Jealousy is a powerful emotion. When you fear that what you have will be taken away, you jealously guard what belongs to you. It is right to be jealous for what rightly belongs to you – as God is jealous over His people and will not tolerate their worship of false gods (Exodus 34:14). But it is wrong to jealously guard what does not rightly belong to you. The religious leaders of Israel were only trustees of God's people, but they thought they owned them (Luke 20:9-19). They should have been leading people to Jesus; instead they wanted His power and glory.
After many amazing demonstrations of Jesus' power through the apostles, with everybody being healed (Acts 5:16), the public enthusiasm for Jesus and the church was too great for the jealous leaders to bear. That was particularly true for the Sadducees who claimed that there was not life after death, and taught that resurrection was impossible. To protect their own interests, they arrested the apostles and jailed them overnight.
That was not God's plan. So He sent an angel to open the prison doors during the night, letting them out into the street. He then instructed them to go back into the temple and continue to teach about Jesus. At first light, they obeyed without fear because Jesus had taught them that although they would suffer persecution (John 16:1-4), He already had overcome the world (John 16:33).
So the apostles learned to endure persecution with joy, trusting that Jesus would strengthen and release them. Although most of them died violently, the church kept growing. They knew that only Jesus has ultimate authoritative power: and He promised to raise them up at the Last Day (John 6:39-40). Today, millions of believers around the world are trusting Him like that. Despite hardship and persecution, they remain faithful to Christ. If you are one of them – keep on trusting Jesus. If you are currently experiencing much blessing, pray for your brothers and sisters who are suffering, witness openly for Christ and be ready for opposition.
© Dr Paul Adams