God first-Thursday, 2nd Week in the Easter Season – Acts 5:27-33
Stubborn as a mule, that’s how the apostles could best be described. They had decided that they were not going into the night without a fight and no intimidation from any source; even as high as the highest Jewish religious body was going to shut them down. A good man’s name had been tarnished, he had falsely been executed for being a “leader and saviour” and now voices must be raised to bear witness to the truth.
All that I have just written sounds like a present day confrontation between justice seekers and corrupt institutions on the other hand. But that is what it was 2000 years ago in the Easter season. An attempt was being made to suppress the truth by no less that religious authority. Peter and the apostles were warned with dire consequences to “to not teach in this name” (Jesus’)
What threatened the Jewish authorities so much? One can attribute a number of reasons. Take for example the fact that the Jewish authorities were responsible for the death of Jesus; they connived and plotted his death with the hope that one man’s death would save the nation. The nation they hoped to protect was Israel and they hoped to protect it from a very jittery Roman occupier who wanted to maintain the peace at all costs.
The fear of a mob swelling in support of Jesus, who challenged the very foundation and notions of a distorted faith ( distorted by the religious leaders ironically) was something the Jewish authorities could not risk for they knew the Romans would come down hard on them. So they built a case based on lies, false witnesses; they packed the benches and intimidated Pilate into pronouncing a death sentence.
His death they hoped had been done and dusted; unfortunately they did not factor in the Holy Spirit. Now the apostles are determined not to be silenced for they “must obey God and not any human authority”. By now the ranks of the apostles and believers have way out numbered the might of the Jewish leaders and the temple guards. The teachings of the apostles have ‘gone viral’ for ‘Jerusalem is filled with their teaching’ and fear has set once again in the hearts of the Jewish authorities for the nightmare they hoped they had ‘taken care of’ has come to haunt them even by day.
Peter places the blame squarely at the High priest and the council; “You killed Jesus by hanging him on a tree”. For me this statement coupled with Peter’s obedience is a profoundly impactful one. At times we need to place blame where it lies without mincing words, without decorating it in pretty packaging. The truth must be spoken for our obedience must be to God and not to human authority even if it is religious or political authority that is corrupting society.
I am mindful of the paedophilia scandal in the Church and I am deeply sorry for the many many cover-ups that Church authorities have been involved in. The shattered dignity of the victims have often been destroyed even more by the cover ups. But the attempts to snuff out the truth with intimidation is found at various levels of society; totalitarian governments, dictatorial corporates with devious work ethics, abusive spouses and corrupt religious leaders.
The time has come for us like Peter to say, “We will obey God rather than any human authority.”
Fr Warner D’souza
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