And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. (Acts 5:40-42)
The prestigious council of important men hoped they could intimidate the apostles into no longer preaching about Jesus. After a strong warning, they called for the apostles and then beat them.
When we read those words in verse 40, we wonder: “Just how badly were the apostles beaten?” According to some scholars, the word beaten in verse 40 can also be translated skinned; the beating they received stripped the skin off their backs. Another commentator wrote, “It was no soft option; people were known to die from it…. It was meant to be a serious lesson to offenders.”
Yet, even after such a severe beating, the apostles were not intimidated and they were not discouraged. Instead, they left rejoicing. They were not rejoicing that they suffered, but that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. It was a privilege to be associated with Jesus in any circumstance, even to suffer shame.
Because of this joyful association with Jesus, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Whatever beating or shameful treatment the Sanhedrin gave them, it did absolutely no good. The disciples didn’t stop preaching for a moment.
This challenges each of us as followers of Jesus. They continued where we may have stopped. We often find the threat of social rejection is enough to make us keep quiet about who Jesus is and what He did for us. We need to have the apostles’ courage and determination to stand firm for Jesus Christ. We think that suffering shame for Jesus’ name is like a deadly poison that will kill us. Under the work of God’s Spirit, that shame heaped upon us for the sake of Jesus can instead be like a vitamin boost that makes us stronger.
The great preacher of Victorian England, Charles Spurgeon, spoke of this kind of bold heart: “Now, I charge every Christian here to be speaking boldly in Christ’s name, according as he has opportunity, and especially to take care of this tendency of our flesh to be afraid; which leads practically to endeavours to get off easily and to save ourselves from trouble. Fear not; be brave for Christ. Live bravely for him who died lovingly for you.”
I love that last phrase of Spurgeon’s: “Live bravely for him who died lovingly for you.” In the Western World, it is mostly only shame that we suffer for Jesus’ name. Let’s bravely endure what we must bear, standing with and praying for our brothers and sisters across the world who must bear much worse.