Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-39)
Theudas Claimed To Be Somebody But Was Not
The church of the Lord suffered persecution from its infancy as the Jews responded to the teaching that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Christ of Old Testament scrip. When Peter and John healed the lame man at the Temple it caused a great stir among the religious leaders who demanded explanations from the apostles for what they had done and why they were teaching a risen Jesus. These events were not far removed from the life of Jesus Christ and His miracles and teaching. For a second time the apostles were arrested and thrown into the common prison but an angel of the Lord set them free. The next day when the High priest and elders found the apostles preaching in the Temple they brought them before the council warning them to stop teaching in the name of Jesus. Peter declared they would obey the command of God over the pressures of the Jewish leaders continuing to teach that Jesus was raised from the dead exalted to the right hand of God as Prince and Savior. Infuriated by their insolence, the council sought to kill the apostles. It was Gamaliel, a teacher of the law that intervened and counseled the Sanhedrin to be very cautious of the apostles and their work. There was something clearly different about these men who followed Christ and Gamaliel knew the dangers of fighting against the plan of God.
Jesus was not the first person to claim to be the Messiah or Christ. Many false prophets had risen trying to lead the people away. Gamaliel mentions two men who tried to lead a rebellion claiming to be someone important but met with failure instead. Theudas rose up claiming to be somebody and a large number of men gathered around him. Four hundred followers joined Theudas in his quest for power. It all came to nothing when he was slain and his followers scattered. Judas of Galilee was another man who claimed to be someone but he was killed and his movement came to nothing. Gamaliel’s point was very clear in comparisons. Theudas and Judas lead a revolt but were killed and the movement died. Jesus of Nazareth had done remarkable things in His life and was killed like others who tried to be someone. The difference was that now His followers claimed to have seen this Jesus alive after a public crucifixion and death and their numbers were not dwindling but increasing. Thuedas claimed to be someone and came to nothing; Jesus claimed to be someone and everything proved Him to be right. The apostles stood before the Jewish council having been warned previously to stop teaching in the name of Jesus and nothing was going to dissuade them from teaching a risen Savior. These men were remarkable in their devotion to Christ and Gamaliel could sense the purpose of God in their lives. He knew if this religious movement was true nothing man could do would stop it.
Two thousand years later the words of Gamaliel continue to ring true. Men like Theudas have come and gone a thousand times. They claim to be someone but are found to be frauds, charlatans and liars. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. This claim was a bold proclamation that on the surface the Jews had every right to challenge. It was blasphemy for anyone to declare themselves to be God when no man could take on the mantle of deity without the authority from the Lord God. What the Jews could not see and refused to admit was that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and proved He was deity by His teaching and His miracles. Four hundred men followed Theudas and when their leader was killed the movement came to nothing. Thousands of people followed Jesus and when He was killed His disciples would later be found throughout the world proclaiming the message of a risen Savior. This message continues today because the message is true. With each passing year the words of Gamaliel ring clearer and louder as the work of the man from Nazareth continues to change hearts and turn men to God. It will never be overthrown or come to naught because the message of Jesus Christ is eternal in its nature and saving in its power. Followers of Jesus continue to multiply and nothing in this world will destroy it. The church has suffered greatly from apostasy as men have sought to change the character of the church. With all the challenges from the apostate Roman Catholic Church to the minions of its followers in the Protestant creations of men, the New Testament church of Jesus Christ remains the same. Men like Theudas will try to challenge the plan of God but they will always come to nothing. There is one Lord, one faith, one body, one church and one way. The kingdom of God will continue as long as the earth remains because that is His plan.