Acts 5:34 "Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;The Jewish people had lived in bondage under the Assyrians, the Babylonians, then the Greeks followed by the Seleucid's and then by the Romans. The Maccabee brothers had fought a revolution and established the Hasmonean Dynasty which had ruled Judah for one-hundred years until the Romans overthrew them in 63 BC. The Maccabees brought nationalism and the restoration of Judaism which the Seleucid's treated as nothing more than a governing organization. Some claim that the Jewish War of Independence was little more than a civil war between civil and religious factions of Judaism; the Hellenists (Greek influenced) verses Judaism. In effect they allege that this was a war between the secular and religion!
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.
Now, what's this got to do with that? The Jews were equally expecting a Messiah. However, the Hellenists were expecting a king to win their independence while a few of the others were expecting God to come (the Messiah). As such, some were expecting their nation to be restored while others believed that Judaism would be strengthened, reducing the effect of Greek philosophy on the people.
Jesus is not what the Jews were expecting. He was certainly not a "General King" characteristic of John Maccabbee, and Jesus even failed to fit into the ideas of Judaism which had it's own power structure.
The Sanhedrin was the government of Judea and there were four parties of Jews: Saducees, Pharisees, Essenes, and Zealots (Zealotism). All were Jewish philosophies influencing Jewish thought, both in government and religion! Jesus was "none of the above" although each expected Jesus to be what each was expecting him to be! Since no one was getting what they expected, Jesus was denied by most!
Now re-read the passages above. Stage right entered Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee. His party was the most aligned with Judaism becoming Rabbinical Judaism of later years. However, most people were just Jews without allegiance to any party. It was likely that common Jews were those with whom Jesus was the most effective. Even the Essenes of which some believe John the Baptist was a part, have no notoriety in scripture!
Some thought John the Baptist was the Messiah.
John 1:25 "And they (the Pharisees) asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?"The Pharisees were in fact looking for a religious Messiah. They still are! (Thirteen Principles of Judaism). They perceived that John the Baptist might be him. If not him, then Elijah or another prophet. They were in fact looking for prophecy to be fulfilled. Gamaliel knew that!
John was the first of many thought to be the Messiah. John denied his messiah-hood and directed the Pharisees toward Jesus as the true Messiah.
In many monarchies, there were always one or many contending for the throne. In Jesus time there were several "pretenders". There were several who the people thought were deliverers from bondage and were the long awaited Messiah. Among those were Theudas and Judas of Galilee. They were both Zealotists who were militant nationalists. To some they were the Messiah and as such stole glory from Jesus. A few, but not many followed these leaders. However, according to the numbers more died with them than did with Jesus (only one other who was a late convert and was a thief!)
Gamaliel warned the apostles of the previous failed attempts to establish a Messianic kingdom in Judea and they all failed! Being a Pharisee, his persuasion was not with a political war nor a war of independence. He had power in the existing structure and warned the apostles! He seemed to be a reasonable man because he argued in favor of cutting the apostles some slack. His message is "If you apostles get too zealous, you'll let yourselves be destroyed! Now continue on, but beware".
Gamaliel may have been just a little convinced, if not then, maybe later for he said (verse 39) "But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
Gamaliel was persuaded to some extent, but not convinced. Part of this is knowing that the apostles were not teaching civil unrest, but were espousing prophecy from his own faith! His attitude was "Let's wait and see!" He was a skeptic and skepticism isn't a path to eternal life unless suceeded by faith. The thought "Maybe Jesus was the savior." is not faith enough. It must be "Jesus is the savior!"
Then we see that the apostles were beaten (of course) by open-minded authorities (sic). In their fairness they released them to proceed, but with a new rule: "... when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus." (verse 40).
They were censored (another case of "political correctness") and the only rule was to not speak "in the name of Jesus". It's the same political correctness we have today. "You can teach anything anywhere, but just don't say Jesus!" Why? Because there is power in Jesus' name! It's because Jesus' is love and truth and the world hates them both.
Because they, as are people now, dissuaded from teaching in Jesus' name, makes me more firm in my belief in Jesus. Persecution of Christ and Christians has always been the hate that makes the love of Jesus grow. If it weren't for evil unfair people Christianity would never have spread over the entire world!
After the apostles left the ruling counsel it is said "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." (verse 41). Imagine: they had just been humiliated, misaligned as rebels, beaten, and forbidden to teach truth, yet they rejoiced! I guess they were zealots. They were fanatics for Jesus!
Even today believers are referred to as "Christian fanatics" or "right wing Christians". It's a derogatory term, but one in which we should have pride. If we aren't being zealots for Jesus, then we're not being obedient. We are told to tell the world about him (The Great Commission), but yet most Christians remain silent. My writings are a feeble attempt to spread the gospel. I'm a zealot for Jesus, but not zealous enough.
Christians fear the thoughts of the world. They don't want to be zealots as Gamaliel believed the apostles to be. They fear to spread the doctrines of Jesus because the world says "Keep silent regarding Jesus!" Gamaliel hit the nail on the head: (verse 38) "...if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought...". Guess what. Gamaliel was a fair man. He recognized that mere men who proceeded Christ failed. There is little mention outside of Josephus of Theudas or Judas of Galilee, but the name of Jesus is recognized throughout the world.
Unless we too are Jesus fans (fanatics), the masses will be lost. It depends on us to spread the gospel even in the face of persecution. If we're not being persecuted we're being too silent! Imagine, some won't even tell a sibling about Jesus because "I don't want to get into an argument!" Jesus offended the Pharisees; he offended the Sadducees; he offended the merchants in the temple; he offended the Sanhedrin. Jesus didn't come to keep the peace!
Matthew 10:34 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."Jesus came to make war with the world and defeat it! His sword is truth (Holy Scripture). For speaking truth Jesus knew that the world would never be the same. We are still at war with the world and religious independence will in fact come with a Messiah, but it will be when the real Messiah returns! (The Thousand Year Reign).
How do we compare: (verse 42) "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ." Few Christians even teach their children about Jesus. "Not enough time!" The church doesn't either. "It might offend those who it teaches against!', and certainly the government still coerces "It's intolerant and hateful!"
Maybe when we're beaten a little more soundly will we speak of Jesus more forthrightly. But by then it may be too late. There are just too many Sadducees, Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and even too many false messiahs out there! We can't offend Buddha. We can't offend Brahman; and we certainly can't offend Allah, can we?