The Sadducees were the liberal theologians of the first century. They denied man had an eternal soul, that there were any angels or spirits, and that there was a resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:8). When they attempted to silence Jesus in His teaching about the resurrection, they offered what they believed to be an unanswerable problem presented by the resurrection. Jesus’ answer to them left them embarrassingly speechless and showed the folly of their doctrine (Matthew 22:23-33). Still, they clung to the doctrine and when the apostles of Jesus became bolder and more militant in preaching Jesus and the resurrection, such was more than they could tolerate. They arrested the twelve and put them in prison.
When the apostles were safely in the prison, an angel released them and told them to continue teaching “all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20). They did. The obvious miracle in the release of the twelve had no convincing effect on the Jewish council (but it did affect them). It stiffened their resolve to silence these men from teaching their message of the resurrection.
They were feeling the results of their wrongdoing. While they pondered the significance of the apostles’ release from prison, one came and reported that the men they sought were in the temple, standing and teaching the people (Acts 5:25). So, they sent the captain, with officers to retake the apostles but they used no violence in taking them “because they feared the people lest they should be stoned” (Acts 5:26). This council was on “shaky ground” and they knew it. Did they meditate and think, “Perhaps we acted too hastily”? They did not. They angrily said to the apostles, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (Acts 5:28).
How the picture has changed since that early morning two or three months before when they had persuaded the people to ask Pilate for Barabbas’ release and crucify Jesus (Matthew 27:20-23). That was what they wanted and when Pilate “washed his hands” of Jesus’ death, the people said, “Let his blood be on us and our children” (Acts 27:25).
Now the rulers were “feeling the heat” of that statement. So, what did they do? Did they, like Saul did sometime later, bow to the truth and say to Jesus, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 22:10)? They did not. It wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of the twelve apostles who wouldn’t keep silence when they had been charged to do so.
There comes a time when men are faced with the consequence of their wrongdoing. When that time comes and one looks into the mirror of himself, it takes an honest man to acknowledge “I am wrong. What I did was wrong”.
But, not all men are honest. When the consequence of one’s wrongdoing comes on such a one, he will blame everyone, save the one who is responsible for the state he’s in. Such was the case with these men: they charged the apostles with accusing them of crucifying Jesus, God’s Son. Well, they had and earlier they were glad to take responsibility for their crime. But now, things were different because public sentiment had changed!
Peter’s answer added fuel to the fire of their fury. He said, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Then Peter restated the truth, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5:31). Did the conscience of these men prick them to acknowledge, “You are right, Peter. We did do that”? No, it did not. “But they when they heard this, were cut to the heart and minded to slay them” (Act 5:33). Later, another speaker they tried (and killed) charged them with rebellion against God and when he did so, they covered their ears to keep from hearing what he said (Acts 7:57)! Silence their voices! Break the mirror! Solomon wrote, “The way of the transgressor is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). Oh, the piercing pain of an accusing conscience! “Today, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).