The Apostles Are Imprisoned
An angel frees the apostles from prison.
EWS OF THE
apostles' teaching was now talked about on every street in Jerusalem, and even in the cities round about people were hearing how the mighty power of God was being shown through these fearless men. Daily more believers were being added to the church, until it numbered several more thousands.
And the great miracles performed by the apostles in the name of Jesus were also talked of everywhere. So wonderfully did the power of God to heal rest upon these men that sick folk were brought and laid in the streets where even the shadow of Peter passing by might fall upon them. And from other cities and towns sick people were brought and people who were trouble by evil spirits; and every one was healed.
Now the wicked Jewish rulers were becoming more angry everyday. They saw how the works of Jesus were steadily spreading farther and farther. They saw how the people were honoring these apostles and the Christ they taught more than they were honoring the Jewish rulers themselves.
And they said, "We must do something at once to crush this new teaching out of the land."
So they caught the apostles and threw them into prison, locking them securely inside.
"Now," they said to each other, "We shall see what comes of their followers. Soon those crazy people will forget, and we shall be rid of this excitement.?"
Night came on, and the rulers went home to rest, believing they would soon see the end of this trouble. But while they slept an angel from heaven touch the iron doors of the prison and passed inside to speak to the apostles. He told them to return again to the temple and speak boldly to the people who met there. And he led them from the prison into the cool night air of the quiet street. Then he left them, and they went to their own homes to rest.
Early the next morning the high priest and his wicked counselors met together and prepared to conduct a trial. They sent officers to the prison to bring the apostles, but the officers returned alone. "We found the keepers standing before the prison doors, and the doors were tightly locked," they said; "but when we entered the room no one was there."
Now the high priest and the other rulers were perplexed. They wondered what had happened to the men whom they had shut up the night before. But while they were talking about the matter, some one came to tell them that the apostles were again in the temple, teaching the people as bravely as ever.
The rulers were afraid to seize the apostles roughly, for they knew the multitude who stood listening were friendly to these men and they thought the multitude might stone them if they knew of their wicked plans. So they sent officers to take them quietly and bring them to the council-room.
When the apostles came, the rulers looked angrily at them and asked, "Did we not strictly command you to teach no more in Jerusalem concerning this man Jesus? And now why is it that you fill all the city with your doctrine, telling the people that we are guilty of the blood of this man?"
But Peter and the other apostles stood up boldly, and said, "We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up this Jesus whom you killed and hanged on a tree. And God has made of this same Jesus a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to them who obey him."
When the rulers heard these words they were filled with fury, and they talked excitedly among themselves. They wanted to turn the apostles over to the Romans at once, or kill them some other way. Then one of their number, a more thoughtful man, stood up and asked that the apostles be dismissed from the room for a few moments.
While they were outside he spoke to his fellows in words like these: "Men of Israel, be careful how you deal with these men. Let them alone; if their work is of men it will finally come to an end of itself, but if it is of God you can not overthrow it, and if you try to do so you will be found to be fighting against God."
Because this speaker was a very wise man, and much honored as a teacher of the law, the others listened to him, and decided that it would be best to let the apostles live. But their anger against the apostles was not lessened, and they called them into the council-room once more and gave them severe beatings. Then they sent them away, commanding them to teach or speak in the name of Jesus never again.
With bleeding backs the apostles departed from the presence of the wicked rulers. But as they went they rejoiced because they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus' sake. They knew their own suffering were slight compared with the suffering which their master had born for the sins of all men, and they did not expect to be treated better by these enemies than their master had been.
Again they returned to the temple, and daily they continued to teach there and in the homes of the people concerning the Savior, Christ the Lord.
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