That’s a strange thing to say. I was worthy of suffering disgrace. Odd.
It would be even more strange to be happy that you were worthy to suffer disgrace. To rejoice that you had been disgraced.
But what would make the difference, and what did make the difference in the case of the disciples – now Apostles as they lead the church – is the reason that they were happy, the reason that they were rejoicing for the disgrace that they had been given. They were disgraced because of the Name, the Name of Christ.
The apostles were thrown in prison because of the jealousy of the high priest and his associates. The people were flocking to the apostles in droves because they were speaking and teaching of Jesus as the Messiah and performing healing miracles everywhere that they went. So the people wanted to come to them and this had made the Jewish leaders jealous.
An angel let the apostles out of prison and sent them back out into the temple courts to teach the people, which of course angered the high priest even more. They arrested the apostles yet again and were trying to decide what to do with them when Peter explained that they can’t be quiet as they wanted them to do. Instead, this Jesus that the leaders had crucified had now been raised up to heaven and was sitting at the right hand of God.
The story was getting worse! Previously, the chief priests had understood that Jesus was saying that he was the son of God. Now, his disciples were saying and teaching that he had been lifted up to heaven and was seated at his right hand! In their minds, that of the high priests who wouldn’t believe, it was as if the blasphemy would never end.
Thankfully, the sanity of Gamaliel won the day as he told the others that they would only be fighting against God (they already were!) if they were to try to detain or kill these men, the apostles. So the apostles were flogged and released and that is where we get these verses:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because 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 Messiah.Acts 5:41-42
It is interesting to me the difference between the experience of this early church and that of today’s church, especially in the west. There are many aspects in which we could draw contrasts, but if I focus on these couple of verses, I see that the apostles expected disgrace and were happy to have received it. They expected that, because of their association with Jesus, because they preached and taught about Jesus, they would run against the culture. They weren’t trying to be arrested. They were simply trying to speak the truth of what they saw and what they experienced. They spoke of who Jesus is, and for this they were beaten and disgraced.
Do we speak of Jesus in the same way? Do we run against the prevailing culture in the same way? Or do we instead seek for safety and security? Are we OK with being disgraced for the Name of Christ? Is this a norm that we expect? Questions that are worth considering, I think…