Most often when we see people making a positive difference for Jesus in the pages of Scripture, those who push back against it are not far behind. In Acts 5.17-18 we see that the high priest and the Sadducees have the apostles arrested and thrown in prison. Changing the status quo, changing the religious landscape of a place so focused on religious rhythms and routines was always going to have consequences.
Then, ironically for the Sadducees that don’t believe they exist, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out. Another miraculous and supernatural occurrence in the story of the apostles and another very clear reason why:
“Go and stand in the temple courts and proclaim to the people all the words of this life.”
(Acts 5.20, NET)
Freed from prison to preach the words of life found in Jesus. Of course, hearing this and seeing its miraculous circumstances the apostles go to the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
It can be tempting to read passages like this in Scripture and assume that this is God’s modus operandi, His standard way of operating. We can wrongly read about it happening to the apostles that established the church and assume that we too will be delivered from all harm, incarceration, persecution, or illness. What was done to establish the movement and the church is not necessarily what is always done. Yes, God has the power to deliver us from anything He chooses; danger, imprisonment, disease, persecution, or illness. Simply because we see it happening here in Acts doesn’t mean it will happen every time for us. Take the example of the apostles and Gospel writers themselves:
“· Matthew was beheaded with a sword.
· Mark died in Alexandria after being dragged through the streets of the city.
· Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.
· John died a natural death, but they unsuccessfully tried to boil him in oil.
· Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome.
· James was beheaded in Jerusalem.
· James the Less was thrown from a height then beaten with clubs.
· Philip was hanged.
· Bartholomew was whipped and beaten until death.
· Andrew was crucified and preached at the top of his voice to his persecutors until he died.
· Thomas was run through with a spear.
· Jude was killed with the arrows of an executioner.
· Matthias was stoned and then beheaded – as was Barnabas.
· Paul was beheaded in Rome.”
The safety and comfort of the apostles was not the reason for their deliverance here in Acts 5, and neither is our safety and comfort the reason we are delivered in Jesus. Yes, we should hope to see God work powerfully and miraculously in our own lives, but should never be disappointed if He chooses not to. As the lives and times of the apostles show, sometimes there is the miracle, sometimes there is not. Choosing to trust the wise and loving God behind them regardless is what we should do.