It was mid-night on that day. The guards stood on duty, guarding a prison cell. There were eleven men locked behind bars. The guards watched over them with caution, taking note of their every move. Suddenly, a bright light descended from Heaven and shone in the midst of the eleven prisoners. The light immediately transformed into a man in a white robe with a gold belt around his waist. He hovered in the air. His body and robe radiated light. The eleven did not close their eyes as the light was not harmful in any way. The man pointed to the prison doors and they opened on their own. He then led them out of the cell. They went past all the guards who stood awake but unaware of what was happening and as the eleven left the cell, the doors shut on their own accord.
The man then hovered above them and said, “You all are to return to the temple. Stand there and tell the people everything about this life, just as you were doing before you got arrested.”
The eleven nodded and the man ascended into the clouds. They watched until they saw him no more. They then sat there for some time and discussed among themselves what had just transpired while waiting for the first sign of dawn.
At daybreak, the eleven went into the temple and continued teaching with boldness.
A few hours later, the high priest arrived at the temple. He was unaware that the large crowd had gathered just to listen to the eleven. He summoned a meeting of the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel. He then sent the temple police to the prison to bring the eleven to face the council. He was surprised to see the temple police returning without the eleven and was even more surprised when they were told that they met the guards on duty with the cell locked but when they opened it, there was no one inside. The captain of the temple and the chief priests looked at each other. They were deeply perplexed and wondered what was happening.
Two unholy creatures were there in the gathering where the Eleven were teaching. They were invisible to the human eye. They knew the Eleven were teaching and that the council were wondering what had become of them. So, one of them drifted close to a man who was listening to the Eleven and whispered to his ear, “Aren’t these the men that were arrested yesterday? Were they released? I am sure they must have escaped.” The man immediately began to meditate on this thought.
“You should go and report them to the high priest,” the unholy one whispered again, “He may give you some money as reward.”
“That is true,” the man thought to himself. He then immediately went to the chamber, accompanied by the unholy one. There he heard the gathering talking, asking questions about the whereabouts of the Eleven. He immediately began to smile as he marched in and said, “I have news that would be of great importance.”
“News about what?” the high priest asked.
“News about the men you had arrested yesterday,” he replied, “But you must promise to reward me first.”
“Go ahead, my friend,” the high priest said.
“Look,” he said, “Pointing in the direction of the Eleven, “They are standing in the temple, teaching the people. Can I have my reward now?”
“As a reward,” the high priest said, “We hereby absolve you of all your sins.”
The man bowed and left their presence. He left disappointed for he did not receive what he had hoped for.
The captain of the temple went with the temple police to bring the Eleven. Their hearts dropped when they saw the crowd. They knew that if they used force, the people might stone them so they quietly whispered to the Eleven to go with them. The Eleven obeyed without hesitation.
When the Eleven arrived, they stood before the council. The high priest stood up and said, “Did we not give you strict orders not to teach any-more in this name? Why do you disobey us? You have filled the whole of Jerusalem with this teaching and you are determined to bring the blood of this man on us. Answer me! Why did you disobey us?”
The Eleven began to speak, each uttering a sentence and some echoing the sentences which were uttered. They said, “We all must obey God rather than obey any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus whom you killed by nailing him to a tree. God exalted Him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that He might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. We are all witnesses to these things.”
There was uproar in the council after the Eleven said this. Some of the chief priests began to say that the Eleven should be put to death immediately. A man raised his hand to speak and there was sudden silence in the council.
“Gama’liel,” the high priest said, “You are a respected Pharisee and a teacher of the law. What is your opinion?”
Gama’liel stood up and said, “I would like to inform everyone of my opinion but first, let these men be taken outside for a short time.”
The high priest nodded as the temple police led the Eleven outside.
“My fellow Israelites,” Gama’liel continued, “Do consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. Remember that some time ago, Theu’das rose up with claims to be somebody and about four hundred men joined him. Remember also that when he was killed, all his followers dispersed and disappeared. Let us not forget that after him rose Judas the Galilean who had followers, but when he perished, all his followers were scattered. However, in this present case, please keep away from the Eleven and leave them alone. If this their undertaking is of human origin, it will surely fail like those I have mentioned, but if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them and you may even be found fighting against God. Please, I urge you all to think deeply about what I have said.”
The council discussed for a short while. The high priest then asked that the Eleven be brought in. The temple police did and the high priest said, “We have deliberated and have decided not to take your lives. We will have all of you flogged after which you are free to go.”
He then nodded to one of the temple police who was holding a whip and with the help of the others, they striped the Eleven of their garments and flogged them. Each of them received more than 20 lashes on their backs but none of them cried out in pain. They all stood there with smiles on their faces. They were happy being flogged and did not hide their joy.
When the flogging was over, the high priest said, “You are now free to go but you must never speak or teach about Jesus again. If you do, the punishment would be more severe than this.”
The Eleven left the council happily. They rejoiced among themselves that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name. Jesus walked with them as they rejoiced but he was invisible to their sight. The unholy ones looked with anger as they saw Jesus in their midst. They had hoped that the council would execute them.
The Eleven however did not heed the warning of the high priest as they continued to proclaim Jesus as the Mssiah. They continued to teach in the temple and from one house to another. Through all of these, Jesus went with them, with a smile.
Adapted from the Holy Bible; the book of the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 5
From the book Three Men and a Bottle