“At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people. When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported,23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to. 25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.” Acts 5.22-26
Now this is purely speculation on my part, but I’m wondering – “Were there jail cells on the Temple mount or within the Temple courts?” We know when Jesus was imprisoned he was taken to the house of the high priest. It sounds like in this account in Acts that the apostles were very close to the Temple courts, if not on the Temple mount itself. V. 25 says, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” Could they see the apostles from where they were standing?
I raise this question because I wonder what kind of religion has prisons within their sacred spaces? I can understand a youth group having a basketball “cage” for junior high boys, a great way for them to be contained! But in truth, what church has a jail within in? We know many prisons have churches, which is wonderful, but why would a church have a prison? Maybe it was just a solidly built room where the Sanhedrin were meeting where they put the Jesus followers. We also read where they had to send for the apostles and when ”arriving at the jail, they did not find them there.” So perhaps the prison was on the edge of the holy site or maybe even within.
A church with prisons is an oxymoron. Churches are intended to set people free from sin and death. Churches are filled with sinners who are saved by grace, with people who have committed crimes against heaven and earth. But it is the forgiven who are filing the pews and sitting in worship spaces. Those who have experienced God’s love and grace are not to live in the ”prison” of sin any longer.
The apostles were prisoners in one sense but in another, they were set free. They might have been bound physically for breaking Jewish law, but they were set free spiritually by God for obeying his commands and following Jesus as Messiah.
In truth, we have all be in prison in one way or another. We’ve had difficulties and hardships, trials and tribulations. But with Jesus, we can be set free to live abundantly today and eternally to come.
The apostles made it through hardships for the sake of the Gospel and so can we. Trust in the Lord. Turn to his face. Commit your ways to him and allow him to release you from the prison of your soul into a wonderful life with God.
“O Lord God, you are good. Thank you for loving me. Come now, Holy Father, send your Spirit upon me. Break the chains that bind me, set me from free sin and even the temptation! Help me walk victoriously into a new and abundant life. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen