“But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
“Go, stand and speak in the temple…” (Acts 5:19,20).
As the apostles had followed Christ through His earthly ministry, He had generally sat down to teach. Concerning His first recorded sermon, delivered in Nazareth’s synagogue, we read:
“And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him.
“And He began to say…” (Luke 4:20,21).
This is only one of numerous references in the gospel records. (See Matt. 13:1,2; Mark 4:1; Luke 5:3; et al). That this was His usual custom is clear from His own words in Matthew 26:55:
“I sat daily with you teaching in the temple….”
But even our Lord occasionally stood to address the people. In John 7:37, for example, we read:
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.”
But in this case the word “stood” means more than merely that He rose to His feet. Reading the context, one can take in something of the passion that filled the Savior’s heart as He beheld the multitudes going through the formalities of this “feast of the Jews,” only to be left spiritually hungry and thirsty.
On the last day of this feast of tabernacles, at the pouring of the ceremonial water, He could bear it no longer. This pouring of water was to signify the refreshment of His own coming kingdom. But they did not know Him, nor the water of life, which He alone could give. Thus, He found a place to stand where He could be heard and lifted up His voice above the noise of the busy multitude: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink.”
This is what is meant by the phrase: “Jesus stood and cried.” The word histemi here means more than merely to rise or to be upon one’s feet. It means to take a stand, and it is often so used.
For example, in Matthew 24:15 we read of the Antichrist, who is to “stand in the holy place;” in Luke 19:8, “Zacchaeus stood, and said;” in Acts 2:14 we find “Peter, standing up with the eleven;” in Acts 25:10 Paul declares, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.” Furthermore, in Romans 5:2 we read of “this grace wherein we stand;” in Ephesians 6:11 we are told to “stand against the wiles of the devil;” in Revelation 10:8 we have “the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth,” lifting his hand to heaven to swear that there will be time no longer.
In these and many other occurrences of the word histemi there is a certain energy and determination manifested. It has clearly to do with taking a stand.
And so it is in Acts 5:20. The apostles had been commanded not to teach in Christ’s name. They had even been held in ward for so doing. But now an angel opens the prison doors by night, bidding them take their stand for Christ in the temple, from which they had so recently been taken and cast into prison.
What a lesson there is for us in this scene!
Surely we have a more glorious message to bring to the world than Peter and the apostles had for Israel. It is a message that is all of grace—an offer of reconciliation wholly through the merits of the crucified, risen, ascended Lord. It is an offer of complete justification by grace, through faith—of a position in the heavenlies in Christ.
What have we to be ashamed of, with such a message to proclaim? Surely we should not hesitate to take our stand for it. But it is the very potency of this message that so enrages our adversary and causes him to oppose it so viciously. This is why the Apostle Paul so strongly urges us to be courageous in the fight:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world [age], against spiritual wickedness [wicked spirits] in high [heavenly] places.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
“Stand therefore…” (Eph. 6:10-14).
May God help us, beloved, to boldly take our stand for Him and for the gospel of His grace. True, this is an evil age and we wrestle against satanic forces, but where sin abounds grace yet much more abounds. It was our blessed Savior and Lord whose death on Calvary made the exceeding riches of God’s grace available to us. Surely the least we can do is to take our stand for Him in this world of sin and make the glad message known to others.