4:1 "Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand."
Generally speaking the Jews were divided into three groups. The largest group and ruling class were the Sadducees. The other influential group were the Pharisees and a smaller group were the Essenes whom we rarely hear about. The reason is simple. They believed in withdrawing from society. The Pharisees are what today we would call the right wing or the ultra conservatives and the Sadducees we would call liberal or left wing. Whenever Jesus was being challenged by the minute details of the law you be sure it was a Pharisee speaking. If He was being challenged about issues of authority or politics it was likely a Sadducee.
On this occasion it was the Sadducees who came running to try and put a stop to the preaching of Peter. Why? Because the Sadducees taught that there was no life after death. The resurrection of Jesus was a serious threat to their reputation as teachers and their authority as the ruling class.
Last night we completed a weekend series called Shadow Empire that traced the rise of Constantine and his influence on politics and the Christian church even to this day. What is clear from history is that he and so many others have used religion as a tool to gain political advantage. Scan the globe even today and you won't have a hard time finding countries where religion and politics are fused together as an effective tool for controlling the masses.
One of the reasons Constantine decided to embrace the Christians in his empire rather than try and squash them as his predecessors had done was because he had grown up witnessing their fearlessness. Rome used the death of dissidents to discourage the living from stepping out of line. However the Christians didn't fear death. Why? Because Jesus walked out of the tomb. They didn't just have a religion that theorized about a possible afterlife. Their Jesus demonstrated it.
For the Sadducees this was a major problem. Part of their control over the people was the idea this life was it. By not believing in any kind of life beyond the grave the people put their full focus on the present. Since the Sadducees were the ruling class and in the best position to affect the present fortunes of the masses that meant the masses gave them their full attention.
In other words, what for the people was religion was simply political advantage for the leaders.
What is the point? When anyone is desperate to squash an alternative point of view, you can be sure they have a deeper agenda that is for their benefit.
What we're witnessing in the courtyard of the temple as the authorities bust in and take Peter and John into custody is the beginning of a turf war that in some ways has never ended even to this day although the war has changed shape many times.
This much I can tell you with certainty. The Truth never lies on the side of those who seek to squash the freedoms of others. God is not like that.