As I read today’s passage, I can’t help but be struck by the pure and simple logic expressed by Gamaliel: "Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
Today’s passage is a continuation of the narrative begun yesterday. Jesus’ followers are before the Sanhedrin after their (unintended) release. The Sanhedrin are very unhappy with the apostles. In fact, they are furious and plot to kill this small band of men just as they had killed their leader, Jesus. It is at this point that Gamaliel speaks up.
We’re not told whether Gamaliel is a secret admirer or follower of Jesus; he probably is not. We can deduce that he is a wise man. We know he is a Pharisee, a teacher of the law (Paul was one of his students) and that he was held in respect by all the people. He describes parallel situations (or so it seems) with two other men who had a sizable number of followers. In each case, the group dispersed upon the death of the leader. Gamaliel recommends leaving the apostles alone by suggesting they will amount to nothing without their leader.
What Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin don’t know, however, is that these men are not without their leader. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they have become emboldened to carry on the work given to them by God. Since it is from God, these men were, as Gamaliel suggested, not able to be stopped.
…if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men….
There are two ways to look at this simple statement.
The first is to help us question our motives: are they of human origin or from God?
The second is to challenge our faith: what will we attempt knowing that, being from God, it cannot fail?