The First Reading for this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles. The text is Acts 5:29-42 and obviously does not come from the Old Testament. Throughout the season of Easter, in the Three-Year Lectionary, the Old Testament reading is replaced with readings from the Acts of the Apostles. Due to this reality we will be follow the Lectionary through the Easter season and provide text notes and sermon helps from these texts in Acts.
The Apostles have been arrested by the Sadducees out of jealousy, however, in the middle of the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison and set them free. They returned to the Temple and were teaching and preaching when they were brought back to stand before the Council/Sanhedrin. Our text begins with their answer to why they are doing this when they were strictly charged to cease their actions. The answer? “We must obey God rather than men.”
This is a tense setting, not just between the Apostles and the Sadducees, but also between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Gamaliel was a well-respected, moderate Pharisee who is better known to us as the teacher of Saul/Paul. He is the one who speaks reason to the Council and while the Sadducees run the Sanhedrin, everyone listens to Gamaliel. The situations in the past he refers to are minor rebellions against the Roman government. Theudas is a bit obscure but we know that Judas the Galilean lead a rebellion against the Romans taxation program (the purpose of the census) around 6 AD. This is a later census than the one mentioned at the birth of Christ. None of these rebellions worked out well—all participants died! It is interesting to note how Gamaliel uses examples of rebellious leaders, not false messiahs. This may be his way of not lending credence to the claims of the Apostles.
Another interesting note is in verse 30 where the cross is referred to with “tree” language. This helps us to see the tree motif which begins in the Garden of Eden with the Tree of Life, goes through the cross of Jesus and comes to fruition in Revelation 22 as we hear of the Tree of Life in the courts of everlasting life. An excellent hymn by Steven Starke on this is “The Tree of Life” (Lutheran Service Book #561).
As possible preaching themes there is the, “Rejoicing being found worthy to suffer for the Name,” and, of course, “We must obey God rather than men.” The last is especially interesting as the pericope begins with this theme and at the end of the chapter the Apostles are back at the preaching and teaching even though they have been strictly warned not to. Indeed, they are obeying God and not men.
5:29 Πειθαρχεῖν “to obey; to obey one in authority”
5:30 ἤγειρεν from: ἐγείρω Aorist: “to raise”
διεχειρίσασθε from: διαχειρίζομαι Aorist middle: “to take in hand; to do away with (as in kill/murder)”
κρεμάσαντες from: κρεμάννυμι Aorist participle: “to hang”
5:31 ὕψωσεν from: ὑψόω Aorist: “to lift up; to exalt”
5:32 ἔδωκεν from δίδωμι Aorist: “to give”
πειθαρχοῦσιν Present participle: “to obey”
5:33 διεπρίοντο from: διαπίομαι Imperfect passive: “to infuriate; to cut to the quick; to saw through”
ἀνελεῖν from: ἀναιρέω Aorist infinitive: “to kill”
5:34 ἐκέλευσεν from: κελεύω Aorist: “to command”
ποιῆσαι Aorist infinitive: “to put; to place”
5:35 προσέχετε from: προσέχω Present imperative: “to give heed; to pay attention; to take
5:36 ἀνέστη from: ἀνίστημι Aorist: “to raise; to raise up; to erect”
προσεκλίθη from: προσκλίνομαι Aorist passive: “to attach oneself; to follow; to join up with”
ἀνῃρέθη from ἀναιρέω Aorist passive: “to take away; to do away with; to destroy”
ἐπείθοντο from: πείθω Imperfect middle: “to obey”
διελύθησαν from: διαλύω Aorist passive: “to scatter; to destroy”
5:37 ἀπέστησεν from: ἀφίστημι Aorist: “to mislead; to cause to revolt; to draw away”
ἀπώλετο from: ἀπόλλυμι Aorist middle: “to perish; to destroy”
διεσκορπίσθησαν from: διασκορπίζω Aorist passive: “to scatter”
5:38 ἀπόστητε from: ἀφίστημι Aorist imperative: “to keep away from”
ἄφετε from: ἀφίημι Aorist imperative: “to leave alone; to leave”
καταλυθήσεται from: καταλύω Future passive: “to fail; to fall down; to destroy”
5:39 δυνήσεσθε from: δύναμαι Future middle: “to be able”
θεομάχοι “fighting against God”
ἐπείσθησαν from: πείθω Aorist: “to take”
5:40 προσκαλεσάμενοι from: προσκαλέομαι Aorist participle: “to flog; to beat”
ἀπέλυσαν from: ἀπολύω Aorist: “to release; to let go”
5:41 ἐπορεύοντο Imperfect middle: “to leave”
χαίροντες Present participle: “to rejoice”
κατηξιώθησαν from: καταξιόω Aorist passive: “to consider worthy”
ἀτιμασθῆναι from: ἀτιμάζω Aorist passive infinitive: “to dishonor”
5:42 ἐπαύοντο from: παύω Imperfect middle: “to cease”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Acts 5:29-42.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 5:27-41.