My Bible reading plan has me in the book of Acts this week. Several verses from Acts have often made me ponder lots of things. But on Wednesday, a verse that is sort of an editorial comment by Luke to help wrap up Acts 5 caused me to pause. Acts 5:41 reads: Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
The verse comes at the end of the story of the apostles being arrested by the jealous high priests and Sadducees. God interrupted those plans by having an angel release the apostles from jail. While the apostles were back in the temple teaching people about Jesus, they were greatly encouraged by the captain of the temple to attend a meeting with the religious council. The high priest was commanding the apostles to quit talking about Jesus. Peter and the apostles asserted that they must obey God. That response did not go over very well. Verse 33 indicates that the council wanted to kill the apostles. As the story continues, a Pharisee named Gamaliel suggested a different approach that brought the council down a notch or two. Instead of killing the apostles, they beat them, told them to stop speaking of Jesus, and let them go. That brings us to verse 41.
The apostles were rejoicing. I am all for rejoicing. I need to rejoice more. But what made me ponder was the connection between rejoicing and suffering dishonor. One commentator noted how that is oxymoronic. We would not normally put rejoicing and suffering together, let alone rejoicing and dishonor. If we are dishonored and treated harshly, our responses are either anger or embarrassment. But they rejoiced. Luke does not unpack exactly why that was their response, but I think the story offers some hints. Back in Acts 4:29-30, they had prayed that despite the threats of the religious leaders that they would speak God’s word with all boldness. They did that both in the temple and in front of the council. They understood that Jesus had sent them to be witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit. That is exactly what they were. They had reason to rejoice, even if it seemed oxymoronic. I am challenged by their response. It makes me pause to ask if I would rejoice or back up further, would I have the boldness to share as they did? The gospel of Jesus is the true and only hope of the world. I believe that truth needs to penetrate more deeply into my soul so that it is more of an expression of my life. The editorial comment of Acts 5:41 is challenging me to look at the sending part of my life. Please pray that I grow in my life as a sent one. The example of the apostles is pointing us toward the best gift we can offer our community, even if that gift comes with suffering dishonor. Let’s share that gift and join the apostles in rejoicing.