.

“metanoia” is the change of mind and heart. It is a radical change in lifestyle toward God that is translated “repentance.”

5:32 This sentence has two subjects: “We” and the Holy Spirit. Both witnessed to the events described in 5:30-31.

Just as the Apostles continued the work of Jesus after his resurrection (their healing ministry and presence in the Temple), they suffered the persecution of the Sanhedrin (the assembly of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem). This passage describes the second trial of the apostles before the Sanhedrin.

The apostles were instructed by the highest religious authority in Judaism to stop preaching, but the court's order was ignored. In fact, the apostles accused the Sanhedrin of murdering Jesus [28].

The apostle's answer was simple: appeal to a higher power. In obedience to the Spirit, the apostles acted as witnesses, proclaiming what they had seen. God had raised Jesus and made him Savior so that Israel might receive forgiveness [29-32]. In essence, Peter declared that God had taken the authority of the Sanhedrin away and had given it to the Church. In the eyes of the leadership, this was an act of religious treason!

Missing from the passage is the Sanhedrin's reaction, the desire for vengeance. But cooler heads prevailed [33-39], so, the apostles were beaten and given the original order again: do not preach in the name of Jesus again [40]. Showing inner strength, the apostles rejoiced; they suffered for Christ, just as Christ suffered for them [41], and they went out to preach anew.

How do we answer God's call? How do we witness to his action in our lives? Do we accept the "judgment" society to keep religion a private matter, or do we "proclaim the Good News from the roof tops?