I have often wondered, after Ananias and Sapphira are buried, what the offering the next Sunday looked like. It is an odd story but is indicative of the growing authority and spiritual presence of the early church leaders that the death of this couple is attributed to punishment for lying to the church leadership (aka Apostles). The Ananias/Sapphira story is followed by a brief description of the healing ministry of the Apostles – people are left on mats where the Apostles might walk by in the hopes of their finding healing and relief from their distress. The number of new believers is growing quickly.
I believe it is this growth that leads to the inevitable persecution of the young Christian movement. In 5:17 and following, the apostles are arrested and put in prison, but the Lord miraculously opens the doors and tells them to go and stand in the Temple and preach. When the Apostles are found preaching and not behind the locked doors they are again brought before the Sanhedrin – which becomes another occasion for Peter and the Apostles to preach the clear message of the Gospel: Jesus was dead but is alive, he is the way to repentance and forgiveness of sins (31).
Enter the teacher Gamaliel. Gamaliel was one of the most prominent Rabbis of this era. St. Paul was a student of Gamaliel. He speaks to the council about various teachers who have risen and fallen over the years and he concludes: “I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan is of human origin, it will fail, but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them (5:38-39).” The council has the apostles flogged and released.
Notice the Apostles response to this beating: “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name (41).” Like their prayer for boldness, they are prepared to do whatever it takes to be faithful to Jesus life, death, resurrection, teaching and way.