Today’s reading at church is from Acts 5:34-42. It is the account of Gamaliel, the pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, who gently discourages the body of Jewish leaders from punishing the disciples of Jesus for their proselytizing. Gamaliel is wise. Rather than whip the Sanhedrin into a frenzy, and rather than infuriate them by defending the disciples, Gamaliel persuades the Sanhedrin that disciples of Jesus pose no threat. He cites recent history, suggesting that other social malcontents managed to lose support without any assistance from the Sanhedrin.
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.
The conduct of the Apostles, after they had been embarrassed by the authorities, is reminscent of Paul’s profession in I Corinthians 4:10:
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.