If ever you wanted proof that the spirit of Jesus is at work through the disciples via the Holy Spirit, you can find it here. In this passage, we see exactly the same response to the disciples’ ministry as we saw to Jesus’ ministry: fear, control and attempted suppression. The ruling authorities were quite content with the ‘status quo’, and saw the fresh, green shoots of this new movement as a threat to the established order – just as had been the case with Jesus. We could cite many examples; Luke 6:6-11 is just one.
One of the issues that this particular ruling group had was to do with the “resurrection of the dead” (v.2). This highlighted a key theological difference between their established view and what the disciples were teaching. For the Sadducees (v.1), there was no life after death, so the suggestion that Jesus had risen, or that through this, others might too, was greatly challenging. Part of their job was to police what the people believed, and these heretics had to be silenced. The big problem was that the evidence: the fruit of the latest miracle, was standing there, right in front of their eyes (v.14)!
So, they produce a classic ‘fudge’: prison overnight (v.3), followed by an interrogation (v. 5-12), then a private conference (v.13-17) and finally, an injunction to keep the peace and to no longer promote this new teaching – something the disciples were quite clear they would ignore. Regardless of all this, we’re told that 5,000 were added to the new movement (men, according to my NIV, v.4, disappointingly; surely a translation of “many thousands”, leaving the gender reference out, would be better here, and be more accurate to the likely reality?)
There are many potential learning points here, but the stand out ones seem to be: firstly, when the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit (v.8), there’s no limit to what can be achieved. Secondly, we need to guard our reactions when we see or hear something that challenges our long-held and cherished way of looking at things. It’s unlikely that any single individual or group holds a monopoly on truth – so how do we handle someone or something that appears to threaten our status quo? Finally, when things really do get going, opposition is likely – and how to handle it is key. The disciples didn’t fight back, assert their rights or insist on unopposed freedom of speech. They simply proclaimed the gospel – and continued to do so, regardless of the consequences.
Father God, please fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit. Please help me to recognise when it’s you at work around me. Amen.