Friday, April 28, 2006

Divine Intervention - Gamaliel's Counsel

In today's first reading, we are introduced to a Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel. He was a respected teacher of the law, and it was at his suggestion (or was it really?) that the Sanhedrin tread very carefully in their decision to put the Apostles to death. His argument was that, based on past experiences with Thadeus and Judas the Galilean, the followers of men are often dispersed once their leader is dead. Gamaliel warned the people of Israel that if Jesus was not who He claimed to be, then these followers, the Apostles, would soon disappear. However, his argument continued, if Jesus really was who He said He was, then their battle with the Apostles would be a battle with God. And that wasn't a place Gamaliel wanted to be.

Interestingly enough, the following excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia had this to say about Gamaliel:

We learn from Acts, xxii, 3, that he was the teacher of St. Paul; but we are not told either the nature or the extent of the influence which he exercised upon the future apostle of the Gentiles...The Jewish accounts make him die a Pharisee, and state that: "When he died, the honour of the Torah (the law) ceased, and purity and piety became extinct." At an early date, ecclesiastical tradition has supposed that Gamaliel embraced the Christian Faith, and remained a member of the Sanhedrin for the purpose of helping secretly his fellow-Christians (cf. Recognitions of Clement, I, lxv, lxvi). According to Photius, he was baptized by St. Peter and St. John, together with his son and with Nicodemus. His body, miraculously discovered in the fifth century, is said to be preserved at Pisa, in Italy.
A simple Google search on Gamaliel's counsel turned up a variety of interesting pieces touting his wisdom. I like to think it was more than wisdom that led him to advise Sanhedrin to ust beat the pulb out of the Apostles and forbid them to preach in the name of Jesus. I like to think there was Divine Intervention at work there, and throughout the history of Christianity.

Oh, and the Apostles, after they were flogged and forbidden to preach, left the Sanhedrin and rejoiced that they were made to suffer in the name of Jesus. How many of us have experienced real persecution for what we believe? Would you be willing to be beaten or killed to hold fast to what you know to be true? Should we thank God for living in a free country where we can proclaim what we know to be true? Certainly. I think we should look forward to the opportunity to suffer for what we belive, for it is in suffering that He is glorified!

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