You Don’t Say

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time.

Then he said to them, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. For some time ago, Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!"

They were convinced by him, and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Acts 5:33-40

This was a gutsy move: Peter and company on a soap box in Temple Square—home turf of those who did away with Jesus. Peter was halfway into his three-point sermon when the crowd gave way to a shoving company of Temple police who hauled them off to the lockup . . . Peter was still trying to get off another illustration under cuffs.

An angel came to them that night, led them out of jail, and told them to go back to the Temple and keep up the preaching. While you or I might have hightailed it back to Kansas, Peter & Co. obeyed the angel and walked back into the mouth of danger.

Predictably, the Temple higher-ups got angry. Real angry. Hadn’t they arrested and lectured these yahoos about not coming back with Jesus tracts? To disobey orders and bee-line it right back to their Seat of Power made the Temple brass furious, even homicidal.

Insecure power people can get that way if you oppose them.

So, imagine the council of religious leaders foaming at the mouth and ready to do significant damage to Peter and other apostles.

That’s when Gamaliel stood up.

By all accounts, Gamaliel was a leader’s leader, well-respected, an honored teacher—he was the kind of guy people stopped to listen to; he had that cool, calm demeanor that made others relax and see things differently. You remember the guy on the playground who calmed down the other kids so we wouldn’t beat up the weird one.

Gamaliel’s steady presence silenced the group and de-foamed those calling for immediate execution. Sometimes, in the midst of unbridled anger, a resolute, quiet presence is all it takes to create calm and reason. Sometimes no words are needed: a peaceful yet firm stare can cause the rest of the board members to wonder if they’re out of order.

In this case Gamaliel spoke, reminding the Jewish leaders of other so-called Messiahs and their followers, men who had come and gone like the traveling circus. If this was one more Barnum & Bailey’s, not to worry. If not, then maybe God is behind this one; and they should consider that the Almighty is actually bigger than their Pharisee Rule Book.

The right word at the right time changed the tide of a group about to make a big mistake.

Sometimes it only takes a presence, a look. Other times a measured phrase causes others to stop and consider if what they are about to do is the right thing.