Monday, 21 March 2022
So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41
In the previous verse, the apostles were beaten. They were also commanded to not speak in (literally “upon”) the name of Jesus. After that, they were released. With their release, it now says, “So they departed from the presence of the council.”
It is certain that there was no small amount of pain among them. Being beaten with rods was not a minor thing, and only a few stripes would really smart. If they were given the full measure of the law, meaning up to forty stripes (Deuteronomy 25:3), they would be rather miserable – at least physically – as they departed. And yet, it next says they were “rejoicing.”
Despite both the physical damage inflicted to their backs, as well as the disgrace they faced in the eyes of whoever considered it, they literally rejoiced over the event. It is the fulfillment of the words of Jesus, thus providing another measure of confidence that they were doing exactly what He desired of them –
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.” Matthew 10:17
Though this was at the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem and not a synagogue, the truth remains the same. They were delivered up and they were beaten. Jesus had told them such things would occur, and they have come about. Rather than a moment of defeat, it is a time of vindication “that they were counted worthy.”
One can be brought before such a tribunal for wrongdoing, maybe theft. When that occurs and a beating is ordered, there is only disgrace. There is the disgrace of having been caught. There is the disgrace of having been convicted. There is the disgrace of the beating itself. And there is the disgrace of having everyone know that these things happened to you.
On the other hand, one can be wrongfully judged. When nothing was done to deserve a beating, and yet a beating is received, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, when the truth is eventually brought forth, and it will be brought forth someday, the one who was wrongly treated will be vindicated. Peter speaks of this in his first epistle –
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:15-17
As this is true, the apostles rejoiced. They knew that their actions were sanctioned by God, and they had faithfully fulfilled the charge given to them by the angel concerning speaking out about the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, they deemed what happened to them as a point of being counted worthy “to suffer shame for His name.”
There is a difference in suffering shame and in doing that which is shameful. The verb is passive in the Greek. The shame was inflicted upon them, but they had done nothing shameful to deserve it. Hence, Vincent’s Word Studies explains the terminology of this event –
“This is an instance of what rhetoricians style an oxymoron, from ὀξύς [oxus], sharp, and μωρός [moros], foolish; a pointedly foolish saying, which is witty or impressive through sheer contradiction or paradox, as laborious idleness, sublime indifference. In this case the apostles are described as dignified by indignity.”
Life application: There are times when people may incur damage simply because they have a bumper sticker on their car that points people to Jesus. It is most upsetting to come out and find tires slashed or metal scratched or dented. It is inconvenient, it is costly, and it is just plain wasteful. At the same time, there is now a choice. “Will I take the sticker off my car to avoid more damage, or will I stand fast on my faith in Christ?”
A bumper sticker doesn’t prove faith in Christ, and it is not a necessary part of our faith, but it does indicate who we are and what we believe. A car is a temporary item that will eventually be crushed and made into something else. But what about something more personal. What if you are actually being beaten up by people because of your faith? Or maybe they are imprisoning you or even threatening your life because of Jesus?
This has happened, and it continues to happen, to people all along and throughout the world. Those who are willing to stand up for their faith are a real testimony to the One they are willing to follow, even at such a great cost. You may or may not have to face this now, but someday you might. What will you be willing to give up in order to remain faithful to the Lord? Think about that, and be ready to respond if that day should come.
Lord Jesus, You gave up heaven’s riches in order to come and restore us to Yourself. Help us to be willing to respond in the right way if we should be asked to give up our lives of ease, material wealth, freedom, or even our lives in remaining faithful to You. Grant us in that day the ability to stand fast on Your name, no matter what the cost. Amen.