"Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 'Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.' And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought" (Acts 5:17-21).
The high priest and Sadducees were angry because they were envious of the apostles, who were ever-growing in popularity with the people as a result of their miraculous works, and because the apostles had disobeyed their orders from 4:17-21. Thus, they arrested the twelve and threw them in prison overnight. It was God's will for the apostles to continue teaching, however, so He miraculously and secretly freed them by means of an angel, instructing them to keep preaching the gospel (i.e., "the words of this life"; cf. John 6:68) to the people in the temple. If the authorities desire to arrest them again, they would have to do so publicly. Meanwhile, the apostles can powerfully demonstrate their purpose to obey God rather than men. The Sanhedrin, oblivious to the escape, asks for the apostles to be brought from the prison before the council.
"But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, saying, 'Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!' Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. So one came and told them, saying, 'Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!' Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, 'Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!' (Acts 5:22-28).
The officers returned to the Sanhedrin with staggering news. The prison was secure, as if nothing had happened, but the apostles (who were supposed to be prisoners therein) were nowhere to be found! Imagine everyone's surprise! They all wondered how this situation was going to turn out. The thought occurred to them (at least to some) that God had overturned their judgment against the apostles and their forbidding them to preach Jesus. Some even started considering the possibility that fighting against the apostles was vain, since it was actually fighting against God (cf. 5:39). As they pondered these things, a new report is brought to them: The apostles have been found, and they are once again in the temple preaching about Jesus! The leaders are afraid to take the apostles by force, lest the people stone them. Aware of the angelic deliverance, the common people received the apostles very well, respecting and honoring them. Why didn't the Jewish religious leaders do likewise? Their minds were not open to the truth! They peacefully brought the apostles before the council and immediately accused them of disobedience. The apostles were still preaching in "this name" (the speaker cannot bring himself to mention the name of Jesus explicitly!). They were filling Jerusalem with their doctrine, but they had been told to stop! The Sanhedrin gave quite a compliment to the apostles by accusing them of filling the city with their teachings. Can this honestly be said of us? Are we doing our best to spread the gospel where we live? Furthermore, the Sanhedrin stated that the apostles were trying to "bring this man's blood on us!" (cf. Matt. 27:25). In truth, the apostles were laying blame at the feet of everyone they preached too. All needed to repent, but especially the Jewish religious elite! How will the apostles respond to these charges?