Rejoicing After a Flogging:
The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”Acts 5:40-42
“The others accepted his advice.” Did they? I don’t think so, not according to the intent of Gamaliel’s advice. “So my advice is, leave these men alone1. Let them go2. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” The verbs found in the emboldened elements above are interesting.
- The first is [aphistēmi]1 to desist, desert, depart from, draw away, distance yourself, refrain, withdraw oneself.
- The second is [ἐάω]2 – eaō to let be, permit, leave alone, leave, let (alone), suffer.
Like breaking up kids fighting and one just has to get in a sneaky hit before it ends or two boxers who are separated at the end of the round only for one to slip in a sneaky last punch after the bell – the members of the Sanhedrin didn’t honour the spirit of the advice Gamaliel gave them. His words suggest they should leave the matter alone and distance themselves from the proceedings. Leave them alone and let them be, walk away from them. Leave it to God to deal with or bring about the end of their cause naturally. But they can’t, can they? It is not in their spiteful nature. They decide not to kill them but instead give them the thirty nine lashes of the scourging. The thirty nine lashes brought men as near to death as was possible but stopped short of actually taking their life. There is debate as to whether this act was a punishment for their crime of disobeying the Council’s command not to speak anymore in that name. Or was it a measure to re-emphasise the edict and to ensure they didn’t do it again? I.e. Take them as near to death as they dare but stopping short of killing them. They had them flogged and then repeated the order never again to speak in The Name. Once again, although some translations make the name explicit by adding Jesus, His name was not actually mentioned by the Council. Still they avoid mentioning HIS NAME by referring to The NAME. For the Jews THE NAME meant God Himself. But of course Jesus’ followers attribute THE NAME to Jesus anyway. After the leaders had them flogged and repeat the order yet again, they let them go. Not exactly in accord with what Gamaliel was meaning.
Notice the contrast between the apostles and the Council members (with the exception of Gamaliel). The Council get in a sneaky last violent gesture but the apostles leave the council REJOICING that they were worthy to suffer for the NAME. How on earth can you combat these men? They are irrepressible. How can you hold them down? Even when you do the worst to them, short of killing them, they walk away REJOICING. They consider your punishment or threat as an honour from God. The scourging was used as a disgrace in 1st Century Palestine. It was the punishment administered to criminals and insurrectionists – enemies of the State. Yet these twelve counted it a privilege to suffer in this way. What do you do if you are the authorities in that situation? Answer: there is nothing you can do. To continue violent action would only grant legend status to the apostles and villain status to the Council.
But that is not where it all ends. Notice what happens now. Having been given the thirty nine lashes, these men respond with rejoicing and praise to God. The verb is an imperfect with the present participle. These men kept rejoicing as they went on their way. This is not a short lived thanks to God and then walking off feeling battered and bruised. Thirty nine lashes were a tortuous form of punishment. The kind Jesus was given at the cross. It appears the apostles suffered a similar beating to Christ and then continually praise Him for considering them worthy to bear the same as He suffered. How do you keep these men under control? But that is not where it ends. Every day, they continued to teach and preach this message, “Jesus is the Messiah” in the Temple and from house to house. Every day they continued! Actually the Greek reads “every day they didn’t stop”. The NLT translation has put it in positive terms but it is recorded in negative terms. I.e. they didn’t stop. The focus then is not so much they kept teaching and preaching but rather they didn’t stop. The point being that they didn’t comply with the edict of the Supreme Council. True to their word on two occasions. Not only that but they taught and preached IN THE TEMPLE and from house to house. Do you catch the importance of this statement? They ignored the very thing the Council told them – not ever, never to preach and teach. Preaching and teaching are combined in a doublet to emphasise all forms of oral instruction. But more than that, note all that we have seen in the last Gems where the focus has been the apostles teaching in the Temple under the very noses of the Council. These bold apostles go straight back to the Temple every single day to teach and preach within earshot of the Council. Besides which, they do it every day after they have been told to never do it again. Such boldness! And what do the Sanhedrin do about it? Absolutely nothing! Talk about a gutless bunch of leaders. And what was it the apostles taught? That Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. In other words they continued to speak in that Name. The point of all of this is that the apostles did the absolute opposite of all the Sanhedrin has commanded them in every way. And what’s more, the leaders do absolute nothing about it.
Which brings us back to the notion of the future focus: What is going to happen now?
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.Rick Godwin
If you don’t know which way to turn, or you lose your way, stop and ask God for directions.Jesse DuPlantis
There’s a place where sin and shame are powerless.#AtTheCrossChris Tomlin
The Lord is not looking for a bride on life support but a Body which is fully connected to the Head and willing to do everything He tells it.Ian Vail
If God is “not listening to you”, try to talk to Him about the things He wants to talk about.Anon
Never forget the only thing a witness has to do is speak up for the King in season and out of season. Let Him take care of the rest.Ian Vail