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The coalition arrayed against the disciples resembles the group that came to arrest Jesus in Gethsemane. The priests were working hand-in-hand with Roman rulers, who appointed their chiefs and allowed them to maintain a police force (with a “captain”) to keep order in the temple. Reports of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead especially alarmed the Sadducees, a party of priests who denied there would ever be a resurrection from the dead (Acts 5:17 and Acts 23:6 – 8).
1. What has been your experience on either side of jail? What sights, sounds, and feelings do you associate with jail?
2. When you leave home or your car unattended, do you always lock it? Why or why not?
3. How do you account for the jealousy of the Sadducees?
4. As an apostle, how would you feel during the events of verses 18 – 21? What would you expect to happen next?
5. Of what do they accuse the apostles in verse 28? How is this different from what bothered them in chapter 4:2?
6. What assertions in Peter’s response (verses 29 – 32) would arouse their fury? Why is Peter being so direct (see Acts 4:1 – 12; Acts 5:19 – 20)?
Compare Acts 5:33 with Acts 2:37. The Gospel, when preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, often enrages or convicts.
7. Prior to Jesus, there were many Jewish zealots who led rebellions against Rome. What is Gamaliel’s point in recalling two such leaders (verses 36 and 37)? Do you think he might be one of the secret believers mentioned in John 12:42? Or a political opportunist not wanting to arouse the public? Why?
Terrorist acts have a long history in the Middle East, as Gamaliel’s speech shows. During the years surrounding Jesus’ life, several revolutionaries led armed uprisings, two of whom Gamaliel refers to here. Several decades later, the apostle Paul was mistaken for an Egyptian who had staged a terrorist revolt in the desert (Acts 21:38).
Gamaliel was a revered and wise rabbi in his day, a follower of the progressive branch of Judaism that originated with the rabbi Hillel. Paul mentions in Acts 22:3 that he once studied under Gamaliel.
8. How do you think Peter’s statement in verse 29 (and Acts 4:19) may have influenced Gamaliel?
9. Flogging sometimes resulted in death. Why do you think the disciples considered it worth rejoicing that they suffered in Jesus’ name?
10. How might proclaiming Jesus as Prince and Savior in Jerusalem immediately after His crucifixion be different than proclaiming Jesus as risen Prince and Savior over 6,000 miles away 2,000 years later?
11. How do you think you would feel if you were sent to jail for what you believe? How would your family feel? What would this do for your faith?
12. In what way has God set you free to honor Him more fully?
13. How do you explain why God sometimes delivers you out of hardships, but at other times He allows you to go through them?
14. Describe a recent even when you had to choose between God and man (verse 29).