5:26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!”
29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
Fascinating. Two forces are in opposition. Tension is building. On one side the religious leaders are about to boil over. They are furious and on the brink of plotting murder. On the other side the disciples are determined. They may not be violent or even angry but they certainly aren't backing down. Threats have not dissuaded them. Jail time has not dampened their resolve. Something has to give because both sides are determined to win.
Much ink has been spilled over the words and wisdom of Gamaliel. However there is an angle to this story I never saw until I read it this morning even though it is plain as day.
You see I am biased. So are you. Your bias may match mine or it may oppose mine but be certain we are both bias. My bias sees the religious leaders as evil. It sees them as knowing what it right but refusing to do it.
My bias blinded me. It kept me from seeing the truth, it even kept me from hearing what Jesus so plainly stated as He was dying on the cross. My bias until this morning prevented me from seeing this whole scenario from "the other side".
Think about this. Peter and the other disciples even after all the time they spent with Jesus refused to believe He was going to die. They were wrong but they were 110% convinced they were right. If this was true about the disciples why couldn't it be equally true of the religious leaders?
Think about this. What did Jesus say as He was dying on the cross? "Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do." Jesus is telling us in plain English (actually Aramaic) that the men who have plotted against Him, had Him arrested, and ultimately crucified didn't know what they were doing. In other words they were convinced they were right and their actions were necessary.
Fast forward to Gamaliel's speech. He stands up in front of these men who are convinced they are right and doing what is necessary to preserve the nation. He simply says that illegitimate "heros" have arisen before and as soon as they die their entire movement folds. Jesus is gone. He is the "hero". Now watch this: If Jesus was illegitimate the movement will fold. If Jesus was legitimate this movement can't be stopped.
Gamaliel is asking these men to stand back and "let nature take its course" by considering the possibility that this movement is indeed from God.
Bias. We all have it. Gamaliel's wisdom is rooted in considering the possibility that in any given circumstance I may be wrong no matter how convinced I am that I am right.
In a culture increasingly hostile to such possibilities it would behoove us all to consider daily the wisdom of Gamaliel.