I continued before the Sanhedrin, looking each man in the eye: “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior, that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Well, they didn’t like hearing that. They didn’t know what to make of me talking about the Holy Spirit. And they were furious. The murmuring among them grew to an uproar. Their faces were red and contorted with anger. Their eyes burned with hatred. They wanted so badly to put us to death. And I was sure they would figure out a way to do so.
But then another surprise: a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a well-respected rabbi and teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up and ordered the guards to take us outside. This was the same rabbi under which our brother Paul had studied in his youth.
Nicodemus told us Gamaliel then addressed the group of angry men: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing.
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: 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.”
Now where do you think that came from? The Holy Spirit was speaking through Gamaliel, but of course neither Gamaliel nor the Sanhedrin knew this. The Spirit can and will speak to you through others, even unbelievers. They won’t know it, but if you know the Spirit, you will.
Apparently Gamaliel’s speech persuaded them. But they were so angry, and so scared of us, they weren’t about to just let us go without exacting some revenge. So they waited until Gamaliel and some of the others had left, and then called us back in.
None of us knew at the time what Gamliel had said, so we didn’t have any idea what would happen next. Annas glared at us for a moment, and then said, “You ignorant Galileans have overstepped your authority and attacked us for the last time. But because we are righteous, and want to extend mercy when we can, we are going to let you off.”
But then his face contorted and he sneered, with a sick sort of glee, “But as a parting gift we are going to leave you with a reminder of just who you are defying.”
With that he called in a different set of guards. These were former military men, who carried out the dirty work of the Sanhedrin. I knew we were in trouble, and sure enough Annas ordered us to be flogged.