The first followers of Jesus knew well that he had been arrested and executed by religious and political authorities in Jerusalem for living the good news of God’s kingdom. They also knew that Jesus had been raised by God to new life and new rule. They knew that Jesus had overcome evil and death through trusting and obeying God.
After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the lives of the apostles were transformed through the presence of the Holy Spirit within them. In the power of the Spirit, they could not help but carry on Jesus’ life of living the good news of the kingdom. Hence, they met regularly in a public area of the temple grounds in Jerusalem to grow in faith and to tell others about Jesus. In response, many became followers of Jesus.
The religious authorities countered by forbidding the apostles from speaking publicly about Jesus. They even arrested and jailed them. The apostles were keenly aware of what had happened to Jesus. What would happen to them?
God answered the question. God sent an angel to release the apostles in the night. A welcome turn of events! And yet … God instructed the released apostles to return to the temple and continue to proclaim the message of new life in Jesus! They had been threatened and arrested for doing just this. Now God had freed them, not for safety from controversy and danger, but for the very activity forbidden by the authorities. God sent them back to the temple to stand up for Jesus in front of all – religious and political authorities and any others they could tell.
Jesus is not one more asset or comfort added to “the good life” we desire – like new clothes, a better job, a fancier car, the latest electronics, a bigger home, or any other “add-on.” Jesus is life itself. The apostles knew this. We must know it, too, and follow Jesus accordingly. Following Jesus will threaten, arrest, and even end life as we once lived it. Yet, in God’s good news of release, it will free us for true life, for transformed life in the kingdom inaugurated by Jesus.