12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin– the full assembly of the elders of Israel– and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead– whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
What captivates you? Your family? Career? Relationships? Dreams? If you’re like me (and probably most people) you begin to realize that maybe we’re so captivated by possible success and what everyone else thinks we’re good at, that we don’t take a sincere look at our hearts and the gifts we have been given from God. That raises an interesting question……
Captivity or freedom—which to you prefer? The apostles were put into jail. Yet, they were let go. On the other hand, we see the chief priest, the Pharisees and Sadducees who seem to be free but yet are held captive, captive by their own blindness to the power Jesus Christ and his resurrection. We know who is really freed when the apostles stand before the church leaders and say: “We must obey God rather than men.” Jesus spoke about this freedom in the Gospel of John:
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31b, 32).
This morning, you are free to be here because you hold fast to God’s Word and the truth has set you free. Free for what? May the Holy Spirit give us boldness to freely proclaim the joy of Jesus and his resurrection, for
We Must Obey God Rather Than Men
- The Devil tries to silence God’s Easter Message
- Believers are Set Free to Proclaim God’s Easter Message
After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the church grew by thousands. The teachings of Jesus proclaimed by the apostles brought freedom from sin and guilt and real hope for heaven.
“12 The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people….14 more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. “
You can imagine the concern the enemies of Jesus had? They had crucified Jesus and thought they had eliminated the threat to their power. But, now the disciples of Jesus were running full steam ahead proclaiming a crucified and risen Savior! Oops! They certainly had miscalculated, and our gracious Lord was controlling all things so more and more people were hearing the Easter Message of hope, forgiveness and peace.
“Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy.”
They were jealous because they had neither silenced Jesus or the power of his resurrection. So, “They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” The high priest and Sadducees thought this imprisonment should stop their message. We know that God had far greater plans to spread his message.
Even when they are out of the prison and brought back, the disciples tell them the truth. The disciples stand there before the high priest and the Sadducees and the Sanhedrin and say, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.” Oh, the church leaders were trying hard to cover up their evil deeds. Remember after they put Jesus to death and Jesus was put into the tomb, what did they do? They hired a guard to watch the tomb and they sealed the stone so that no one would come and steal the body away. Yet what happened? Jesus still rose from the dead. Then we are told the authorities told the soldiers, “Spread the news that the disciples came and stole the body.” Paul even says that rumor was still around when he was preaching and teaching. They tried to silence God’s message. But they could not silence God’s Easter message even though they put the apostles in jail, they still proclaimed the fact that “We must obey God rather than men.”
The intent of the leaders was very clear: “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, he said.” They were given very strict orders not to teach in the name of the Lord Jesus. But what happened? “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Yes, they preached the Easter Gospel, but they also preached the law and it was burning consciences!
Would such a thing happen today—that someone would try to silence and suppress God’s message? Yes, it happens in every generation because Satan is still working to suppress God’s message! That’s how it was in the beginning: “You will not surely die if you eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Today he says, “God wants you to enjoy all the blessings he’s given you on this earth – so spend your time enjoying them!” God’s message is also suppressed when people think their way is better than God’s. Reminds us of the people who tried to build the Tower of Babel. They tried to build a tower that would reach to God and make a name for themselves because they felt they were so good. But King David said it right,
“How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods” (Psalm 4:2).
Those same false gods are alive today and what do they look like? Sometimes it takes on the horror of mass murder of Christians gathered to worship on Easter! Other times it sneaks in and points to our importance, our own self-worth, our own health or wealth, our own family. We make lots of things in this life seem important, set them up as false gods and even the worship of convenient pleasures instead of the worship and praise of God.
Worst of all, you are tempted to believe that maybe God’s Word is not so important. You begin to believe, as Paul wrote, what your itching ears want to hear. You are tempted to turn aside from the truth to myths and lies. Want to hear one? “It isn’t all that important that I read my Bible or bring my children to Sunday School.” This is a ringing condemnation of our sinful nature. Our Old Adam delights in putting other things before God. Ask yourself—why you have to wait in line to get into a restaurant, but I have yet to see a line of people waiting to get a seat at the feet of Jesus in here—in God’s house of prayer. It is a powerful delusion that tries to silence God’s message and crush our faith. Sadly, it causes people to become captive to the world and silence God’s Easter Message.
Much like these early apostles then, we need to understand how important it is when they say, “We must obey God rather than men.” You and I, who at one time, were held captive by sin, slaves to Satan, and under the grip and power of death, are now set free to testify to the truth.
Believers are Set Free to Proclaim God’s Easter Message
Peter and the apostles didn’t expect to spend any time in prison, especially after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the church began to grow. They were able to do miracles! Who can even imagine being thrown into jail for proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ! Yet, there they were; but still, they were free. They were free on the inside as they focused on Jesus. But, God wasn’t finished with these tools of the Gospel. “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ’Go, stand in the courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.’” This new life message is this: Christ lived, died to pay the penalty of all your sins and rose again to prove his victory. Yes, Jesus was, indeed, raised back to life. God would see to it that no one could extinguish, silence or suppress his Easter message.
So, they got up early the next morning and went to the temple and they began to teach the people. The next day the chief priest and the Sadducees wanted to see Peter and the apostles. They wanted to talk to them and remind them not to talk about Jesus. They sent a guard to the prison and find their cell empty! The guard brings back the report: “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” It wouldn’t take much for a reasonable person to understand that a miracle had happened. But, they refused to believe Jesus rose from the dead, so we’re not surprised that they didn’t believe the apostles were released by a miracle of God either. “On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this.” They were wondering, “What’s going to happen now?” Or maybe, “What is going to happen to us?” When the prisoners escape, the guards are responsible and so are the ones that had put them there.
We know what happens. The report comes back: “The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” After grabbing them again and bringing them back, are Peter and the apostles afraid to confess their faith before the powers that be? These were the church leaders who claimed to know the law the best. They were the same ones that condemned Jesus to death! They command the apostles not to talk about Jesus anymore! But, the disciples have a simple answer: “We must obey God rather than men.” They tell the message once again, “You killed Jesus, but Jesus was brought back to life.” More than that, he goes to say: “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” Peter is telling these rulers that Jesus came to provide forgiveness to Israel, forgiveness for those who sat in darkness.
Yes, Jesus came as the light of the world. It is the same simple truth that for most of us, if not all of us, we have learned from very early on in our life. It is a simple truth that is the very essence of our Christian faith. But, it is a message that is under attack today. Christians are being persecuted all over the world for the sake of Jesus. For us, we are reminded because of the faith that is in our hearts, we must obey God rather than men. We stand up for our faith. Why? Paul says in Romans:
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).
Yes, Jesus set us free from the curse of sin and eternal life is God’s greatest gift for us. It is a gift for us to share!
You get to share the Easter Message when dealing with your friend, kind to those who aren’t so kind, forgiving to those who are not so forgiving, loving to those who aren’t so lovable, then you are testifying to the truth that Jesus Christ lived, died, was buried and rose again for forgiveness and to provide eternal life. That is how we obey God rather than men.
Growing up we all had thoughts and dreams that captured our attention. Even today we have our hopes and dreams. However, the greatest hope we have is the freedom we have in Jesus Christ. We are set free to proclaim and to testify to the truth—that God is still God, that Jesus is still our Savior, that our sins are forgiven, that eternal life is ours. Let’s obey God rather than men and eagerly proclaim the Easter Gospel! Amen.