Chapter 5, Acts 5: 1- 42, the first Christian burial, the great escape
Heavenly Father, we thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to speak into our hearts. We permit You as our great surgeon, to perform spiritual heart transplants on every one of us, to transform, renew, and conform us into the image of Your Son, in Jesus’ name, Amen
VV 1-6, 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
The first Christian church practiced voluntary communal living whereby everyone shared all their resources into a common pool. Ananias and Sapphira sold a possession, kept back a portion of the proceeds, and gave the balance to the apostles. Peter, through the word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit, knew about this. When Peter rebuked Ananias for hypocrisy and dishonesty, Ananias drop dead on the spot. On seeing this, the people were afraid. Young men came in, wrapped, carried, and buried Ananias outside the house. This was the first Christian burial.
VV 7-11, 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Three hours later, Ananias’ wife, Sapphira came into the house and told the same lie to the apostles. She encountered the same fate, instant death, and burial. This was the second Christian burial in the first-century church. This brought great fear to the people who had witnessed this event or heard about it.
VV 12-16, 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. 13 Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly. 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.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. More and more believers were added to the church. The apostles healed the sick and exorcised the demon-possessed on the streets. Peter’s anointing was so strong that even his shadow had the power to heal the sick.
VV 17-20, 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. 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.”
Out of anger and jealousy, the high priest, a Sadducee, arrested the apostles and imprisoned them again. An angel of the Lord came at night, opened the prison doors, took the apostles out, and commanded them to speak the word of God in the temple without fear.
VV 21-23, 21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. 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!”
Early next morning, the apostles started to preach and taught the people in the temple complex. Meanwhile, the high priest and Jewish religious leaders summoned the prison officers to give an account of the apostle’s great escape. The prison officers were dumbfounded and could not explain how the apostles had escaped.
VV 24-26, 24 Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. 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.
While the prison officials were still being interrogated, words came to the high priest and the Jewish religious leaders that the apostles were teaching the people in front of the temple! Without any violence, the captain and temple officers went out and brought the apostles to the high priest and Jewish leaders for questioning.
VV 27-32, 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And 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!”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 high priest demanded to know why they had defied his gag order. They claimed that the apostles had brought Christ’s blood on them. Can you see the irony of the Jewish leaders? When Pilate wanted to release Jesus during the trial, the Jewish leaders unashamedly proclaimed for Jesus’ blood to be upon them. Now, they were furious and claimed that the apostles had brought Christ’s blood on them. Peter and the apostles replied that their royalty and obedience was to God, not to men. The apostles turned the tables on the Jewish leaders accusing them of murdering Jesus of Nazareth by sending Him to the Romans for crucifixion. God resurrected Jesus and exalted Him as Prince and Saviour of Israel. The apostles testified that they had seen the resurrection of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
VV 33-42, 33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill 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. 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.” 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. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
The Jewish religious were furious and plotted to kill the apostles. Gamaliel, a prominent Rabbi, and Pharisee addressed the religious council and defended the apostles. Before Paul’s conversion, he was trained by Gamaliel. Gamaliel quoted two terrorists, Theudas, and Judas of Galilee, who attempted to cause riots in Israel many years ago, but their plans fell apart because they were not from God. He advised the Jewish leaders to release the apostles saying that if these apostles were not from God, their plans would fail and fizzled off. However, if these apostles were indeed from God, they would be fighting against God and that would be futile. The Jewish leaders agreed with Gamaliel. After beating up the apostles, they released them after issuing another gag order. The apostles left the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ. The apostles defied the high priest’s gag order and continued to teach and preach Jesus Christ to the people.
Ananias and Saphira were punished for dishonesty and hypocrisy. Stay away from dishonesty and hypocrisy. Let your yes, be yes, and your no, be no.
The apostles moved with signs and wonders by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Pray for spiritual gifts. God gives us spiritual gifts to fulfill our calling and ministry.
The apostles were brave and unstoppable. They defied the gag order, continued to teach and preach, fearing God and not men. They rejoiced to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ. We must not be afraid of men.
Heavenly Father, embolden and empower us by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Help us share the gospel with non-believers without fear or hesitation. Help us to live lives worthy of our calling, in Jesus’ name, Amen.