The Apostles' Joy while Bearing the Shame of the Cross
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing
because they had been counted worthy of suffering
disgrace for the Name. (Acts 5:41)
Unswerving in purpose despite the threats and prohibition of the council, the apostles continued joyfully in their preaching and evangelizing. Many were the miracles and signs accompanying their work. People brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed. The number of men and women that believed in the Lord Jesus increased greatly and the words the Lord spoke to his disciples the night before his death were being fulfilled: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12).
As a result, the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. "Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." And at daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin the full assembly of the elders of Israel -and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, they officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, "We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside." On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this. Then someone came and said, "Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people." At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in his name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." - Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than menl The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead - whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."
When they heard this they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: "Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed and all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alonel Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5).
The greatest gift the Holy Spirit endows Christians with is that they can he joyful and not embittered when they have to bear Christ's cross after him because they must suffer disgrace as they confess Jesus and adhere to God's holy Word. Yes, they can count this to be a special honor that falls to their lot. Even Satan, proud spirit that he is, is put to shame by such Christians. In view of such faith we fold our hands and pray:
Thou holy Fire, Comfort true,
Grant us the will Thy work to do
And in Thy service to abide;
Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Thy power prepare each heart
And to our weakness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death to Thee, our Lord, ascend.