Jail break- Wednesday, 2nd week of Easter- Acts 5:17-26
The narration of today tells us of the first jail break in the New Testament, and that too assisted by an angel. I guess heaven knows how to pick locks! But as much as this thought brings a smile to our face, what also should bring a smile is the witness of the apostles, for they had ‘faith without fear’.
There is nothing more terrifying than a justice system rooted in corruption. In this case the system was also motivated by ‘jealousy’ (5:17). The apostles have had great success with their evangelization, for we know that a record eight thousand people have joined their ranks and as 5:14 tells us, “a great number of both men and women were added to the Lord” (not to a Church or preacher as happens today).
The arrest of the apostles is not motivated by wrongdoing on their part but because of jealousy on the part of no less than the High Priest and a sect of the Sadducees. At this time, Joseph Caiaphas, known simply as Caiaphas, was the actual high priest, having been appointed in A.D. 17. He was deposed A.D. 37.
Caiaphas had married the daughter of Annas. Even though out of office, Annas seems to have exercised a dominant influence, perhaps, as the Nasi, the Prince, or President, of the Sanhedrin, during the remainder of his life. If he presided on this occasion, it may explain why St. Luke calls Annas “the high priest.”
It is the same Caiaphas who is said to have organized the plot to kill Jesus. Caiaphas is also said to have been involved in the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus. He had a good working relationship with the Roman authorities, and that explains why he stayed on in power for so long. Now, ‘the’ Jesus whom he plotted against, has come back and the believers keep growing.
While the narrative of today takes us though the ‘great escape’ of the apostles from prison, it also highlights the restlessness of a jealous soul. Caiaphas, we are told worked with the Sadducees, and I believe that this camaraderie must be seen beyond the Sadducees’ opposition to the preaching of the resurrection (remember the Sadducees reject the resurrection as preached by the apostles). His proximity to them could be because they were the money bags of Jerusalem; the Sadducee were a wealth community. Jealousy and corruption make a deadly combination.
How really foolish Caiaphas must have looked that morning when he arrived, having summoned the whole council and the whole body of the elders of Israel in his bid to put the apostles on a trial of shame and condemnation! It fell like an egg on his face for the Lord had other plans; not for Peter and the apostles to run away but to stand and be witnesses in the face of a corrupt religious body.
The Easter season, as I keep reiterating, is not a happy-clappy season that we have made it to be today. For the apostles and early church it was period of trial by fire and yet there is faith without fear; this is truly an Easter gift. The gift of Shalom or peace is not to be understood as a period where we have no trials. Shalom is not the absence of trials but the peace that comes in the midst of trials. It is a peace that comes from knowing that the Lord sends His angels to release us from the clutches of evil.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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