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Jesus’ 12 special messengers were doing many miraculous signs and wonders. Crowds gathered from all the towns around Jerusalem. People brought the sick and suffering into the streets and laid them on mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he walked by.
Meanwhile, the top religious leaders were filled with a stewing, brewing jealousy. They thought, “Let’s just lock up those guys in prison. We’ll see how popular they are then.” So they arrested the apostles and threw them in jail.
The next morning, not just one or two religious leaders got together, but the whole gang of leading rulers came together to try to silence God’s voice that was shining out through God’s gifted messengers… His apostles.
Once the whole religious council arrived, they were ready. They sent some guards to go to the jail to get their 12 prisoners.
But when the guards got to the jail cell and swung the door open…”Wha!! Huh? There’s nobody here!” None of Jesus’ 12 followers were in the prison anymore. Where were they?!?!
The guards rushed back to the religious council. “Uh, we found the jail doors locked and guarded, but when we opened the doors, there was nobody in there.”
How embarrassing. The jealous religious leaders had gotten together for their big important stewing, brewing meeting, and then… they found out their prisoners had totally disappeared!
Guess what had happened! An angel had opened the doors of the prison in the middle of the night and led God’s 12 messengers out!
As everyone at the brewing, stewing meeting was scratching their heads puzzling over what had just happened, someone rushed in, “Those men, the men you arrested, they’re talking to all the people… in the temple!”
You see, when the angel let the 12 out, he told them, “Go stand in the temple and tell the message of this Whole New Life!”
And so of course that’s where the disciples were — right back at it, in the temple, teaching the people about Jesus and His whole new life! God wasn’t going to let His Good News be locked up!
Did you notice what the angel told them to proclaim?
“Tell the message of this whole new Life — this whole new Life!”
This new message about Jesus wasn’t about new rules. And it wasn’t just about Jesus saving people from their sins. It was about the WHOLE NEW LIFE Jesus brought for us. The whole new Supernatural, Holy-Spirit, Together-Life!
Following Jesus changes everything — your whole life.
When the stewing, brewing leaders heard where the disciples were, they sent the guards to the temple to try to “collect them.”
But the people were so excited about everything they were hearing, the guards didn’t think they could snatch the 12 and take them back to prison without some trouble. So instead they quietly led the disciples away, without the people noticing they were really arresting them, AGAIN.
When the religious council finally had the apostles standing in front of them, they started to accuse them. “We told you not to talk about this man, Jesus, but look, now the whole city is filled with your teaching. And you’re determined to make this man’s death our fault.”
But the disciples replied, “We’ve told you before: we have to obey God over people.”
Remember how Daniel prayed to God even when the king told people they weren’t allowed. And remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego wouldn’t bow to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. They all obeyed God first, because what the leader said was not the same as what God said.
Jesus had told His followers to be His witnesses so others could hear and believe and enter into this whole new life. And His apostles were going to obey Him, no matter what other people said.
The disciples continued, “God raised Jesus from the dead after you murdered Him by hanging Him on a cross. Then God put Jesus by His right hand as Prince and Rescuer. He did this so people would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, who God gives to those who obey Him.”
Now those leaders’ jealousy was boiling over as rage. They wanted to kill the apostles right then and there. But just then one respected man stepped forward and said, “People who aren’t really from God eventually just become nothing. But if God is with somebody, they can’t be stopped, and if you fight against them, you will actually be fighting against God. So maaaaaybe we should leave these men alone and just wait and see what happens.”
So instead of killing the 12, the religious leaders warned them again, “Don’t talk about this man Jesus any more.” Then they took these 12 men who were specially chosen by Jesus, and they beat their backs with whips — 39 times each. (You can count to 39 sometime… and think about just how many times that is. It’s a lot.)
Do you think this discouraged the disciples and made them scared of those hard-hearted men? Or did it make them sad or embarassed? No! The disciples weren’t discouraged. Instead, the Bible says they left the council rejoicing! They were just so glad that Jesus had found them worthy of hurting for His name!
The pain of those whips was just one of those temporary owies and was nothing compared to the joyful Glory ahead of them. Jesus and His Kingdom were WORTH IT!
So day after day… those 12 got right back to work. In the temple, and from one house to the next to the next — they were not going to stop, not going to stop, NOT GOING TO STOP, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus and His Whole New Supernatural Life.