Lectionary Text for March 31, 2014
The First Lesson
29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. 
“We must obey God rather than men.” What a confession of faith which Peter gives.
In the time of Easter, what would normally be our Old Testament Lesson is taken from the book of Acts. The Second Sunday of Easter’s First Lesson then starts with these great words of Peter. In order to simply understand why Peter is saying this, we should simply give a brief summary of the events just prior to this confession.
The Church has become an unstoppable force and is making waves in Jerusalem and all of Judea. People are hearing the Gospel and are coming to faith in Christ. People are likewise being freed of their religious grip that has held them by the Jewish religious leaders. Naturally then, the religious leaders do not like this. To be faith some do not like it for evil reasons and some do not like it because they consider it to be a denial of the one true God.
In either case, the Gospel is spreading by the preaching of the Gospel. So, they arrest Peter and the other apostles and throw them in prison. Miraculously, they are released from this prison and continue to preach the Good News.
When they are caught once again (caught is not a good term as they were not doing anything deceptive, but proclaiming the Good News openly and in the Court Yard of the Temple) they are brought before the council as the High Priest demands that they stop preaching.
This is where we pick up our lesson with Peter’s response… “We must obey God rather than man.” It is important to see then how bold of a statement this truly is. They just killed Jesus for doing the same thing, what’s to stop them from doing the same to the apostles?
Here is where it really gets interesting and compelling for the Christian faith. An opponent to the faith, Gamaliel, stands up and gives a soliloquy about all of the apparent messiah’s which had risen up in the recent years and that when they had died, so did their following. What is interesting is that the council knows that Jesus had risen from the dead, so some were trying to do whatever they could to stop the spreading of this message. But others, those who knew their history and also trusted greatly in God, did not want to be found on the side fighting against God. So, Gamaliel’s words are profound in this case when he says, “38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice,”
The council listens to him, and they beat the apostles which only strengthens them even more because they found that being persecuted for the sake of the Gospel was a blessing.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 5:29–42.