How could they rejoice after being flogged? The disgrace that they had suffered was that the Jewish sanhedrin had flogged them and ordered them once again not to speak out in the name of Jesus. My understanding of a Jewish flogging is that you received 39 lashes. I've always thought that meant being hit 39 times with the cat-o-nine tails. As I was studying for this, someone I read mentioned that the 39 lashes were the individual stripes received, not the number of times whipped. Either way, the fact is that the reason the limit was 39 was because they knew you couldn't live much past 40. So they gave them 40 minus one in order to be safe. How generous.
And the apostles walked away rejoicing.
I wish I could see a video of how they were rejoicing. Were they singing? Were they smiling? Were they clapping their hands? Undoubtedly, they were moving slowly because they would have been in horrible pain. Undoubtedly, in the midst of the rejoicing they were also grimacing. I wonder if it was an outward display of rejoicing or if it was more of a determined attitude and a verbal acknowledgment that this was a good thing to be "counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name."
How could they walk away from that happier than when they walked into it!!? Everything in me rebels against the thought of pain. I don't want it and I don't seek it. Of course, the truth is that neither did they. They weren't rejoicing because they were in pain. I don't think they were excited about that at all. They were rejoicing because "they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name!"
They remembered what Jesus had said,
Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.- John 15:20-21and,
All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.- John 16:1-4and before that,
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,When I think of those passages and I think of the way the early Christians rejoiced, I can't help but think of my own life of comfort. I've been uncomfortable because of my faith a few times in my life. I've stood up for what is right at times. I've spoken to people in the name of Jesus before. But have I ever really been persecuted? No, I would have to say that I have not.
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Matthew 5:10-12
And based on this passage, I can't help but to ask, "why not?" Is it because I am not yet "considered worthy of suffering shame for the name?" Have I not been faithful in small things yet and therefore have not been given greater things? Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to be a martyr. I don't think Paul did either. In fact, when he could avoid a beating by using his Roman citizenship, he did (Acts 22:22-29).
I don't believe that we are called to go out looking for trouble. But the fact is that throughout history, those who have proclaimed their faith clearly and powerfully in the name of Jesus, those who have really lived what they've preached, those who have been true lights in the world, have naturally been found by trouble. Why? Because the darkness hates the light (John 3:20).
May we live in such a way that the darkness hates us. Not because we are hateful to those living in darkness. Jesus was never disrespectful or demeaning to those living in darkness. But because we are constantly shining the light of God's righteousness and love upon those in darkness in order that those who would come to the light may have the opportunity to see it and respond. May we be thankful for and enjoy the comforts and the freedoms that God gives us when He does so, but may we never let Satan use those comforts and freedoms as traps to keep us from doing the hard work that we are called to do. Jesus never promised comfort in this world. But he did promise to give us abundant life. May we know that life so that when trials do come, we too have the ability to rejoice "that we were considered worthy to suffer shame for the Name."