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A Wise By-Stander

by | Apr 16, 2023 | Wisdom

“But Peter and the apostles answered [the council], ‘We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.’ When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 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. And he said to them, ‘Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. … Keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 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, 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.”

(Acts 5:29-35, 38b-40 ESV)

Gamaliel is very dear to me. It’s rare that you find someone who has such common sense and self-restraint in a time of conflict. It’s clear that Gamaliel does not believe in Jesus, at least not yet; but he has enough of an open mind to consider that maybe, just maybe, Jesus might actually be the Messiah sent from God. If so, Gamaliel doesn’t want to oppose Him.

This kind of wisdom is a gift from God. Oh, it’s not the heavenly wisdom which the Spirit gives us to recognize and believe in Jesus. This is something lower—an earthly wisdom we might call it, a temporary middle ground between rejecting Jesus and embracing Him as Messiah, Savior, and Lord. Gamaliel’s wisdom is not enough to save him, but it is enough to serve as a temporary standing place—until the Holy Spirit does His saving work.

Today it seems more common to find people living at the extremes of love and hate. Gamaliel reminds us that there are other people out there—people who are currently bystanders, people who have not yet made up their minds what to believe. They are people to pray for—and people to keep in mind as we live our lives in the service of Jesus who lived and died and rose for us all. Who knows? Perhaps the Spirit will use your words and behavior to draw someone like Gamaliel to Jesus today.

In the meantime, let us love the Gamaliels in our own lives. We are privileged to know the God who came into our world to be our Savior and to give His life as a ransom for us all. Pray, that soon the same will be true for the bystanders in your life.

We Pray: Dear Father, thank You for the wisdom of Gamaliel. Please turn the hearts of those who share his wisdom to know Your Son Jesus Christ in the fullness of His love and truth. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on April 11, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights

Reflection Questions:
1. Have you ever been a bystander watching a conflict between two other people or groups?
2. Why is it a good idea sometimes to avoid taking sides?
3. How can we help those we love to move from being bystanders to trusting fully in Jesus?

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