The reaction of the followers of Jesus to Peter and John’s arrest is raise their voices together in praise and prayer (Acts 4:24). This runs counter to what the council intended. The disciples of Jesus ought to have been filled with remorse after they were shown their so-called gospel blasphemy. They ought to have humbly submitted to their elders and ceased their preaching of Jesus as the resurrected messiah.
On the contrary, they rejoice because they have been counted worthy to suffer persecution in a similar way to what Jesus faced. Opposition to Jesus’ teaching began with the Pharisees and Sadducees and Jesus was told he was not doing miracles by the power of God. Jesus was also subjected to traps to get him to state a false teaching publicly. In short, this resistance to the apostolic teaching is exactly the same as Jesus faced. The rejection of the teaching is far more grave, however, since the people acted in ignorance when they killed Jesus (Acts 3:17). But ignorance is no longer an excuse: the rejection of the Holy Spirit will result in a most dire judgment.
The disciples see this persecution as the fulfillment of Scripture, specifically Psalm 2. This Psalm is cited as proof that the apostolic mission is having the intended effect. The “nations” in the original Psalm are the gentiles, or generically the “enemies of God.” The gentiles did plot against Jesus and did put him to death, but now Peter is applying that same thinking to the actions of the High Priest. Peter is calling the High Priest and his inner circle “gentiles.” Arnold points out when Peter prays that God “stretch out his hand” he is alluding the events of the Exodus – when God brought his people out of Egypt with miracles and great signs and wonders (Arnold, Acts, 34). I think Peter is consciously connecting the Exodus, the great salvation event of the Hebrew Bible to the events of Pentecost – the new age is dawning and it will be like a new Exodus.
The Jewish resistance to the Holy Spirit is therefore interpreted here as the same thing as Gentile resistance to the people of God in the Hebrew Bible. Perhaps most significant is that this resistance will be just as futile ans Egypt’s resistance to God in the first Exodus.
As they prayed, the meeting was shaken and they once again are filled with the Holy Spirit and they all spoke the word of God boldly. Just as Peter was filled with the Spirit and spoke boldly before the High Priest, now the whole community speaks boldly. The council commanded silence, but the community reacts by boldly witnessing concerning the truth concerning Jesus.
This is the first example of an arrest turning into a victory for the Jesus community (there are several more to come in the book of Acts). In Acts, no earthly power can hinder the power of the Holy Spirit and the witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus. The attitude of the earliest Jesus-followers seems the opposite of contemporary Christianity, especially in its American form. Christians are quite quick to decry some minor resistance to Christian practice as a “war” on the faith. Yet here in Acts, serious attacks (and physical suffering) are welcomed as signs the Gospel is effective and suffering results in a clear witness to the Gospel. How can we return to this attitude found among the earliest followers of Jesus?