This story is the beginning of the pattern of disciples being arrested for teaching/preaching in the name of Jesus. But just what were Peter and John preaching? The priests, temple guard and Sadducees were “greatly disturbed” because Peter and John were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” According to Peter and John, this event that Jews had been waiting for, that they thought would happen at the end of time, had already begun to happen with Jesus. The rescue-by-God that was supposed to happen sometime in the future was now beginning to take place!
This is Good News, right? Any Jew should be excited that the day had finally come when God would come with power to rescue his people and set things straight, right? Well, not any Jew. Those in power don’t want their world disrupted, do they? Those in power are happy with the world as it is. Those in power don’t need God to come rescue people and set things straight. They are already doing just fine, thank you very much.
As N.T. Wright puts it in his commentary on this section, “…those who are in power, within the world the way it is, are quite right to suspect that, if God suddenly does such a drastic thing, they (to put it mildly) cannot guarantee that they will end up in power in the new world that God is going to make.” Those in power don’t want anything to change, don’t want their power to be taken away, so Peter and John’s message must be silenced.
So the authorities seek to do just that. But there was only one problem—the people are praising God for the healed man. The people understand where the real power is. If people are being healed in Jesus name, then clearly, Jesus has the real power. And the people recognize this.
Ultimately, the leaders have no choice but to threaten Peter and John, then to let them go. The disciples—at least for now—will live to preach another day.